I don't know if my expectations were too high after "Second Life Syndrome" or if this release truly is subpar to Riverside's previous offering, but I just can't get into it that much. It seems that at least half of this CD is ambient filler. There are too few musical themes and not enough catchy vocal/instrumental hooks that were so abundant on SLS. Even when they are there, they seem underdeveloped.
The first half of the disk is pretty good. Tracks like Rainbow Box and 02 Panic Room are strong and very attractive. The second half of Panic Room is really a separate song by itself. I have to say, though, I can't understand what it's doing at the end of the track, and I certainly can't understand why they chose to keep it as short as it is, considering how beautiful the melody is. This complaint I have to repeat over and over again throughout listening to this CD. They would play a some wonderful theme and just abandon it without exploring it further for reasons that are completely unclear.
By the time we get into the second half of the album, things start losing steam. Even short songs are not grabbing my attention. The last track, The Ultimate Trip, sounds more like The Ultimate Drag with 13 minutes of slow to mid-paced riffing that doesn't seem to go anywhere.
Lyrically, I'm as baffled as ever. This is supposed be the last installment of a trilogy. Well, I have all three albums, I've read the lyrics plenty of time, but I just have no clue what the concept is. Since I haven't encountered a single review out there that actually attempts to explain what the trilogy is about, I'm guessing other reviewers are just as clueless, but don't want to admit it. The closest I can get is that it's about a guy with a whole bouquet of psychological issues.
I'm still giving this album 4 stars because of the strengths of the first half and because of the overall quality of musicianship and production. While this is not as good as Riverside's previous effort, it's still worthwhile having.