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IQ - The Wake CD (album) cover





3.79 | 533 ratings

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1791 Overture
5 stars The Wake is a mid-80's Marquee-styled neo-prog album, with all the theatrics that entails. IQ is perhaps the genre's flagship and has remained so over the span of a couple decades now. This is their early climax and probably of interest to anyone interested in prog in general.

The band fly their flags high in the title track: a head-banging, heart-pounding melodic powerhouse that turns up the 80's synths and razor-sharp guitar so loud that they transcend their cheese and suck the listener along for the ride. Here we have Nicholls' amazing voice in full force - the verses and vocal bridges are powerful and captivating, and flow into each other without skipping a beat. His lyrical imagery is simultaneously obscure and instantly relatable, and is filled with the kind of terror that portrays the presence of supernatural forces beyond the gate - wild stuff! But this is only a sample of what the album has to offer: from the careful development of Outer Limits to the ecstatic vocal climax of Widow's Peak, the naive yet confident sense of melody in Corners, and the smart bass playing and memorable chorus of The Thousand Days, the entire album is a trip. While it's spacey and otherworldly to some extent, even more than that it's visceral:

"I want to see you / I want to touch you / I want to feel the breathing changing / I want to be you / To be inside you / To pull you under, get you fighting"

Mercy, are we talking about the album fucking the listener? If so, I believe I have the vapors.

There are some oddities that detract from the album, but only in trivial ways - the vocals sound weird in the mix, and in fact the production overall is subpar (there's a bizarrely long fadeout at the end of Corners, and I'm not sure it's intentional). This is in addition to the stylistic hurdle of stomaching the overtly 80's elements of the album: the drums will be more robotic than many prog fans are comfortable with, and the pop elements are deceptive (rest assured, nothing on this album is lacking in intelligence!). I want to be clear, though: these shortcomings are either negligible or have their onus on the prejudices of the listener, and thus I am not subtracting any stars from the rating. There is a drum machine used at one point, yes, but that's okay!

In short, The Wake is an experience captured beautifully in its cover artwork (which makes sense, since Mr. Nicholls himself painted it as an interpretation of the music). The listener is treated to a black world against which harsh neon apparitions force a nameless, painted protagonist into a bewilderment on the border of life and death. While IQ's entire career with Peter Nicholls is worth checking out, it's this album that stands above the rest for me ? a strange and imperfect masterpiece that encapsulates the drama of early neo-prog.

1791 Overture | 5/5 |


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