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IQ - Ever CD (album) cover





4.05 | 710 ratings

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4 stars (8/10)

The return of enigmatic frontman, Peter Nicholls, was just what IQ needed for their 5th album, "Ever". There were some good moments on the two Paul Menel led albums, sure, but to me (and I am sure a lot of other IQ fans) Peter Nicholls will always be the voice of IQ. The other change to the lineup saw bassist Time Essau replaced by John Jowitt (who will be known to Neo-Prog fans for his work with bands like Arena, Frost* and Ark). His style is similar to Essau's, his skill is obvious, and he fits well into IQ, so the rhythm section loses none of its punch. Essentially, in terms of personnel (with Mike Holmes still on guitar, and Martin Orford still on keyboards) IQ is firing on all cylinders.

The cover is the last of the ones painted by Peter Nicholls (these include the first two IQ albums, and a handful of other releases), and my favourite he ever did. It's quite strikingly beautiful. I don't know why he never painted covers again, but I would say the elegant figure on the front of "Ever" gives you an idea of where the music is headed.

Peter Nicholls' voice continues to mature on "Ever", as does the rest of the band. The keyboards are again upgraded, and used with variety, and to greater effect. Mike Holmes is developing his own sound, still. In particular, everyone involved is better at taking their place in a song, and playing with subtlety where required, for the good of the overall song. That's not to say there are no moments of joyous bombast, but IQ are developing their songwriting skill as well as their musical skill. The arrangements are becoming more complex and thoughtful. This is evidenced especially by the two longer pieces, "The Darkest Hour" and "Further Away", which both pass through many moods, both light and dark, fusing melody and rhythm like classic IQ should, and maintaining momentum really effectively.

"Ever" represents more progress as IQ grow, which is something that they somehow manage to do with each album. Well, okay, maybe not "Nomzamo" (more of a regression/mistake), but whilst "Ever" feels far more like the successor to "The Wake" than the second of the two Paul Menel albums, "Are You Sitting Comfortably?", a few of the better developments from that era are carried over.

The album's biggest surprise comes in the form of the shortest track "Out Of Nowhere", which starts off with an angular bass riff, before launching into some chugging guitar, with Nicholls' vocals over the top. At first I wasn't really sure what to make of it. On the surface it's kind of poppy, but with a very fun and charming vocal performance, full of personality that has made it really grow on me with time. The song is (mostly) simple aside from the interjection of odd rhythms, but doesn't outstay it's welcome, and so ends up being effective and compact track, full of energy and very catchy.

A lot of these songs I find excellent, but there are no real masterpieces, like there were on the first two IQ albums, that absolutely blow my socks off. The release is excellent though, and thought has clearly been put into how it works as an album (for instance the slow cool down of the melodic "Came Down" serves as an excellent closer to the album). I enjoy all of the songs, especially Peter Nicholls' fantastic vocals. He still retains the power of dramatic rendition, but now has the ability to sing with a lot more control and purity when he wants to. The same goes for Mike Holmes' guitar.

With "Ever", IQ brought Neo-prog into the 90s with style, making their ambition clear. They weren't going anywhere, and in fact, their ambition would only grown with their next release...

ScorchedFirth | 4/5 |


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