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FREQUENCY

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

4.13 | 637 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Frequency", IQ's album after the highly praised "Dark Matter" effort, was always destined to be special in the band's career. For starters, this one was the item that should prove that the creative aspirations that the band had catapulted from their "Ever" days hadn't met a definitive high with "Dark Matter" - that there was more to this band after spending 25 years writing and recording albums. Also, it was to be the first album without drummer Paul Cook. No one saw it coming, but Martin Orford wasn't going to be present in this album, too. Luckily, the writing process didn't collapse after these desertions - Andy Edwards and Mark Westworth entered the picture and gelled perfectly with their elder colleagues. This album's music remains essential IQ. The namesake track opens up the album to set an appropriate ambience of musicality and power. The initial WWII radio transmissions are followed by a mesmeric 'Kashmir'-meets-'Fly on the Windshield' motif, and successively, this section is followed by the album's first sung portion, mostly sustained on eerie electric piano chords progressions. Once things are sped up on a tight 7/8 tempo, the mood sinks deeply into familiar IQ territory: solid dynamics and clean harmonic arrangements. The resulting motif evolves effectively all the way toward the coda, which revives a bit of the aforementioned LZ-meets-Genesis motif. 'Life Support' is next in line, giving up on the opener's stylish robustness in favor of an enhanced romanticism. Figure out a refurbishment of the lyrical sections of 'Guiding Light' under the emotional drive so well accomplished in the softer passages of the "Subterranea" opus, and you might as well have a very good notion about what this track's mood is al all about. Once the whole ensemble gets properly settled down, the symphonic accent acquires some clever cosmic touches due to the inventive synth solos that take place between Holmes' featured guitar lines. The cosmic element remains in the eerie finale, which conveniently portrays the image of machines operating to sustain a fading life. 'Stronger than Friction' (one of the cleverest titles ever in the history of prog rock, I bet) bears an epic timespan of 10 ½ minutes. What you get here is not a 'second Darkest Hour' (let alone a 'second Widow's Peak'), but a catchy exercise on the lighter side of neo-prog, bordering at times with AOR. Let's imagine what the idea for 'Shooting Angels' would have become had it been gathered by the Pendragon guys for their "Masquerade Overture" album: that's pretty much an approximated picture of what I'm trying to describe. The 7/8 section that signals the song's last part is yet another exciting display of IQ-style fire. The segued ballad 'One Fatal Mistake' is lovely, marked by a clean melodic arrangement that never gets corny: Nicholls' singing states that usual vulnerable vibe that has been Peter's signature for ages. Stuff like this should dignify commercial radio, and it would do it enormously. The spacey synth layers and choral mellotron mark the song's end in a bridge toward the next one, 'Ryker Skies'. This is another long song, and quite refreshing in this grand scheme of things. It is robust and psychedelic -even including electronic excerpts in places-, with a clear 'Frequency'-oriented undertone to it. In fact, near the end, a quotation from the aforesaid song gets in to fulfill a melodic development. 'The Province' is the longest track here. Its patently epic architecture bears a strong heritage from the "Dark Matter" days: the contrasted mood shifts, the agile use of odd signatures and the whole sonic fulfillment complete an amazing progressive journey. The synth solo delivered after the 8 minute mark is arguably the best one in the album; the piano-driven closure bears an undisputed elegant beauty. The album's closer is entitled 'Closer' (go figure!). It fills the album's last 8+ minutes with yet another exhibition of IQ romanticism. It works very well as a prog semi- ballad, featuring a moderately bombastic middle section that seasons the main motif up for a while. All in all, this new frequency of IQ shows the same old mastery - "Frequency" is an excellent prog item for 2009.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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