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IQ - The Seventh House CD (album) cover





4.00 | 625 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars After the critical success and arguable artistic peak of their 1997 album "Subterranea" which saw the band step it up in many ways in compositional quality, the band IQ took their usual multi-year time off before releasing a new album with the bonus of a rerelease of their demo "Seven Stories Into Eight" finding its way onto the CD format for the new ages. Living up to its numerical title THE SEVENTH HOUSE is indeed the 7th studio album of Mike Holmes' and Martin Orford's successful neo-prog band that was one of the major players of the great prog revival that swept the 90s after the botched attempt to go commercial at the tail end of the 80s with their combo effect and oft-loathed "Nomzamo" and "Are You Sitting Comfortable" debacle. Not only did the band overcome the train wreck with the strong comeback "Ever," but outdid themselves and the entire neo-prog scene with their amazing masterpiece double album "Subterranea." Having enjoyed a stable lineup, THE SEVENTH HOUSE sees a return of the exact same members including the amazing vocal skills of Peter Nicholls.

IQ once again dish out a concept based album where the sound of the musicians are designed to support the lyrical content and while lyrics are rarely the goal of my musical experience, the neo-prog branch of progressive rock certainly demands an intense attention span of lyrical content due to it being the main focus of the musical delivery. THE SEVENTH HOUSE is no exception to this general rule and meanders through a fairly nebulous tale of a person who returns to a location where he was part of some unknown battle that purportedly would make the world a better place and ultimately ended up as the only survival of the group but is redeemed at the end when he meets his guardian angel who helped him survive the ordeal. While it all sounds syrupy soap opera-ish on paper (or screen rather!), somehow IQ can take a Hallmark channel type of tear jerking story and turn it into a musical bonanza that cranks out the subtle and sensual melodic developments that ratchet up the tension that can reach the intensity of crescendoing metal guitar domination.

Upon first listen THE SEVENTH HOUSE is definitely a step down from "Subterranea" in about every way, mostly in the fact that the band seems that they have settled into their respective sound quite comfortably. Also gone is the wow factor of ratcheting up the progressiveness and complexity as well as the creativity. THE SEVENTH HOUSE certainly sounds like IQ has been there, done that before with a strong connection to the "Ever" period as well as the albums that followed. However, neo-prog isn't a type of prog that demands an incessant flow of zowie wowie ideas and gimmicks. What it all boils down for me are strong catchy melodic hooks that are suavely decked out with the appropriate instrumentation all the while fortified with a strong vocal delivery and on all counts, THE SEVENTH HOUSE delivers all the goods in every checked off department. At this stage, the band had perfected their sound and despite running on autopilot, they nevertheless created a satisfying romp through the symphonic and heavy rock universe with some jazzy touches led by Nicholls' stellar ability to connect the listener to the story.

While THE SEVENTH HOUSE won't go down as my all time favorite IQ listening experience, i can only concur that it is a consistent and satisfying one at least and a continuation of the strong albums that they would continue to unleash well into the 21st century. So overall, not a perfect album in that it continues down the path that they laid down however IQ deliver an excellent mix of symphonic mellow rock that includes piano driven segments as well as the more bombastic heavy rock episodes complete with sizzling guitar solos provided by Mike Holmes. THE SEVENTH HOUSE may not win over anyone who hasn't already joined the club but it certainly continues to keep the members who have already been admitted properly satisfied and for a neo-prog band of this calibre, that's good enough for me.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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