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IQ - The Road Of Bones CD (album) cover

THE ROAD OF BONES

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

4.25 | 1127 ratings

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Gallifrey
4 stars Still Soaring

As I mentioned yesterday, when I reviewed IQ's 2009 effort, Frequency (after about a week of procrastination/crashed computers), I firmly believe that this band has more or less only got better with time. It's not completely true - I can't say anything for their two pop albums in the late 80's (I haven't heard those), and I do believe Subterranea and Ever are above The Seventh House and Dark Matter, but on the whole, this band has only got better, and Frequency is their best. I didn't really expect The Road Of Bones to continue this trend, because I realise that part of my love for Frequency is due to my Theory of First Impressions (which, in short, is the idea that of bands that release pretty similar albums in sound and quality, the one you like the most is the one you heard first), but also because it would require a hell of a feat - to top Frequency they'd need to top the title track, and the only way I could think of them doing it is by doing another song in the same vein, and we know how that always ends.

But the trailer for this record that was released a few months ago sure as hell got my hopes up. I absolutely loved it. The atmosphere, the synths with the sampled choir, the massive riff that was nearly metal, the weird break in flow for that crashing part, even the album cover hinted at "DARK AND EVIL", and the drums. Oh man, those drums. It's like they took my description of "how to make your snare sound fantastic" and made the snare fit it perfectly. It's so punchy and tight, and it complements the intensity of the riff and the darkness of the synths so well. As we know now, this section is the massive climax of the title track here, and is unfortunately pretty much the best part of the album.

It's truly astonishing though - and even more so when you hear what was cut out of the trailer - those ascending and epic vocals over syncopated string hits, and the reprise of the chorus melody atop the thunderous and epic instrumentation. It's truly chilling, and honestly one of IQ's better moments, ever. Frequency was definitely an album of changing themes and moving tracks, whereas The Road of Bones is a more focused and static album, putting all its energy into these epic and thundering climaxes, which both work and don't work, for different reasons. Firstly, I honestly can't say that the first half of the title track is anything amazing. It's pleasant, I guess, and it tries to be a good build to the ending, but I honestly think it goes on a bit too long, and loses me a bit in the middle. A track of this nature needs to be steadily ascending, whereas The Road of Bones just dawdles at one level of intensity then explodes in a spike at the end. And then there's that marimba. God. Damn. It is annoying. The melody isn't even a melody, it literally sounds like someone hitting random notes within a key, and the tone of it, in my opinion, completely kills the mood of the track, it's the unnecessary awkward cheese over the nice atmosphere that ruins it.

Although I still am convinced that a metal-influenced record from IQ would be a great new direction, the only other time this album flies into that heavy side that I want more of is during the album's 19-minute centrepiece, "Without Walls", during the end of its second movement, where the band begin to fling all sorts of noises and splattering sounds about, and it's actually quite fantastic. People who know me know that I'm a sucker for chaotic and bludgeoning climaxes, especially in music that doesn't use them that often (the reason why Kayo Dot gets a bit dry for me), but I honestly think this could have gone bigger. I mean, if you want to climax a 19-minute track, you have to do it big. But on the whole, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this song. It tries to be a complete 20-minute epic, but I realise how hard it is to glue together that much material and make it sound like one song, and it does really begin to lose it when the second movement kicks in, after around 8 minutes. I do quite like the first part, though, with that beautiful piano melody and nice vocals. The electronic drums here are a nice touch, but I'm not really sure they're executed amazingly, they could be great with a bit more detail in them. But as much as I like the verses here, the chorus line feels a bit awkward, especially with that squealing electric guitar behind Nicholls' vocal part. But the song on the whole doesn't feel awfully amazing, even if it has good moments. I can't help but feel it would be better if it were more focused.

And the same goes for the second epic, closing track "Until The End". "Closer" from Frequency was such an incredible finisher, in every way, but I really don't see the point in this, especially when we know that the album's bonus disk also features some great closing material. The song meanders aimlessly for the majority of its length, never really hitting any memorable melodies, but then at around 9 minutes, it just starts to click, and the ending is fantastic. There's an excellent vocal melody here, and is accompanied by a great piano part and a lovely acoustic guitar solo, finishing the album in a really nice way, similar to the previous record. I'm just a bit confused about why this track is 12 minutes long.

Before I finish though - I must give a mention to "From The Outside In", which is actually my favourite track here, even if I haven't talked about it at all yet. The track has such a brilliantly upbeat and enjoyable energy to it, running through its first five minutes so wonderfully, being carried aloft by that fantastic chorus. I must say that I was disappointed by the way the track ends, with the Hammond organ in the solo and fade-out, but the chorus is good enough for me to forgive that. I should also point out that IQ's obsession with triplet syncopation does get a bit repetitive on this album - there are at least a dozen times that (usually the bass) lines are playing constant dotted quavers whilst everything else is playing 4/4, and it gets a bit old.

The Road of Bones is still a good record, and even if the new sounds are slight, it's worth hearing to see what IQ would be like as a metal band, and certainly "From The Outside In" and the title track are worthy inclusions to the band's repertoire. It's a tad overlong, which is a bit irritating given how much good stuff was also thrown on the bonus disk, but it's by no means a bad album, and is probably my second or third favourite from the band yet. Listen to it just to hear the climax of the title track in its full context, it's worth it.

7.5

Originally written for my facebook page/blog: Facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

Gallifrey | 4/5 |

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