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IQ - Frequency CD (album) cover





4.10 | 921 ratings

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5 stars (9/10)

When I was first listening to IQ I started at "Tales From The Lush Attic" and worked my way through the Peter Nicholls albums chronologically quite gradually. After immensely enjoying the first two albums I had a sneak peak ahead to IQ's (then) most recent album "Frequency", the highest rated in their discography. To put it simply, I didn't really get it. I enjoyed the title track and not much else. It all seemed kind of harsh, and different from the early stuff I was then listening to. Thus I went back to my chronological journey, and didn't think much of it.

But then by the time I reached "Frequency" properly, all the pieces fell into place. It seemed like the logical next step in IQ's continuing evolution. It all made sense, and sounded fantastic to boot. "Frequency" is an album that feels new and fresh whilst still fitting in undeniably with everything IQ had achieved up to that point, and for that I think the band can be very proud.

Some of IQ's heaviest moments are on this album, and it sees them continue to grow as a band yet again. The production is really good, and IQ are further broadening their sound. In fact, I don't think IQ have ever sounded quite as good as on "Frequency". Between Mike Holmes on guitar and new man Mark Westworth on keys, we are treated to a veritable masterclass in blending a variety of sounds together to create brilliant songs. It is also IQ's longest album to date, so you'll get you money's worth, that's for sure.

Things start with a bang. The opening powerful riff from the title track, "Frequency", makes it very clear that this will be a big sounding record. This song is pretty much instantly enjoyable, and sets the tone well for the album. The middle section treats us to Peter Nicholls' pure vocals, along with complex instrumental sections, both of which IQ are known for, before the crunching reprise of the opening riff.

Things go a bit differently for "Life Support", with sounds fading in and out. Mike Holmes has such a fine touch on the guitar here, and is superbly controlled. A lot of this album seems to see him and Mark Westworth trying to outdo each other for just how good they can sound. Mark Westworth holds his own too, with his use of mellotron, organ, synthesiser and other sounds to either guide or lead the musical styles of the album. A very worth replacement for the great Martin Orford.

Peter Nicholls is also, of course, as good as ever. His assured vocal abilities allow him to carry songs like "Stronger Than Friction" though its various differing movements. I find it quite impressive how this song manages to have melodic upbeat parts and dramatic epic parts without ever feeling disjointed. All the songs here are full of a lot of music, but flow so well. In fact, "Stronger Than Fiction" flows straight into the next song, "One Fatal Mistake". Here things calm down a little, with the song acting like a showcase for Peter Nicholls' emotive melodic vocals. It fades again, into "Ryker Skies"

"Ryker Skies", after some short soft buildup, is another track with a powerful opening. Mike Holmes distorted guitar plays over the top of the emphatic thudding stomp of bass and drums. It's another song that sounds very big. The chorus and keyboard solos very much match this as well.

All the long songs make use of their extended length to get through an extensive amount of ideas. Probably the best example of this is "The Province", weighing in at about 14 minutes. It was actually intentionally condensed, so that it didn't completely dominate the album (as "Harvest Of Souls" did on "Dark Matter"). This I think was quite a smart move, as "Frequency" does feel balanced between the tracks. It also means that "The Province" is very prog-dense, which is another plus. The song starts out low key, with mysterious lyrics leading into a heavy and complicated chord progression, back to the vocals, and then back to the heavy part and just on and on in a wild ride. One of my favourite parts is the moment of silence after Nicholls sings: "The phone rings... there's no-one there...", before CRASH sinister organ comes back in, building to the next crescendo. I also really enjoy Peter Nicholls' distorted vocals (which appear in a few other songs). The song ends with Mike Holmes' guitar soaring as it so often does on this album.

IQ usually put some thought into the song to end with, and in this case they have gone for the song "Closer". After the epic previous track, this offers us a lighter ending. The climax of organ and keyboard solo as Peter Nicholls vocals soar above the music always makes me feel good. The song then fades out gradually and gently, ending on a positive uplifting note.

Listening to the album, a lot of tracks run into each other, and there are repeated musical themes as well, a trick IQ has pulled before to make the album feel more continuous. So much attention to detail has been paid (especially with regard to dynamics), and it's all put together very intelligently.

"Frequency" is an album that mixes a lot of good things seamlessly. The heavy parts absolutely crash (the drums really help with this), the delicate parts are beautiful, the atmospheric parts are evocative and moody. There are a lot of moods on show here, from the huge epic sounds, to the sinister mysterious sections, to the highly attractive melodies. As always, IQ bring a high standard of musicianship and complexity, and like all good IQ albums it is all ultimately tied together in great songs. Every band member here puts in a great performance, and it really shows, making sure that "Frequency" starts strong and never lets up, packed to bursting point with so many excellent musical ideas. 5 stars, easily.

[P.S. The CD comes with a video of a live show, which I would definitely recommend watching. It has particularly good versions of "Frequency" (early and with different lyrics) and "The Magic Roundabout"]

ScorchedFirth | 5/5 |


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