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IQ - Frequency CD (album) cover





4.10 | 843 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars "The first atomic bomb was dropped on a military base called Hiroshima...."

"Frequency" begins with a voice over speaking of a nuclear assault. The intro is unbelievable! The impressive music is beautifully executed, Mike Holmes' clean soaring guitars, chugging riffs like Led Zeppelin, ambient sustained mellotron and keyboard pads by Mark Westworth, with expressive, creative drumming from Andy Edwards, the bass by John Jowitt is played virtuoso style as well. The vocals of Peter Nicholls are clean, inviting and uplifting, sounding somewhat like Neal Morse at times. "Frequency" is an incredible followup to 2004's "Dark Matter". This is marginally the better album of the two, though "Dark Matter" was certainly a very good album. There is more innovation and stronger compositions on this conceptual work. Due to the strong melodies throughout this album it is a genuine grower, and you are likely to love each track the more you listen to it, nothing on it is a throwaway or filler, it is all solid prog at its best. I heard it three times in a row and eventually succumbed to the fact that this, as far as I am concerned, is one of the most uplifting prog albums of recent years and I rate it as a masterpiece of neo prog.

Frequency is one of the best IQ numbers, with solid time signature changes and a positive sound with special effects and melancholy keyboards. Mike Holmes' guitar riffs are dynamic and the lead breaks are emotive and Pink Floydian. Nicholls' warm vocals spell out the main themes of the album: "Before I was undiscovered, When I was invincible, Nobody could kill the silence And probably no one will again, The future was unrelated, Alternatives all pursued, The lives that got separated When others were split in two." It is a brilliant composition and unforgettable.

Life Support begins with beautiful piano and sustained pads and then those warm emotional vocals chime in. This is so uplifting, and reminiscent of Transatlantic. The lyrics are reflecting on life's trials and how to overcome. The mood changes as a thunderous sound is heard and it builds to a crescendo then a lead guitar swoops over as drums keep a steady metrical pattern. Westworth's spacey synth is alienating and futuristic, similar to the type heard in electronic music. It is a lengthy instrumental and as good as it gets. The synths merge with majestic guitar leads. A very melodic motif repeats in various forms and locks into your head. It is absolute bliss when the band are in full flight. The wind effects are airy, ethereal and haunting towards the end. I adored this track the first time I heard it and it gets better with each listen.

Stronger than Friction, an ironic take on Stranger Than Fiction, begins with a melodic guitar riff, and the positive vocals of Nicholls harmonise about ways of living "until our worlds collide" . At 3:50 the heavy beat halts and an ambient mellotron soaked pad sizzles along as the vocals become softer and the whole song becomes a "turning tide" . I like the fast riff at 6:40 where the time sig changes completely again and the vocals are more aggressive. The sporadic bass and drums are off kilter and there is a lilting keyboard and ascending lead guitar break. One of the true highlights of the album and in fact the first 3 tracks are prime example of Neo Prog at its best.

One Fatal Mistake is a melancholic ballad, a gentle soothing sound that warms you up. The lyrics are encouraging and lift up the spirits; "Imagine all you could have been, Eventually you would have seen, The wanderlust, And all you dared to dream of, If ever you make one fatal mistake, You broke me, you have no idea, In darkness I see more than hear, Impossible, even I can say, Many would have walked away." There is always a ray of hope injected in to the lyrics that talk of how to overcome despair and difficult circumstances. The melody is very pleasant to the ears and musically there is a lot on offer here especially the transfixing guitars and keyboards.

Ryker Skies features thick buzzsaw synth and flowing acoustics. I first heard this on a Prognosis CD from the Prog magazine and it stood out as much as it does here. Once again the atmosphere is ambient textures of melancholy reflection. The lyrics are emotive, "I'm reeling, fighting for breath, Running on empty, A fortress carved out of steel, Black and surrounding, No other survivors, the walls without end, So where have I come to?" A very strong bass and drum beat with crashing cymbals kicks in. The lead break is replete with bends and pitched picking. The next section of vocals sound like Ayreon's deep robotic effect voices on "Universal Migrator"; "Welcome, hero, to Ryker Skies, Where all your hopes are stored, You can leave responsibilities in ruins at the door". The mellotron is ever present as the cleaner vocals of Nicholls take over with high octaves; a very nice sound and killer melody as the song swings in to full gear, "Get it knocked into your thick skull, It's really not that hard It's a cast iron binding covenant And this is just the start, There are insults and injuries, You've heaped upon yourself, But you play the victim, While you pile the blame on someone else". This track has some of the most memorable lyrics of IQ and the chorus, once it gets in your head, well you will never forget that melody, "So before I state my intention to live or die, I command your total attention In Ryker Skies." I love the way the track merges into a full blown keyboard attack. Once again a throbbing beat ensues like the machinated pulses of Ayreon. The acoustic flourishes are a lovely touch, adding to the very airy atmosphere. I would rate this as a proposed single from the album, as it is more commercial in sound, but this does not detract from the musicianship which is excellent throughout. A wonderful song.

The Province is a 13 minute IQ romp with textures of light and dark, moments of tension and release are present and infectious melodic verses. The style at times is not dissimilar to the sound of Peter Gabriel's Genesis. There is a heavy guitar riff that overpowers the soundscape after a time. The staccato synthesizer chords are fantastic as tradeoffs with guitar. There is a lot of acoustic work but it is well balanced by the heavier sections. There are many changes in tempo and mood and it progresses into minimalist piano and vocals at the end; "I cannot count the many ways cos' there's nothing real... before the wireless kills."

Closer is as far removed from the obscene industrial NIN song of the same name as you can get. It is a balladic song with positive vocals that are close to Neal Morse or Spock's Beard; "Slandered and betrayed, A character assassination, Watch the guilty fade, Now the work is done, Ghosts of early days, Gather round the later rivals, All parade upon the earth to which they're bound, Silent in their course, They steal across the icy stations, Words are useless now, They fall upon the ground." The song builds gradually until we get a majestic instrumental break with soaring keyboards and then a beautifully sung verse with powerful lyrics; "Hold on, when I'm dead and gone from you, Remember me as light breaking through, Stay strong, any time you feel you're lost, I will carry you back across". The piano motif becomes hypnotic toward the end repeated as guitars and sporadic drums maintain a melancholy mood, closing the album in style.

Overall, "Frequency" is the best I have heard from IQ, melancholy, with moments of heavy tension, and those soaring powerful vocals: this is neo prog at a virtuoso level and I think it's one of the albums of 2009. Accessible and soaring vocally, atmospheric and ambient musically. A masterful work of high quality musicianship.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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