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5 stars Although its street date is May 5th, pre-orders of the sumptuous collector's edition of IQ's latest album have begun shipping already in order to get the sets to purchasers in time for the album launch show (tickets to which are included in the collector's edition), so I have been lucky enough to hear this latest release already.

The Road of Bones is the second album in a row from IQ to feature a lineup reconfiguration, following the incredible streak from Ever to Dark Matter where the band lineup had remained extremely solid and stable. In fact, the lineup shake from Frequency to this is the largest between any two consecutive IQ albums, with three of the five band members not appearing on Frequency. Paul Cook and Tim Esau are, of course, old hands in IQ, being the group's original rhythm section (indeed, Frequency was the only IQ album not to feature Cookie on drums), whilst Sphere3 keyboardist Neil Durant makes his first appearance on an IQ album here.

The obvious question, then, is how this shakeup affects the band's sound. Frequency was a refreshing update to the IQ sound; would the return of Paul Cook and Tim Esau reverse that musical progression, or would Neil Durant's inclusion allow the group to continue it? As it transpires, Durant is the surprise star player here, proving equally adept at a bang-up-to-date keyboard style and performances living up to the heritage of IQ's earlier material. (Constellations, one of several tracks on the bonus disc in the special edition of the album, showcases this distinction particularly nicely.)

Tonally, the album finds IQ in a melancholic and reflective mood - one which often serves them well, as it did on albums such as The Wake or Ever - whilst the special edition of the album provides a bonus disc with a brace of songs which to my ears are just as strong as the compositions that made the cut, but which didn't fit the particular vibe they are going for here, and as a result the special edition presents a more diverse sound. Whether you plump for the 1CD or 2CD editions, right here you have IQ incredibly managing to continue their streak of top- quality albums which began with the classic Ever and still shows no signs of slowing down.

Report this review (#1164452)
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Whole album seems very balanced. I cant say there is a weak part. FTOI is great opener, rhytmic and fast. ROB was available before the album has been released. Bass riff in the beginning, reminds me Wake. Melodic and dark, piano, then the harder part. The best song on the album is WW, 19 minutes long. The beginning is brilliant, organ, melodic, soft part, then gradation into harder part and the end is soft again. The song Ocean is relaxing, calm. UTE is harder. Disc2 is like another album ! Overture, Constellations and Fall and Rise should be on disc1
Report this review (#1166062)
Posted Saturday, April 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have just finished listening to the album ... twice. It starts and it gets better with every passing minute, you slowly figure out the direction and destination, you suddenly start to understand the road of bones. There is something extraordinary hidden between the lines of words and music here - it's new, but in the same time it's a retrospective of IQ albums across the years. There are moment when all of a sudden a little mood/sound/word from an old IQ album appears for a fraction of a second - and it feels like living through your best memory again. I was absolutely blown away by that. It feels like listening to new IQ and all old IQ albums in the same time - I have no idea how they managed to turn old "been there, done that" upside down. And there is breathtaking "Ocean". This album is a masterpiece of progressive rock music, it's a definition of a masterpiece.
Report this review (#1166779)
Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fantastic, superb, amazing new music from IQ. With "The road of bones", the band has delivered another exceptional neo-prog album. It's just a great release with some great music which contains five songs which gives you almost an hour of musical pleasure. This band keeps getting better and better with every release they make, and more ambitious, thirty years into a career. I also recommend that you get the 2 CD edition, given that both CDs are excellent. While the first album is definitely the more cohesive listening experience, the quality never lets up throughout the entire experience of listening to both disks. A strong candidate for album of the year.
Report this review (#1168516)
Posted Thursday, May 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars After repeated listens over the last 2 weeks, I feel now I have a had a chance to properly digest this epic work by (probably) my favorite prog band in the world today. The first thing I noticed is that this album didn't hit me immediately as with their previous albums. The first cd especially seemed like a new direction for the band, with much more in the way of heavy guitars, something which initially had me a little disappointed. In fact there seemed very little in common with traditional IQ on this disc, with the exception of the very familiar voice of Peter Nicholls, who, by the way, sounds better than Ever(pun intended).

On the first disc, the mood is dark and somewhat gloomy. Most of tracks start off softly and almost lull you into complacency. But eventually the driving rhythms, heavy riffing, synth swells, and liberal use of the mellotron choir really gets the blood flowing. The centerpiece of disc 1, "Without Walls", clocks in at 19 minutes. It gets going a few minutes in and eventually builds up to a section of organized mayhem, with walls of sound coming from every direction. It then transitions into a wonderful melodic closing part. Really goosebumps material here.

Disc 2 is more in the traditional IQ style, with the track "Constellations" the best example. All in all, another fantastic release from IQ, which is a sure contender for album of the year. One thing, as I discovered, especially if you're an IQ fan already, you need to give this album time and plenty of spins. I think it will grow on you as it did on me. 11 great tracks in all, great songwriting, great musicianship, and great production. 5 stars all the way.

Report this review (#1170075)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars The band has developed their sound over the years with a modern symphonic sound that alternate some delicate often melancholic piano and keyboards lines with heavier and faster guitar parts. They know how to build their songs with a dark atmosphere set by the piano, vocals and keyboards that let slowly the spot to the dynamics guitars of Mike Holmes. A nice touch has been added here with the sound of xylophone and techno sounds that can be hear throughout this CD, probably the influence of Mike Holmes vision, who has produced and play in the excellent Regeneration CD with the Lens that contains a lot of techno sound.

Sometimes we recognize some IQ previous passages from their older material, but not to the point to be a copy of it. I am glad to see that the band still got more ideas to create some nice music. Since the departure of Martin Orford, the keyboards sound has changed a bit, more diverse, so that is reflecting on the music. There is more ambient sounds that prepare us to the more energic part of the song were the tempo is getting faster in the typical IQ fashion. After many years, it's always nice to hear the great production in their music. The band has put all the ingredients together to make the perfect progressive rock CD; inspiring songwriting, diverse arrangements that harmonize the acoustic with the electric and a great sense of the melody like not many bands can do. We can say that IQ is the modern version of the old Genesis, because of the voice of Peter Nicholls, some Hackett guitar influence and also some Banks reference that we can find at some places on this release, but they have surpassed this influence long time ago. The bonus CD is also of high of quality with again more spacey and techno sounds, something that was emerging in the first CD, sometimes reminiscent of Vangelis and Depeche Mode. It's a little breather from the first CD, especially for Mike Holmes who takes a break here to comeback in the last song. The pace is slower and more relax on this one, but it complete perfectly this great release.

I have always found difficult to pick a favorite one in IQ discography, but I think that this one could become my favorite. I can't give anything less than 5 stars. I am sure that many will share my enthusiasm with this new release.

Report this review (#1171816)
Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars IQ, that venerable outfit of 1980's vintage, release this, their 11th studio offering, and, I will say straight away, are sounding as strong, if not stronger, than ever.

This review is of the double cd I pre-ordered, and which is available now from all the usual quality outlets, and I would wholly recommend that potential purchasers get the whole thing. To be very fair to IQ, they have made the entire work available on release at a reasonable price, with no follow up rip-off's to us poor old punters, and support is deserved for that alone.

The first cd, The Road Of Bones itself, is a concept piece that is not just dark, but actually very bleak and positively gothic in places, telling the story of a rather nasty serial killer in the first person. You would think, then, that the music itself would match such a story; you know, an album which would make Pink Floyd's The Wall a veritable ray of sunshine to come down to after listening.

But, no, not a bit of it. This sumptuously produced (and Mike Holmes has really exceeded himself in this department), and gorgeously performed work just about takes us through the entire range of emotions, with passages which are achingly beautiful, and a rock experience which takes us from the hard and crashing opening, thundering, riffs of opener From The Outside In, to the quite gorgeous acoustic interplay on guitar, piano, and vocals at the denouement of closer, Until The End (which itself follows a really beautiful wall of sound in the finest symphonic tradition).

More experienced IQ followers such as myself will, on the first couple of listens, have been surprised at the relative absence of genuine Holmes guitar bursts of days of yore. Indeed, it is, in my opinion, fair to say that this is the most keyboard dominated IQ album in many a year, perhaps ever, and massive credit must go to Neil Durant, who creates such a huge wall of sound and virtuoso performance that really do go up against the best Orford produced for the band, he is that good. However, saying this, this album is a genuine ensemble piece. The joy of hearing our favourite rhythm section of Cook and Esau, who shine especially on the beautiful title track, whilst Holmes, if not understated, is most certainly not at the forefront of all the action as he was during much of Frequency, although his bursts towards the close of epic Without Walls are pure trademark Holmes brilliance, and remind one of the similar beauty of Dark Matter. And, thence, to Peter Nicholls. I have always loved this man's voice, a set of chords capable of belting out a massive piece one minute, with a tear inducing piece of fragility the very next, and so it is on this album. His voice, if anything, is growing and becoming a damned sight better the older he gets, and his is without doubt the only one I can think of capable of telling this theatrical piece properly.

There are five tracks on the first cd, and all of them, without exception, are essential IQ, that is, for those who know my opinion in such matters, right up there with the best progressive rock. Without Walls, just a shade short of twenty minutes long, never once fails to grip your attention and pull your heart strings. It contains all the vital elements that make this band so important, from those well versed symphonic soundscapes, to very dark introspective instrumental passages, massive riffs, some lovely acoustic work, some very clever sound effects, and quieter moments which, rather frighteningly, allow us in the subject's innermost feelings. The manner in which the vocals and music change mood and interpret a story are fantastic.

And so to cd two. There are those who tell you that it is as good as cd one. They are extremely close to the knuckle, because, in Prog Archives parlance, cd one is a masterpiece, whilst the second helping is merely excellent. Which is to say, again, that it is at the top of the prog tree. Highlights for me are the exceptional Constellations, on which this lineup sound as if they have played together all of their career, with Durant, especially, sounding wonderful, helping to create a pomp prog spectacular; the clever instrumental 1312 Overture (so named because of its time signature); and the really rather exceptional opener, Knucklehead, which is perhaps one of the most experimental, and heavy, pieces they have released, although, in all honesty, there is nary a bum note or poor moment present throughout the cd. These are not "throwaway" bonus tracks, but a set of pieces which, whilst they did not fit into the main concept, deserved a release of their own. I for one, am very grateful they were. Six tracks, and 50 minutes of quality progressive rock.

So, how to rate this? I think that IQ are a band who are still improving, which, given the fact that they have released some of the most important and vital neo-prog over the course of 31 years, is a testament to the quality present here. This is the sound of a band still striving to develop, mature, yet staying true to their glorious roots. It is simply a magnificent experience to listen to, and is genuinely the first utterly essential purchase of 2014 for me. Probably 4.5 stars, if we had such a rating, but rounded up to five because it is warranted.

I tell you this. Pendragon, those other venerable survivors of yesteryear, will have to go some to match this when they release their own much anticipated new work later this year.

Report this review (#1172597)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was looking for some new prog to blow me away, and I did not expect it to come from IQ! I love the band, and they have been quite consistent over years and years, but there was no indication from the casual prog fan that they would be about to release an excellent new album that stays true to what the band does best--especially surprising because Frequency included some departures, indicating further experimentation--and has tightened up nearly every nitpick I might be able to come up with about the group. The fact that IQ has come up with this album, at this point in the band's career, has really elevated my respect for the group. I can't think of any bands off the top of my head who have accomplished this.

Here's just a few of the reasons why I find this to be a fantastic album:

1. Quantity and quality combo. To fill two discs worth of quality music, with really no low or skippable moments, is something that few bands have achieved, at least in my opinion.

2. Interesting subject material. I don't know much about the album theme, but that's the whole point: it's gotten me to do homework outside of my listening experience and educate myself on an important historical topic. Few albums in my experience have done that!

3. True team effort. Each member really shines, which is another compliment that I rarely give. Cook does some excellent fills and dynamics, and I appreciate that he's not just "balls- out" all the time. Holmes continues his Hackett-esque performance as well. He's not as continually present on this album, but he's there when you need it. For example, the Holmes rip at the end of Without Walls is classic: you're waiting the whole song for it, and when it comes, it's not technically amazing, but it's perfect for the moment, gets burned in your brain, and leaves you completely satisfied. Nicholls deserves special recognition as well. It's simply amazing how much better his voice gets over time, and it's a great model of successful aging. Esau brings wonderful variety on bass, which in my mind could come and go in previous IQ efforts. Finally, Durant is probably the standout among standouts. He provides the buzzy, bassy synths, tons of atmospherics, and, most impressively a perfect balance between wiggly synth lines and tasteful melodies.

4. Presentation/lead up. Great cover, and, in hindsight, great choice for the title track. The title track is not an album highlight, in my opinion, but it offered the perfect tease of the alternating ambiance and intensity of the album. It got my attention in a big way, but it also left me wanting more. Imagine how satisfied I am now that I indeed got more, and in hindsight, much more than I had hoped for!

5. Classic IQ song structure. These songs have a nice build of tension and pensive chugging (at least the extended pieces), but then things tend to pick up in fascinating ways, and then they deliver the big, warm reprise of which that IQ has made a clear niche.

6. Production. This album just sounds incredible, and it's a tribute to the talent and attention to detail that went into its creation.

Highlights: From the Outside In, Without Walls, Until the End, Constellations. We have the grinding IQ rocker (Arena, Immortal? era), the epic journey (complete with a wonderful nod the The Gates of Delirium toward the finale), and two extended pieces that remind me of the best of classic Collins-as-frontman Genesis. My only quibble is that I think the 1312 Overture (Rush YYZ influence!) would have made a perfect opener for the album, but that is a quibble in the smallest sense.

Why not a five-star? For me, satisfying is not equivalent to mind-blowing, and this album is not mind-blowing. It's excellent, and that's why I like it so much. The highs are excellent, but they are not incredible, and thus, no masterpiece. Either way, it's my favorite IQ album, and I never saw it coming. These surprises are why it's worth it to keep coming back to prog, even when it seems like it has nothing left to give.

Report this review (#1172745)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
3 stars Well, apparently I'm in the minority on this album from IQ. "The Road of Bones" is this neo- prog band's newest foray, and it comes across as darker and more mature lyrically than some of their previous albums. With a malevolent theme and what I expected to be stunning contrasts between dark riffs and bright synth, "The Road of Bones" was supposed to be a killer album, for me especially.

There's something off about this album that I can't quite place. IQ has certainly given us an interesting album, as it's full of atmospheric and driving guitars, some great synth work, and some wonderful bass and drums. However, nothing particularly stands out for me. None of the instrumentation seems truly on point, crisp, or inspired. Take, for instance, the driving riffs in the opener "From the Outside In". It's as if I've heard that same particular passage a hundred times in other albums. It's good, don't get me wrong, but nothing special.

There are other examples, though. The 20 minute epic "Without Walls" should be the cornerstone of this album. Instead, it contains only a handful of memorable moments as it plods along with little to no direction. Still another example can be found in the quieter moments of the album. IQ attempts to create some thick atmospheric sections that mainly consist of limited piano and singer Peter Nicholls' ponderous voice. This type of thing usually thrills me. I'd even call myself easy to please. However, the vocal lines are completely forgettable and the transitions to the rest of the song are just kinda there.

I think that's my main issue with this album. It all just so "blah". It's not bad. It can even be enjoyable at times. However, it's so painfully average and pedestrian that I'd almost rather hear a band fail miserably at trying something new than listen to this flat, unremarkable album. In fact, even the cover art is so middle of the road. Sure, the performances (especially Nicholls' vocals) are okay, but, in the end, I think most amateur high school bands could play most of this, and probably compose something better, too.

So, what saves this album? The title track is one of the best songs I've heard in 2014. It's so unfortunate and somewhat ironic, no? The title track is climactic, brooding, and ends in blazing glory. It finally provided that contrast I was seeking, and the lyrics are so personal. So, yes, this album was saved from an even worse rating through this one song, and also by the last 30 seconds of the album wherein IQ gives us the first atmospheric vocal/piano passage that actually connects.

I usually am the one that is pleased with an album while others are lambasting it. However, I just can't see why others are praising this album, some calling it the possible album of the year already. If one great song and a handful of interesting minutes are enough to deserve that label, then I don't know why I even write anymore.

Report this review (#1172773)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Perhaps it isn't fair to start an IQ listening tour with their last and most recent record "The Road Of Bones" from 2014. I haven't heard more than the title track from "Frequency"(a very good song) from IQ and now I tried this very new record. I went into it with expectance and a joyful mind but went out from it with a dark and disappointed mind. This was not interesting music!

"The Road of Bones" is IQ's eleventh studio album, released thrityone years after their debut "Tales from The Lush Attic" in 1983. Now the personel are Peter Nicholls(vocals), Mike Holmes(guitar), Tim Esau(bass), Paul Cook(drums) and Neil Durant(keyboards) and the cover is artistic. Yes it's dark and a fine clouded sky where perhaps a God demands us to be silent, and listen problably.

I you have the right mood for it, crave for darkness and have listened to this some times perhaps it will appeal to you. It didn't to me. I found the songs very similar and monotonues. I didn't found those powerful melodies wonders I apprieciate so much with progressive rock. This was just so dark and sad over the whole playtime. "Without Walls" had some great moments and has to be considered the albums best track(5/10) but even that song aren't interesting according to me.

I am sad to give this record such a bad review, but I expected so much. Perhaps it's wrong to expect something epic from modern prog, but sometimes I find the golden glimpses and those keep me continuing the exploration. Two stars from me!

Report this review (#1173616)
Posted Saturday, May 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars IQ have been growing in heaviness recently. On their latest they don't exactly reverse this direction, but take a sidestep. This is darker, slower, more atmospheric IQ, with subtle additions in hypnotic rhythms and modern electronic sounds, although most songs still follow the sparse-to-bombastic dynamics. Keyboars and bass are more upfront than guitar, which provides more rhythm than solos. There is a bonus disk, which is no outtakes. It's almost as interesting, almost because they obviously spent less time refining those songs not being part of the album concept, but cut out a few, mix 'em up and you'll get a full-fledged 80 minutes album. The thing stopping me from rating this IQ's best is that epics are predictable (sparse-pick up the pace-rock out-release) and slightly less well-flowing than their best epic efforts from other albums.
Report this review (#1174473)
Posted Monday, May 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was surprised by this album. For me, it is clearly the album of the year up to now. The musicianship and production is faultless, innovative and the twists and turns constantly keep your attention throughout. This album has lots of atmosphere and despite the darker heavy subject matter, is strangely uplifting in its mood & musical content. The longer tracks certainly don't outstay their welcome and their musicianship is excellent throughout . The first CD is one of the best neo-prog albums ever and the second CD is excellent. Highly recommended stuff! The only downside (if there is any) is that if you have heard IQ before, this is kinda the same sort of stuff, so if you are looking for something different from IQ, then this isn't it really
Report this review (#1174863)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Big disapointment this. Even bigger than the previous one, which in my opinion concists of only one really interesting track, "Frequency". Something defenitely went out the window after keyboardist/composer Martin Orford left. And that is what attracted me to this band in the first place. Namely IQ's ability to write catchy, melodic songs and still retain their progcredibility. The song "the wake" is a brilliant example of this. A shame that the studioversion of this song were recorded with such poor sound quality. Other examples of IQ-songs with strong melodic structure are: It all stops here, Widows peak, Capricorn, High waters, Harvest of souls and The seventh house.

"Road of bones" sounds to me like dark, gloomy and dull film music without any creative leaps at all. The melodylines are almost noneexisting or at best boring and predictable. Sure the guys can play, but the playfulness, the aggression and the creativity are gone. And my suspicions that these writing qualitys vanished with Orford are confirmed.

The wake, Subterranea and Dark matter on the other hand, are classic prog albums. Highly recommended. Stay clear of this road.

Report this review (#1179307)
Posted Monday, May 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's my birthday and I'll prog if I want to!!! Anyway , got the latest IQ offering and I've spun it five times and the music is growing on me with every spin! Lets get straight to the point - the music - Typically IQ with lots of old bits of stuff floating in earshot throughout - IQ typical tempo is evident throughout! - So this CD just has to be GROOVED by all fans of the band! Track I, From the Outside in , didn't hit me straight away on first spin, but it's grown on me, lots of nice mellotron and is reminiscent of Subterranea in several parts! Also some nice organ and ambience and you get the Hackettesque ghostly guitar as well! Track II, The Road of Bones, the title track. The intro reminds me of the beginning of Fand by the Enid. Then the sumptuous bass line and again I think it's very Subterranea like. Some heavy parts, powerful mellotron chordage! Track III - Without Walls, the epic! Didn't get this on spin one, but now I think it's just about taken top spot on the CD (apart from the faded out guitar solo at the end - it's just not right for a prog band to curtail the epic with plenty of time on the CD - I think this is cut out - just as the solo gets interesting! this possibly takes off a full half star for me! This track has a lot to offer though, Genesis/Floyd/Mike Oldfield, I sort of hear it all in here! But I REALLY LOVE the return of the main melody picked out with gorgeous synth - a hair on the back of the neck raiser for me.... Track IV, Ocean, sort of a love song that reminds me of a track off Abel Ganz - Shooting Albatross, good solid prog though. Track V - Until the End. Again typical IQ with some nice church organ and some nice bass work - a bit of Wakemanesque synth work in as well! Has a very good instrumental break too. Track VI - Knucklehead. Nice mellotron and a bit Floydian, sort of sub prog-metal, and some heavy passages and an abrupt end. Track VII - 1312 Overture, Instrumental - nice tempo and not filler but a good piece in it's own right - some nice mellotron again! Track VIII - Constellations...Hmm my favourite track on spin 1, but has been caught up by the epic on spin five. Still, it's solid prog and very listenable, with a lovely synth solo and some Wind & wuthering Genesis style work in it as well. Great ambient part and really good vocal melodies. Very good track. Track IX - Fall & Rise, Ambient start, more great bass work and some ace mellotron as well. Spanish guitar, and a lead out synth solo with some nice drumming throughout. Track X - Ten Million Demons. The very catchy, Gary Numan meets prog track, I love the tempo and the catchy verse and if you like eighties synth pop , you'll like this track...even the recognisable pop fade out for a laarf... Track XI - Hardcore. The third best track in my opinion - It reminds me of Steve Hackett's "A Tower struck down" in parts, but this track has a gorgeous instrumental ending which is haunting and leads into the Dan's le guitar solo. All in all a very SOLID CD , with excellent use of mellotron all over the shop and very nice vocal harmonies...very IQ, so if you're a fan - BUY IT, but then you probably have. If you are thinking of getting into IQ, this offering would whet your appetite for more. Oh and the lyrics, refreshingly esoteric so give them your own meaning!!!
Report this review (#1179422)
Posted Monday, May 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'The Road of Bones' is the 11th studio release by IQ. Its a fantastic and amazing new album. I recommend that you get the 2 CD edition 'cause while most 'bonus' discs are rarely a bonus, in "The Road of Bones" IQ has actually released something that's absolutely the opposite, because I consider the bonus disc to be absolutely essential listening, yes it is that good. All in all, this is a superb album which demonstrates that IQ still stands proudly at the top of the contemporary Neo-prog genre. I have always found difficult to pick a favorite one in IQ discography, but I think that this one could become my favorite. I can't give anything less than 5 stars.
Report this review (#1179503)
Posted Monday, May 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Still Soaring

As I mentioned yesterday, when I reviewed IQ's 2009 effort, Frequency (after about a week of procrastination/crashed computers), I firmly believe that this band has more or less only got better with time. It's not completely true - I can't say anything for their two pop albums in the late 80's (I haven't heard those), and I do believe Subterranea and Ever are above The Seventh House and Dark Matter, but on the whole, this band has only got better, and Frequency is their best. I didn't really expect The Road Of Bones to continue this trend, because I realise that part of my love for Frequency is due to my Theory of First Impressions (which, in short, is the idea that of bands that release pretty similar albums in sound and quality, the one you like the most is the one you heard first), but also because it would require a hell of a feat - to top Frequency they'd need to top the title track, and the only way I could think of them doing it is by doing another song in the same vein, and we know how that always ends.

But the trailer for this record that was released a few months ago sure as hell got my hopes up. I absolutely loved it. The atmosphere, the synths with the sampled choir, the massive riff that was nearly metal, the weird break in flow for that crashing part, even the album cover hinted at "DARK AND EVIL", and the drums. Oh man, those drums. It's like they took my description of "how to make your snare sound fantastic" and made the snare fit it perfectly. It's so punchy and tight, and it complements the intensity of the riff and the darkness of the synths so well. As we know now, this section is the massive climax of the title track here, and is unfortunately pretty much the best part of the album.

It's truly astonishing though - and even more so when you hear what was cut out of the trailer - those ascending and epic vocals over syncopated string hits, and the reprise of the chorus melody atop the thunderous and epic instrumentation. It's truly chilling, and honestly one of IQ's better moments, ever. Frequency was definitely an album of changing themes and moving tracks, whereas The Road of Bones is a more focused and static album, putting all its energy into these epic and thundering climaxes, which both work and don't work, for different reasons. Firstly, I honestly can't say that the first half of the title track is anything amazing. It's pleasant, I guess, and it tries to be a good build to the ending, but I honestly think it goes on a bit too long, and loses me a bit in the middle. A track of this nature needs to be steadily ascending, whereas The Road of Bones just dawdles at one level of intensity then explodes in a spike at the end. And then there's that marimba. God. Damn. It is annoying. The melody isn't even a melody, it literally sounds like someone hitting random notes within a key, and the tone of it, in my opinion, completely kills the mood of the track, it's the unnecessary awkward cheese over the nice atmosphere that ruins it.

Although I still am convinced that a metal-influenced record from IQ would be a great new direction, the only other time this album flies into that heavy side that I want more of is during the album's 19-minute centrepiece, "Without Walls", during the end of its second movement, where the band begin to fling all sorts of noises and splattering sounds about, and it's actually quite fantastic. People who know me know that I'm a sucker for chaotic and bludgeoning climaxes, especially in music that doesn't use them that often (the reason why Kayo Dot gets a bit dry for me), but I honestly think this could have gone bigger. I mean, if you want to climax a 19-minute track, you have to do it big. But on the whole, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this song. It tries to be a complete 20-minute epic, but I realise how hard it is to glue together that much material and make it sound like one song, and it does really begin to lose it when the second movement kicks in, after around 8 minutes. I do quite like the first part, though, with that beautiful piano melody and nice vocals. The electronic drums here are a nice touch, but I'm not really sure they're executed amazingly, they could be great with a bit more detail in them. But as much as I like the verses here, the chorus line feels a bit awkward, especially with that squealing electric guitar behind Nicholls' vocal part. But the song on the whole doesn't feel awfully amazing, even if it has good moments. I can't help but feel it would be better if it were more focused.

And the same goes for the second epic, closing track "Until The End". "Closer" from Frequency was such an incredible finisher, in every way, but I really don't see the point in this, especially when we know that the album's bonus disk also features some great closing material. The song meanders aimlessly for the majority of its length, never really hitting any memorable melodies, but then at around 9 minutes, it just starts to click, and the ending is fantastic. There's an excellent vocal melody here, and is accompanied by a great piano part and a lovely acoustic guitar solo, finishing the album in a really nice way, similar to the previous record. I'm just a bit confused about why this track is 12 minutes long.

Before I finish though - I must give a mention to "From The Outside In", which is actually my favourite track here, even if I haven't talked about it at all yet. The track has such a brilliantly upbeat and enjoyable energy to it, running through its first five minutes so wonderfully, being carried aloft by that fantastic chorus. I must say that I was disappointed by the way the track ends, with the Hammond organ in the solo and fade-out, but the chorus is good enough for me to forgive that. I should also point out that IQ's obsession with triplet syncopation does get a bit repetitive on this album - there are at least a dozen times that (usually the bass) lines are playing constant dotted quavers whilst everything else is playing 4/4, and it gets a bit old.

The Road of Bones is still a good record, and even if the new sounds are slight, it's worth hearing to see what IQ would be like as a metal band, and certainly "From The Outside In" and the title track are worthy inclusions to the band's repertoire. It's a tad overlong, which is a bit irritating given how much good stuff was also thrown on the bonus disk, but it's by no means a bad album, and is probably my second or third favourite from the band yet. Listen to it just to hear the climax of the title track in its full context, it's worth it.


Originally written for my facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#1180206)
Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Prog does not necessary mean 'complex' ...

...and IQ has proved it nicely in this wonderfully crafted album that die hard fans like myself feel that it's worth waiting for an almost five years since its previous "Frequency" album released in 2009. It's been quite a while I have been thinking about writing the review of this long awaited album by the most consistent band on planet Earth in terms of music direction and sub-genre. They dare to stand tall with their direction in what so called neo progressive. I really admire IQ on this. One of major consideration for not taking part in writing my view on this album has been a juggle of complexity and simplicity. The matter is like this: almost at the same time of The Road of Bones by IQ , there is another excellent album by a supergroup Transatlantic who also released "Kaleidoscope" album. The fundamental question is only one: if I consider Kaleidoscope as an excellent album with a four star rating why should I give IQ with a five-star rating? Transatlantic music is more complex and challenging compared to IQ who plays simple prog music. I finally thought that the fundamental difference is on how each album maneuvers deeply into my emotion and it's totally a very personal taste and preference. Music to me is emotion and I have to admit that most of IQ music is very able to stir my emotion regardless its lyrics. the way the music is composed and then combined beautifully with melody line through vocal work as well as how solo works are intertwined sound really fantastic to my ears. That's why I put a full five star rating for this new album by IQ.

As I put emotionally at my FB status:

Np. IQ "the Road of Bones" ...a fabulous album. The opening track sounds like IQ plays metal as the music is in the vein of The Wake with high energy, powerful riffs resulted from tight basslines by the old timer Tim Esau (happy that he returned back to the band he supposed to be). It;s really a killer and it's strategically positioned as an album opener - what a brilliant idea! However, the second track is also another killer even though it starts in an ambient mode and moves slowly until ...again Tim Esau plays wonderfully with his bass guitar (is it a Rickenbaker? probably!). Not only that ... I love the way how the new keyboard player, Neil Durrant, inserts his mellotron-like sound at the background during the peak segments ....oh my God ...!

What a fabulous musical journey I have experienced listening to only the first two damn killing tracks!!! I can not even afford to move to next tracks as my fingers keep pressing backward two times to get back to the opening track again .....!!! Oh no .....!!! This is truly a totally ngguweblak experience man!!! I bet you ....! Marillion Hogarth era must have learned a lot from being consistent ( or they are not capable anymore?) in neo prog music like IQ has demonstrated for years ... Yeah ...more than 30 years of prog nonsense!

That long phrases resonate how this album really hooked me ('nggeblak' is my local expression on how the music has made me temporarily 'paralyzed' !) at first spin by only listening to the first two tracks only!

IQ album has always been like that to me. At first spin I only could enjoy couple of tracks. It's not that I am too lazy to find the full journey and got the deep meaning of the music but ... I have already been "satisfied" by couple of tracks only - not the entire album. But as time went by I started to enjoy other tracks. Take example the Frequency album which at first I could only play regularly the title track, second track "Life Support" and a bit of some from other tracks. And guess what later stage, maybe a year later... I Was totally in love with the "Ryker Skies" track that really make me 'ngguweblak!' to the bone. Yeah ... Ryker Skies is really a kiling track! I like the melody as well as the chorus line. It's really wonderful.

My experience with The Road of Bones album is similar with Frequency as I fell in love at first listen to the first two tracks. Iplayed these two tracks over and over again until I was totally satisfied then I moved to next. The thing was, I mentioned in phrases of FB status, I could not afford to move further as the second track "The Road of Bones" finished I automatically wanted to go back to listen to the first track "From The Outside In". Then the journey continued with the album title track which is basically a simple composition but it's really heavy in nuances. I really love the first two tracks that made me play the two until I got it 'enough' to move to the next one.

Only recently I pay attention to the third track "Without Walls" which indeed I like it very much too. It sounded to me at first reaction that this song somehow reminds me to 'Harvest of Souls' from the Dark Matter album. It starts ambient with a simple piano sounds followed with a drum loop that made me surprised as this is , I think, the first time IQ use the sound of drum loop. It was quite weird at first listen but as it grew on me , I then finally found that the loop has become a nice integral part of the whole song. The first three minutes plus duration this song moves in ambient mode accompanying a dark vocal line by Nicholls. But then the music moves in crescendo with a follow-up riff played in slow tempo. What a wonderful move! ...

...and the war starts at minute 6 indicated by the very wonderful keyboard shot by Neil Durant that sounds really cool while accompanying Nicholls' vocal line. But that happens temporary as the music then is slowing down with long sustain keyboard sound at the back plus acoustic guitar rhythm section work by Mike Holmes. It's quite nice and reminds me to the nuance of Pink Floyd's Dogs from Animals album. The war continues again at min 10:22 as the music is heating up into faster tempo. And the peak of nice war happens at minute 12:20 when keyboard really take the lead in a wonderfully crafted solo backed with relatively fast tempo music. Oh man .... it's really coooooool!!!!

The next track "Ocean" is probably the most pop song compared to other tracks but it's really good as a refreshment just before another excellent track Until the End that concludes the album excellently.

Even though my CD package is the limited edition version with two CDs, I only make the review for the CD One as this is the main album. CD Two is nice also even though it's basically left overs. For IQ I always purchase the limited edition package as it has great bonus like the one in Frequency that contains live DVD of IQ - great performance, really! This time I did not preorder because my good friend who is a die hard fan of IQ purchased it for me PLUS the t-shirt (WHOOOAAAA!!!!!! Great one!!!) at IQ performance at Islington Assembly Hall, London, 3 May 2014.

Overall, this is truly a fabulous album by IQ who has consistently produced excellent music from their more than 30 years of prog nonsense! I really love this album and it's still ini my regular playlist that I regularly play while I am working ora cycling or sipping a cup of coffee. The composition is really topnotch with fantastic melody line, great harmonies among instruments being played (even though this time Mr Holmes does not play that much long stunning guitar solo), beautiful transition pieces on changes of tempo, and most importantly ...this album is so cohesive so that the structural integrity has been successfully maintained from start to end. BINGO! It;s a perfect album that deserves a FULL five-star rating. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#1181642)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2014 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars When this album arrived I didn't put it on the player straight away, but instead looked at the artwork and booklet, and kept thinking about Schr'dinger's cat. I so very much wanted this to be a great album, and until I put it on the player (and I still haven't read single review about this album as I needed to ensure that I wasn't being swayed one way or another) this was both a great album, and a poor one, both at the same time. I first saw IQ in concert some time in the Eighties when they supported Magnum at the Hammersmith Odeon and have seen them quite a few times since, the last being on the 'Dark Matter' tour. During that time I built up a strong relationship with Martin Orford, and saw him play solo a few times as well as with Gary Chandler and of course with Jadis as well, but after I moved to NZ he told me that he had left the band of which he was a co-founder. That shook me, and by the time IQ released 'Frequency' some five years after 'DM', Paul Cook had gone as well. I wasn't a fan of that album (and I totally understand that this could be due to emotions as opposed to quality of music), so what about this one? Great or poor?

Five years on from 'Frequency' and yet again there have been changes in line-up. Paul Cook has returned, but perhaps the biggest surprise is that JJ is no longer on bass, but instead has been replaced by the man he himself replaced in the first place! Tim Esau is back, with his first album with IQ since 1989's 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?' I have always been a real fan of his playing and methods of attack, as he can easily move from fretless bass to many different styles: just check out 'Screaming' from 'Nomzamo' to see what I mean. Then on keyboards we have none other than Neil Durant. Neil may well be an unknown to many of you, but we have been friends for well over twenty years as he sent me the very first Sphere demo back in 1992 (and Neil knows I still have it, potential blackmail is a wonderful thing). A second demo followed in 1994, and they belatedly followed it up with a CD release on Cyclops in 2002, and it always amazed me that Sphere didn't become far more well known as they were/are all great musicians. I even managed to see them gig once in the Nineties, but here at long last Neil is able to put his talents to use on a larger stage.

So, of the five members, four of them played on the first two totally classic IQ albums, so what would the band sound like in 2014, with one brand new member and two who had left (for very different timeframes) only to return? Absolutely brilliant is the way I would describe it.

When opener 'From The Outside In' really gets going it reminded me of the very first time I heard 'Ever', when the band was again returning after a period of unrest: that time with a returning singer and a new bassist, four years after their previous release. Neil has always been a very fine keyboard player indeed, and here he has tempered the jazz influences he normally displays to fit in, and has also incorporated a lot of keyboard sounds that fans of the band will recognise from days gone past. He isn't Widge, and doesn't want to be, but he has made the seat his own by bringing in enough of the old to combine with the new that it doesn't alienate the fans of the old band yet starts to move in a slightly different direction. This is a dark album in many ways, and this comes through in the artwork as well as the album itself. In many ways this feels like a logical follow-on from 'Dark Matter' or 'Subterranea' as opposed to 'Frequency', and that has to be a good thing in my book.

This is an album that I have fallen in love with as everything is right from the musicianship to the songs, from the production to the artwork. This is solid IQ, with everyone firmly gelling and producing more of the incredible music we have learned to expect from them, from rockers through to ballads, simplicity and complexity combining in a way that many have attempted to copy, but few have ever managed to achieve the heights. I have the double disc set, 11 songs at just over 100 minutes long, and it absolutely flies by as one classic leads into another. It would be wonderful to be able to see these guys play live, but I guess that isn't going to happen for me as I live so far away, so I'll just have to keep playing this. Again. And Again.

And as for that cat I mentioned at the beginning. He is purring and stretching, ready to jump out of the box and take on the world. IQ are back where they belong, at the very top.

Report this review (#1181688)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars What can I say about this album that hasn't already been said? For me it was immediate, more so than any of the other IQ albums (even better than Ever, and that album is just stunning).

In my opinion it is an essential addition for any collector of quality prog music, let alone any IQ fan. I love the way that not only does it show the heavier side of IQ (I've always known it was there) but there are also quieter, reflective bits that blend in to the whole sound perfectly. I honestly can't find a duff moment in this album which is a rare thing for me to say.

Favourite bits - the start of the first track with the Dracula sample; the WHOLE of the Road of Bones track (still gives me goosebumps when the band finally crash in); the quiet bit in Without Walls and the way it builds to that massive closing section; the end of the last track - sooo emotional.

If there's anybody sitting on the fence about whether to buy this album I urge you to go for it, it really is the best album released so far this year, and probably will take the best of 2014 slot.

Report this review (#1181713)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars *This review is of the 2 CD edition.*

I must have played this album 30 times or more, so I now feel able to review it.

First spins of the main disc were not particularly encouraging. Apart from the title track, which is amazing on first listen, the rest seemed dark and a bit uninspired, I moved on to disc 2 (where the cast offs/second rate tracks usually reside) and actually liked that much more.

However, IQ's material needs time to sink in. This is their first album entirely without Martin Orford (he wrote a lot of the material on Frequency before he retired) and, whilst the influences are similar, the execution is rather less bombastic.

Of course, there have also been personnel changes. Paul Cook is less flashy than Andy Edwards but he fits the band perfectly. Neil Durant shows astonishing skill on keyboards, at times sounding very like the great Mr Orford but not imitating him. He is all over the album in the way Mr Orford was on Dark Matter, but less obtrusively; less "in yer face". But the real revelation is Tim Esau; the intervening years since he last played with the band have seen him develop into a superlative player who is equally at ease on fretted and fretless basses and conjures up some wonderful bass lines.

Peter Nicholls has written some very deep dark lyrics and sings better than ever, but Mike Holmes is rather restrained, contributing far fewer of his trademark solos and much more heavy riffing.

As for the main disc, the title track and Oceans, a beautiful gentle track which is the one light moment on the album, driven by Esau's bass and Durant's keys, stand out. The other tracks grow on you greatly with time and Until the End really excels, with some nice acoustic guitar and hints of some Scottish tune I just can't place. The epic, Without Walls, has some marvellous passages but just doesn't quite gel; it seems like lots of bits of songs joined together. For this reason, the main disc would get a high 4*.

However, the 2CD edition has Constellation and Ten Million Demons, a stunning chunk of 80s style electropop (with a bit of Chicory Tip in the outro), both of which are worthy of inclusion on the main disc. Knucklehead, Hardcore and the 1312 Overture are also exceptional. This lifts the whole package well into 5* territory.

My only real disappointment is the paucity of the great guitar solos for which Mike Holmes is famous, but this shows that IQ are still capable of delivering music that few bands past or present can match.

An utterly essential album which contains easily enough great material to qualify as a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1181719)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'The Road of Bones' is an excellent album. I was surprised that the musicianship and production is flawless. It is also a very innovative record. This album has lots of atmosphere and the mood is dark and somewhat gloomy. You shuold also listen to the second disc because is every bit as good as the first one. All in all, this is a superb album, a very fine example of what Progressive Rock should be. I think it is very difficult to pick a favorite in IQ discography, with such good albums like Ever, The Seventh House, Dark Matter or Frequency, but I think that this is one of the best.
Report this review (#1184694)
Posted Wednesday, June 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I am writing about the single CD edition of "The Road of Bones". The album starts with a very strong "From the outside in". I especially like the dark sounds of the synthesizer. They work together very well with the rather heavy guitar riffs. The vocals are very typical for IQ. Furthermore there are some nice synthesizer sounds in second part of the song. It is a great way to start the album! The second, song which is the title track of the album, is also a very strong piece. It starts very atmospheric, after about two and half minutes the drums set in and there is another nice synthesizer sound. I especially like the ending of the song with some great string arrangement. Peter's voice is great in this song! The next song "Without walls" is in my opinion the best song of the album. The beginning reminds me of Genesis during the "Duke" era. At about 3.30 a great guitar riff sets in and elevates the song on another level and we get some great organ sounds, too! I also like the Genesis and Yes references and the fantastic solos in the second part of this fantastic peace. To me this is one of the best songs IQ have ever recorded. An instant classic! "Ocean" sounds a bit like a Marillion song from the beginning of the 90s. I have to admit I think "Ocean" is the weakest song on the album. The melody just doesn't grab me. But I am sure that other listeners might think differently about this song. "Until the end" also starts in a very moody way. After about the minutes we hear great organ parts that again reminds one of Genesis and we have a great Tony Banks' style keyboard solo! It is a great song, but I think it is not as strong as "Without walls" which to me has the stronger melodies. All in all I think it is a worthy addition to the catalogue of this great band. To be honest I didn't like their previous album "Frequency" very much. The songs weren't very convincing. The "Road of Bones" has the better pieces. But I still think it is not as strong as "Dark Matter" or "Subterranea".
Report this review (#1190309)
Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Since first buying "Frequency" two years ago, I have kept IQ at the forefront of my listening choices. Whether mixing a playlist for my iPhone or burning a playlist to CD, or choosing albums to listen to during the week, IQ have more often than not made the selection cut. I have "Ever", "Subterranea", and "Dark Matter" as well, and "Seventh House" and "The Wake" are also on standby for a intended future purchases. I enjoy the mixture of heavy guitar, moody and dark or solemn music, the keyboards, and Peter Nichols' voice from the 90's onward. So when "Road of Bones" came out it was just a question of how soon I would order it. And I ordered the double disc version because I was sure it would be worth the extra money.

As others have written, disc one is the new album that tells a serial killer's story and disc two is extra material that didn't follow the story of disc one but the band still felt worthy of releasing. I read a detailed review of both discs on a music blog and I had some ideas of what to expect. That reviewer said disc one was very good but some songs carried on a bit long and disc two was better but neither were as good as "Frequency". As "Frequency" remains my favourite IQ album, I approached "Road of Bones" with a little caution.

First, I was impressed by how well the band sounded like IQ. They develop their sound over each album little by little but a few years pass between each release. Yes, some bands sound the same as they did 20 years ago these days but IQ have a slow evolution thing going on. Surely, much of the perceived change is due to the shuffling in the line up with only Nichols and guitarist Mike Holmes remaining from "Frequency", and yet the band is still IQ. In a way, this album is a very natural progression from "Frequency" without any drastic new change.

One of the main changes I noticed is in the keyboard sound. That classic neo-prog synthesizer sound is still there but with some new sounds like vibraphone and a bit of electronica hinted at without taking the plunge like Galahad have done. These sounds have been added to the overall IQ sound without altering the sound of the band.

The guitar in general strikes me as having been simplified. It serves more as a rhythm and mood instrument and less as a lead. I liked that Holmes actually didn't come in with his customary heavy chords in the title track until well into the song. It meant that by track two we were already hearing something different from the usual IQ dark sound. The album's epic track "Without Walls" is a little easier to digest than "Harvest of Souls" from "Dark Matter", in my opinion.

The second disc begins with "Knucklehead" which sounds in every way like part of the "Road of Bones" story. It has the whispered voices from disc one and some of the lyrics sound very much like they belong to the story. "1312 Overture" is a little uneventful for me. I kept expecting some exciting keyboard adventure to begin but this sounds more like a backing track. The other songs on disc two are all enjoyable as is pretty much the whole double disc album. I feel as the other reviewer felt that "Frequency" is more exciting though that may be because the drumming had more flare and intensity at times. There were also songs like "Closer" which are very pretty, and "Road of Bones" doesn't get pretty for as long on either of the discs, though it still has its fair share of beautiful music in between the dark, heavy stuff.

Honestly, though, I have no real criticisms about either disc. This is a very good IQ album and nothing to be disappointed with as far as I can see. It's not a total killer but it's definitely an album worth having. Both discs.

Report this review (#1192137)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars 32. At the moment, The Road Of Bones is at the 32nd place of the Top 100 of PA. What ? OK it's good. I can understand that people find it very good. But it's 32 ! Is it better than Hot Rats, In A Silent Way, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, or The Yes Album ? Every prog fan will say no. So, what I thinked of the album. Great compositions of course, but it's not so great. I found it a little bit boring some times. The highlights are From The Outside, the title track and the suite Without Walls. Not the best IQ, but a good album, who is listenable but not a masterpiece.
Report this review (#1192272)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've never written a review for progarchives before, although I have visited the site many times over the years - great website - so good to know people are still flying the flag for this kind of music.

So, The Road of Bones, after living with it for a while I felt I had to put pen to paper for the first time with this latest album from IQ. I know its been said by many reviewers on the site, but it really is a cut above your average prog album. Of course I got the 2 disc edition - why wouldn't you? - and again I agree with the majority of people: its a double album rather than a lot of bonus tracks. These extra songs could easily be a new album in their own right - I'm not sure why the band didn't just release them a year later as the new CD.

Anyway, the main disc is 53 minutes of pure prog heaven - there really isn't a duff moment, and with so many standout bits I can only say the whole thing is perfect (don't like saying that as it leaves them no room to improve, but I suspect they will in time). For me the album just flows by so quickly - from the perfect dark and sombre (but maybe tongue in cheek?) beginning of From The Outside In to the final closing 'sets you free' lyric of the final track Until The End. I defy you to be unmoved by that last section, and it just has the effect of making me want to go back to the beginning again.

Songs are great, the playing is superb by everyone, the production by Mike Holmes positively shines, and the lyrics once again really make you think. Peter Nicholls just gets better and better.

I think probably those of you who want to get this album have already got it, but for those who have yet to make up their mind, just go for it, REALLY! It really is that good.

Report this review (#1193312)
Posted Sunday, June 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am very new to IQ's music and I was introduced to The Road of Bones by a friend. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. I thoroughly enjoyed this band's sound and look forward to hearing more from this them. I think my favourite track has to be the title track of The Road of Bones. I do not even begin to comprehend any deeper meaning to this cd's track as previous reviewers, but I simply enjoyed it for the music it is. I play most cd's in my car and this one will stay in my car player for quite a while! Recommended to all if you are fans of good music.
Report this review (#1194965)
Posted Tuesday, June 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I cannot praise the writing of this album enough! This is my favourite IQ album in a while. Having been a fan since the 80s, I've listened to the band grow and change and this is certain a step in a new, right direction. From the opening heavy riff of "From the Outside In", to the fretless bass of "Fall and Rise", you can't go wrong with this album. If you are new to prog rock or been growing up with it as a soundtrack to your life like me, do yourself a favour and get this album. You won't regret it!
Report this review (#1195671)
Posted Wednesday, June 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm still fairly new to Prog Rock in the grand scheme of things; but I'm not new to powerful music with depth. At nearly 20minutes, Without Walls is enough for me to confidently call the album as a whole a masterpiece. It's written so very well that from the first chord to the closing notes; you're barely aware of the time having passed.

It's clearly a dark concept album and the masterful craftsmanship is unfaltering. It's heavier than previous IQ albums and I think it's timed perfectly with their back catalogue as it stands. I'd recommend it to anyone that is new to prog rock but has roots in rock/metal.

Report this review (#1195672)
Posted Wednesday, June 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars IQ can do no wrong, in fact when it comes to Neo-Prog they are at the top of the heap in my opinion with Fish-era MARILLION not far behind. That may be clear to me but there's a couple of things about this recording that aren't so obvious. First of all it isn't a concept album as many have thought, in fact the lyrics of the different songs on the first disc make that a no-brainer. The second issue is why put out a bonus disc of material when they could have just made it a double album? Well, the first proper disc does have the same sort of mood and vibe throughout which I do prefer to the mixture of styles like on the bonus disc, but most fans are saying they like the bonus material better than the proper album. This reminds me of when MARILLION released "Marbles" with a bonus disc of material which included "Ocean Cloud" which many feel is one of the best MARILLION songs ever. Since then I believe(perhaps wrongly) that "Marbles" is really considered a double album now by the band and fans alike. So will this eventually happen with "The Road Of Bones" ?

"From The Outside In" opens with some incredible atmosphere and a sample of someone speaking from a movie before this urgent rhythm kicks in with vocals. Love the mellotron swells that come and go. How about the Banks- like organ 6 minutes in. The bass, drums and waves of mellotron are great, in fact these are the highlights of the whole album for me. "The Road Of Bones" is a song about a serial killer spoken in the first person. Again like the first track we start with atmosphere but this time sparse piano joins in followed by almost spoken vocals. It's all laid back here until things pick up 2 1/2 minutes in as the drums and bass kick in. The vocals become more urgent. Check out the vibes or xylophone that comes and goes on this one, they remind me of the eighties for some reason. I like them. It turns quite powerful 6 minutes in. Great section!

"Without Walls" is the epic at over 19 minutes. A pleasant piano melody to start. Very chilled music right here as reserved vocals join in. A change 3 minutes in then it kicks into gear. Nice guitar work here and I like the organ that pulsates. Great section 6 minutes in as Peter sings with passion. A dark and haunting instrumental piece follows 7 1/2 minutes in. Very cool. It kicks back in before 10 1/2 minutes. Catchy stuff. It climaxes 13 1/2 minutes in, then settles back with synths before 15 minutes. Vocals are back. Mellotron and synths join in as it slowly winds down. "Ocean" is mellow with relaxed vocals but things get fuller on the chorus. Themes are repeated as it seems to build. I do love that chorus. "Until The End" takes about 3 minutes before we get a fuller sound. Nasty organ after 5 1/2 minutes. An epic section is followed by a relaxed piece of piano and acoustic guitar. Reserved vocals join in to end it.

I'll touch briefly on the bonus disc. "Knucklehead" is the heaviest tune on here and the mellotron is fantastic! "1312 Overture" begins and ends with orchestral music but for me it's the music in between that satisfies the most. Lots of intensity and mellotron. "Constellations" might be the best track overall. Check out the drumming and mellotron early on. It makes me feel alive. It ends like it began. Just wow! "Fall And Rise" has some interesting sounds like banjo(I think) and other intricate sounds. A beautiful tune. "Ten Million Demons" is one I loved from the start. Heavy with mellotron and quite catchy. This has such a good mid-tempo groove to it. "Hardcore" is my least favourite tune on here but it's still a really good one.

So I would rate this above their previous album "Frequency" but below "Dark Matter". This really is a grower for me and if it continues i'd give it 4.5 stars but for now a very solid 4 stars. Highlights are the bass, drums and mellotron.

Report this review (#1196743)
Posted Saturday, June 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The Return of the Choir Mellotron

For all its worth, any IQ album is subject to a vast array of opinions, going from "masterpiece" to "I don't get it!", an entirely understandable state of affairs when considering the pioneering legacy this band continues to enjoy. Yup, we all know the story, they were part of the heroic resistance to the impending disappearance of prog in 1977, when 'vanilla' punk ruled the hypocritical waves. Along with Marillion, Pallas, Twelfth Night and Pendragon, IQ forged ahead in the vast darkness. Each subsequent album has made an impact on the expectations from these wily veterans and releases such as Ever, The Seventh House, Dark Matter and Frequency have injected pride and passion into the flourishing scene, giving the lesser known bands a new source of inspiration and drive. Music for music's sake. The departure of the visually delightful master bassist John Jowitt, original keyboard virtuoso Martin Orford and drummer Andy Edwards did not really affect the sound all that much as new faces and old hats are now in the fold (Tim Esau and Paul Cook are back from their sabbatical). It seems that, like it or not, guitarist Mike Holmes remains the man responsible for the overall IQ sound and Peter Nicholls just stamps the lyrics with his theatrical voice. They also seem to take their time in getting new material done in a fashion that will keep old fans happy while seducing a new audience. Neo-pro, for all its opinionated shortcomings, has never produced more gems than in the last 10 years, a sub-genre that has been killing it with superlative new groups (Silhouette, Galahad, Anubis, Sylvan, Comedy of Errors, Magenta, Final Conflict, Shamall, Vienna Circle and a slew of others). Every day seems to announce a new arrival from France, Italy, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Norway and beyond. So, in all fairness to others, IQ are the shining light that keeps the prog road illuminated, intelligent music woven by supreme talents who have a peculiar vision of their sound, yet constantly look to reinvent themselves. That alone warrants the loftiest praise.

Like most avid fans, I have opted for the 2 CD version (the more music, the merrier) and everything expected is reached in spades, with a package that will have fans and critics all caught up in their own personal interpretations, slicing, dicing and otherwise finding whatever they are looking for in a prog album. Yes, the mood reflects the somber cover artwork, a mist of swirling greys with an understood melancholic gloom that may appear out of nowhere, unexpected. Neil Durant is the main architect of creative keyboard work that sees little interest in technical prowess, completely subservient to the crew and their arrangement.

CD 1 - "From the Outside In" intros with a Bela Lugosi accented "Children of the Night" and subsequent steamroller assault on the senses, crisp, heavy and actually closer to recent Galahad. From the opening chords, the mighty Mellotron has opted for the much vaunted choir option, (a personal longtime favorite) and it has not shirked its omnipotent desire to dominate the aural landscape. Paul Cook's marshaling beats show off quasi Led Zeppelin- like propulsion, nasty and lethal explosions of tectonic shock, Esau pulling menacingly on his basso profundo. There is little doubt that this piece has extraordinary 'live in concert' credentials, not just for its manifest bombast but also for its explicit winks at "the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" cinematographic soundtrack. There is a gleaming metallic sheen here as well as elsewhere on the 2CD collection that should be obvious to any cursory listener.

If there ever was a perfect IQ song (and there are many in the back catalog), the glorious title track would certainly fit the billing. It has a modern sheen, in that the keyboards have a most definite electro-glitter with a weighty beat and a grandiloquent presence, driving a metallic spike into the Neo-prog formula, a particular attention to forging stunning melodies adorned with twinkling orchestrations. The main theme is typical of the IQ veneration for colossal memorability, with a cute nod at Peter Murphy's classic "Indigo Eyes" there is a repetitive marimba/calypso keyboard tone that will corrupt any indifference and induce immediate 'kneeling at the shrine' hypnosis. The massed guitar onslaught, engined forward by that titanic Mellotron orchestration is a thing of beauty. This is progressive rock hit material. I could listen to these 8 and a half minutes on endless loop and repeat.

IQ have crafted a loyal companion to their colossal epic "Harvest of Souls" off the Dark Matter album, though this 19 minute+ "Without Walls" may offer up more excitation than one could hope for, cool breeze drumming, sounding almost like a beat box combine with dense Led Zeppelin "Kashmir"-like atmospherics and majestic squalls of contrasts, a universe of salivating organ and a snarling Rottweiler guitar tirade. Nicholls howls with unabashed despondence, floating redolence and total confidence. Obviously, there needs to be many returns here to fully grasp the density and despair but that's what makes epics so gratifying, they keep revealing new details, such as the short "The Knife"-like take-off that winked at me and the sudden jangly guitar arpeggios a few seconds later, the rambling Hammond urging on explosion and the delirium inducing outro, thinking that the piece is over. Durant then flips on his switches and toys with his synths, giving another round to the microphone man. Beautiful, by any prog standard! Teacher, please don't leave us kids alone!

"Ocean" took a long time for me to appreciate, as this and the following piece seemed to get caught in some invisible net. Fragile, puerile, bucolic, pastoral, it's actually a song in its purest form. In fact, I find myself comparing this to a Howard Jones/Naked Eyes/Thompson Twins electro-pop ballad. Truth is I am starting to really enjoy this track but it has been a slow-burner.

We end the first installment with the underwhelming "Until the End", a cosmetic hodgepodge of altering nuances, a dozen minutes of intransigent drama laced with booming bass in overt Rutherfordian upper cut, tortured synthesizer punching and careening guitar jabs. The gritty song is initially a struggle in its performance and therefore in its acceptance but again, repeated returns have peeled off layers of tear-inducing onion, only to discover the underlying quality of the musicianship and the singing.

CD 2 - As correctly stated by numerous previous observers, this second CD is as tasty, if not more so than the glittering first one, a real double whammy treat for the fan, the band was obviously inspired by all the "remue-ménage" going on between members leaving and old vets returning to the fold. I guess the term 'musical chairs' has never been more appropriate. The brash "Knucklehead" blasts with serpent-like conviction, massive dollops of buttery choir and violin Mellotron cater to the sonic buffet, with enough twists and turns to keep us proggers on our tippy-toes.

"1312 Overture" is studiously more orchestral than anything remotely neo-prog, a perfect example of how rock music can be 'classicalized' and satisfy the most irascible fan. It is a humorous and clever wink at Piotr Tchaikovsky's classic "1812 Overture", a piece depicting Russia's defiant defense from Napoleon's conquering Grande Armee. It has an obvious military tone to it, complete with cannonade fireworks, howling winter-like Choir Mellotron and gentle yet abject surrender.

The cinematographic splendor of "Constellations" is perhaps the most terrifyingly accurate IQ song ever, as if the lads were all born brilliant and decide to harvest their souls for added inspiration. Peter Nichols has never sounded more accomplished, compelled towards excellence by the grandiose keyboard avalanche which in turn is propelled muscularly by both Tim Esau's burly bass and Paul Cook's driving rhythmic pulse. Guitarist Holmes does finally step out into the spotlight and he glitters with fluid streams of electricity, as well as arranging a sure fire IQ classic in the process, including the overt Genesis influences that we all know and love. Here, it's at its zenith in terms of successful seduction.

The lovely "Fall and Rise" showcases Esau's exceptional fretless bass prowess (another valued prog idiosyncrasy), deft acoustic guitar from master Holmes who is a darn good player, as well as Nicholls vocalizing with his usual maitrise. A pleasurable ballad that will get many more repeats from my devices.

When I first heard "Ten Million Demons" somewhat absent mindedly, I was taken slightly aback as I thought that Depeche Mode had suddenly gone progressive and bullied themselves onto this record! Just like their friends Galahad (who have been crafting quality neo-prog for 29 years now), IQ has been unafraid of infusing little hints of synth electronica, a trait that has kept their respective recent releases fresh and enticing. The track again showcases Neil Durant's keyboard command, capable to do his Tony Banks thingy as well as a mean Thomas Dolby!

While we are at it, the lugubrious "Hardcore" does just that, incorporating tenser tendencies that swerve near neo-gothic horizons, something wholly Wagnerian but in a more prog context, injecting brooding rhythms and somber motifs , and need I to repeat myself , more of that unctuous Mellotron! This hazy piece seeks out some eerie spectral environments, daubing greyish halos on the grave and funereal accompaniment. Another brief Esau bass roulade introduces a shattering Holmes solo, very Hacketty and Ant Phillipsy, all emotion and restraint, finishing off with a long acoustic foray. Sublime!

I have always hoped for an album smothered in unending waves of my favorite progressive sound, the Choir Mellotron and truth be said, "Road to Bones" has enough to keep my bumps goose-ing! Incredibly orgasmic, the music presented here will undoubtedly provide many hours of future relaxation and high fidelity leisure. The production, the sound, the artwork and booklet are all of first rate quality, making this a necessary icon in the prog pantheon, 2014 has been now officially blessed with even more golden status.

Prog is in good hands as long as IQ provides the Guiding Light.

5 shadowy constituents

Report this review (#1206435)
Posted Sunday, July 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I own the special edition double CD release of this album, so my review is somewhat slighted by the "overall" impression that this collection of songs has left me. The Road of Bones contains a lot of very polished neoprog. None of it is very sophisticated. Most of it is fairly straightforward and repetitive with the occasional pleasing twist or turn. Peter Nichols' vocals are very clear and easy on the ears yet they lack whatever it takes to get the listener really engaged and excited. I find myself most drawn to the keyboard work--which is most often fairly simple though very lush and fully-filling of the aural landscapes. Mostly, I guess I just like the sounds and tones used by Neil Durant. The album does have a few gems--and, IMHO, they have improved their delivery from Frequency--though many of the "hooks" used effectively on that 2009 album are again used here. From Disc 1, "The Road of Bones" (8:32) (9/10) is great, beautiful, mature. The epic/show piece "Without Walls" (19:16) (8/10) and the Wind and Wuthering-like "Ocean" (5:55) (8/10) are both nice songs but neither leaves me with adrenaline pumping, neither lures me back for the "replay" button push. From Disc 2, "Knucklehead" (8:11) (9/10) is the best--offering the most complex and exciting music of the entire collection. Both "Hardcore" (the first half) (10:53) and "Until the End" (12:00) reminds me too much of Frequency's best song, "Ryker Skies." The rest of Disc 2's songs are a step below the offerings on Disc 1. The instrumental, "1312 Overture" (4:18), is engaging but it makes me feel as if the band is going through a rhythmic warmup exercise. The acoustic guitar play on Disc 2 and use of programmed drums gives the music a cheesy lounge New Age music sound. "Ten Million Demons" (6:10) leads the best of the rest. "Constellations" (12:25) sounds like it came right out of Genesis' And Then There Were Three/Duke era--I mean, straight out, sometimes note and sound-for note and sound.

Overall, The Road of Bones is a pleasant listen even if it doesn't excite me enough to extoll its masterpiece status. Still, I do recommend prog lovers give it a listen.

Report this review (#1218982)
Posted Monday, July 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm surprised. This is a tremendous album. IQ never show off too much technicality and are not a flashy group by any means, but the band do well with what they have. They wrote a great, melancholy album here. It has many great atmospheric textures and a well-polished sound. It's still jamming at many times and hard-hitting, but very full of emotion and heart. That's where this album majorly succeeds. There's nothing complicated about it (if not "Ocean" having just a bit of an unusual, but good beat for a cheery tune). I don't find a moment of music I don't enjoy here. Each tune is lengthy but doesn't cover more ground than it can handle. Each idea is present to satisfactory extents and always keeps me interested. It's great! Been listening to it non-stop for weeks! What didn't click at first only clicked more and more with time! There's very little wrong with this album!
Report this review (#1219928)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars IQ are band I have had a firm interest in over the past few years. Having a slight firm interest in Neo Prog, along with Marillion, IQ are probably one of my most favourable bands still carrying the Neo prog sound. Their last album "Frequency" was a critically praised album and got a lot of praise, and it deserved it. And this album got the same praise...and it deserved it...well kind of.

One criticism I would have with this album is summed up in IQ's overall sound. The band's sound is really pushed by Peter Nichols' vocals and the keyboards. Drums and bass do play a small role but the guitars only come in now and then to add a few chugs now and then. In fact sometimes the guitar riffs on this album sound very similar to each other. I do think "Frequency" was a slightly more cohesive and enjoyable album, but this one isn't too bad to be honest. If I was to best describe these guys impact, I would say they are like a mellower and less heavier Threshold, both in style and presentation. But at least these guys are sticking to their guns.

The bands sound is very unique. In fact out of all the neo prog bands, IQ's sound is probably one of the most distinct, but it is also one of the most consistent Neo prog sounds, which means the band can be a slightly bit repetitive. But it doesn't mean the band can't excite and entice. One of the biggest baits for the band is the voice of Peter Nichols. Very noticeable and enjoyable in tone, he reminds me of a lower Tobias Sammet (from Edguy fame) with slight tributes to Fish and Steve Hogarth now and then.

The opening track "From The Outside In" is a great intro to the album. Probably one of the band's heaviest songs in their repertoire. In fact I would even say this is a progressive metal song. Great intro with some pretty head banging riff and a pretty good chorus too.

The title track is probably one of my personal favorites on the album. Starting off almost like a ballad the song has some nice melodies and moving segments before exploding into a rather heavy climax.

The album's longest track "Without Walls" is a good example of how to make a long epic song. Full of interesting moments showing off the bands versatility with a lot of different dynamic changes throughout. The end has a pretty great climax showing off the bands more experimental side with some nosey crescendos.

The albums shortest song "Ocean" is more of a ballad. The amazing keyboard work on this song is the real highlight. Some nice melodies and some cool twists and turns throughout too.

The final track "Until The End" is probably one of the darkest tracks on the album. Full of discords thrown in now and again, it goes through a good amount of emotional moments with a great finale too.

In conclusion, this album is a brilliant follow up to "Frequency." The bands sound hasn't changed too much over the years, but this album is one of their heaviest and shows off the bands direction towards a more metal sound. Overall it bodes well with the bands sound and is a push in the right direction.


Genres: Progressive Rock, Neo Prog, Progressive Metal, Hard Rock, Art Rock

Country of origin: England

Year of release: 2014

Report this review (#1238855)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars For my debut review on Progarchives I have decided to select what is so far the outstanding release of 2014.

I thought IQ had reached the pinnacle of their career with Dark Matter. For me Frequency was a very good but a bit weaker. But Road of Bones is superb, in my opinion this is by far their best release to date. A five star review is something that should be give to only a very special album. There are too many discs here that are undeserving of the five star rating they receive but this is truly a masterpiece. This, their 11th studio recording, is the crowning achievement in a long career spanning 32 years.

Everything about this release is class. Good artwork, crisp clear production and superb musicianship. There is not a dull moment on the entire disc. The epic "Without Wall" is probably my favourite, it starts quite mellow and slow builds into one of those majestic sounding IQ tracks.

The other four tracks on the main disc are also excellent, there is a fine interplay of bass and drums, great keyboard work from the newcomer Neil Durant and of course Mike Holmes guitar playing is first class as usual. Peter Nicholls voice is in top form and he gives space for the music to develop. When I heard that John Jowett had left the band and was replaced by Tim Esau, their bass player from the 1980's I was a bit worried but my fears were unfounded and he has performed superbly

On the Special Edition they have added a bonus disc which could easily have been a release on its own. All too often bonus material is second rate but not in this case, the six tracks are all good, not a filler amongst them.

Unless something special is released over the next few months Road of Bones will be easily be at the top of my best of for 2014.

Report this review (#1244611)
Posted Monday, August 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars I honestly do not understand how people can call this album a masterpiece. For me IQ reached their highest peak with "Dark Matter", really their most progressive album. The following "Frequency" was a big disappointment, and this latest album is no better. Unfortunately, in recent years the music of IQ has lost much of the usual fantasy and the typical progressive components: all the songs have more or less the same structure: simple times, some instrumental passage, very melodic vocals, but nothing that will really get interesting to ears accustomed to prog. Unfortunately, the lack of Martin Orford is felt more and more: the progressive soul of the band was really him. I'm sorry to say that, but I think IQ have now very little to say in progressive music: better to go to listen to the various "Dark Matter", "Ever", "Wake" and "Lush attic"
Report this review (#1245147)
Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In My Not So Humble Opinion:

"Frequency" by IQ was disappointing at best. I'm sorry IQ, I'm sorry friends of IQ, but this was not one of their best efforts.

That was the beginning of my last IQ review, a three star effort wrought with disappointment from one of my favorite bands laying a dud. As such, I was less than enthusiastic about "The Road of Bones", it took me a while to finally give it a spin. I had pre-judged the album, it's another IQ album similar to the last three, how can it have such a high rating. I was prepared to come in and bash the album.

I was wrong, I was horribly wrong!

Ok, so there are similarities and differences between Frequency and The Road of Bones. For starters, both albums have the harder edge that's been going through the ranks of Neo as of late, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The difference is that the engineering has taken a leap, the mix sounds so much better. Peter Nichols voice shines through as always, but Neil Durant's keyboard is some of the best that IQ has seen in years, including some of the later albums with Martin Orford. Another huge improvement is the rhythm section of Tim Esau and Paul Cook. It's both the new and old rhythm section, but they sound fantastic together and again, the mix makes them sound even better. Certainly not forgotten, Mike Holmes continues to rip out fantastic solo after solo. The occasional influence of a Spanish acoustic here and there is greatly appreciated.

"From the Outside In" is a typical IQ song and honestly, when I first heard it, I was convinced that this was just a continuation of the latest trend. After multiple listening's it still leaves me underwhelmed,

The title track is one of the first tunes that really hit me as something different. I love the distinctive sound of the vibraphone line standing out amongst the ambience of the rest of the synths. Neil Durant paints a beautiful soundscape here. Towards the middle of the song we get a glimpse of Tim Easu's tasty fretless bass (mmm, tasty bass. . . ). This is a great departure, something fresh and new.

"Without Walls" is a full on nineteen minutes of hit and miss. Ok, that's an exaggeration, the first three minutes is a forgettable, Genesis-esque ballad that could have been tucked away on "We Can't Dance". Luckily, this is quickly discarded for a nod to Frequency with the heavy triple chunk of the guitar over the Kashmir style drums. This is the IQ that we're used to, and I'm not saying this as a bad thing, I like change, but there still needs to be a common point of reference.

Neil Durant wears his Tony Banks influence on his sleeves, particularly for the keyboard lines in "Ocean". I kind of like Ocean as a ballad, though it is nonetheless, a ballad, a relatively underappreciated vessel in the prog sphere. Peter Nichols' voice stands out as more emotional and vulnerable than usual, a pleasant departure.

"Until the End" has some bright spots as well, the part at the five minute mark is a wonderful study in tastiness and space. Paul Cook in particular sounds great here. The end of the song is typical of IQ in that it's a slow reflection back on the past few songs, but unlike the previous albums, this one is slightly less predictable in that it's slower and quieter. Rather than making the big statement ala "Guiding Light" or "The Narrow Margin" this one tapers off nicely.

So, at this point we're at the end of the first CD and I'm waffling between a high three or a low four, it's good but I'm not convinced it's the next masterpiece. On to disc two.

"Knucklehead" has an exotic, almost Indian feel to it, the rhythm section shines throughout the first few minutes with a flurry of accent hits. Some of Mike Holmes best guitar work can be heard throughout this song, first there's the acoustic part that ends the Indian section, followed by a case of the heavies and then a nice arpeggio. The rhythm section again shines throughout this entire song. This song is a nice improvement over the first disc and really got my attention.

"1312 Overture" just plain kicks butt the whole way throughout the song, we start with a nice reference to the 1812 overture then there's four minutes of instrumental bliss featuring Neil Durant showcasing his talents over a sick rhythm. This is another great song.

"Constellations" is a Genesis themed song with similar themes to the last two songs, Tony Banks sounding keyboard patches with Mike Holmes doubling at times, or soloing over them at other times. This is the third fantastic song in a row and I'm starting to feel this album.

"Fall and Rise" is another beautiful song and Tim Esau shines here, the warbling of his fretless intertwining with Paul Cook's meandering drumming is sublime. Just when it's all well and good, Mike Holmes rips out a Spanish sounding acoustic guitar solo that meshes beautifully with Peter Nichols voice. This is another song about musical space and something that's been sorely missed on the last couple of IQ albums. In case that isn't enough, Neil Durant takes us out with his own beautiful solo. This band is firing on all cylinders in this song.

I can't say enough about "Ten Million Demons". It starts out with a Dr. Who nod for the bass and just builds to an intense rocker. I can't say enough about Neil Durant, his patch choice throughout this song was the final kicker that pushed the cd to masterpiece status, at times he pulls a patch from 'Mama', other times just a wonderfully tasty chord progression with a soft pad behind the pounding groove. The important thing though, is that this song is fantastic thanks to Mr. Durant. I can't play this song loud enough. Yes, this is the moment that pushes this album to a full five star rating. Best line of the album, Peter Nichols growling 'Get yourself unwrecked, time to resurrect'.

Hardcore is a great ending to the whole CD, we get five minutes of nod to the first CD, nice, more Neil Durant keys in the vein of ' . . . And Then There Were Three" but then something amazing happens. We get into a soft, outro with just soft keys and ambience. This slowly grows into a full out outro similar to "Fall and Rise" in that the instrumentalists of the band are shining and locking in together. Mike Holmes adds first a Hacket sounding solo then another acoustic solo over the groove as the song slowly fades out. This was such a beautiful ending.

I am so happy to give this cd a full on five star rating and so glad to see something this good from IQ. This is the best album that they've ever released. Good job to you all, this is a masterpiece and I'm so glad you guys kept working at this band. It would have been easy for Mike Holmes to have called it quits multiple times. This is fantastic and I'm so glad you kept at it.

Report this review (#1245551)
Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars OK you listen to Prog. Have you heard the newest IQ Album "the Road of Bones"? If not go get it right now. Both CD's are worth it. This is the best new album I have heard in quiet a while. Passages that meld from one to another. Old Genesis but Better! New sounds with synth excellence. I have listened to a lot of Prog starting around '73...but this has the marks of a classic. I like PT. Genesis, Camel, RPFL,BBTrain and many other types of Prog. Each song is built to listen again and to gain more depth each time. Ocean is a favorite but the whole CD1 is great. CD2 is worth every minute spent as well esp "Constellation". When was the last time you sat and listened through a whole album stunned? This is your journey now. Start soon.
Report this review (#1257242)
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars My first listening experience of the current IQ line Up was the live album IQ30 - Live In Zoetermeer (2012) and my overall impression was 'Um & Aargh!, the band sounds thinner', so my approach to the new Studio Album was cautious at first, but after a few listenings I completely surrender to this 'new' incarnation. Thinking back, at the beginning of the ´90s, I deeply missed the departure of Tim Esau, then I fell in love with JJ, but now I am so glad to notice that the strongest ingredient within this studio effort is the founding rhythm section of one of my top 5 rock bands ever. Every drum beat and bass note are precise and of such good taste. Production departament is top class again, but Mike's guitar work is at the second row, so in a way this album seems to be the effort of a different band than 'Frequency'. Bonus Disc is full of prog nonsense to good amount, so what else can I ask for? Enjoy or Die. Essential Prog.
Report this review (#1265146)
Posted Saturday, August 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars IQ have delivered another prog-rock masterwork. The Road of Bones is easily the album of the year so far for me, and maybe one of the best albums ever made. It is easily Iq's best album to date. Every song on both cds' is excellent. The musicianship, the sound, the vocals, and the lyrics, are top notch, I guess just everything about the album is very good. I highly recommend that you get the 2 CD edition because both CDs are full of great IQ music. Maybe the only downside is that, with IQ, we will have to wait another five years for the next album.
Report this review (#1286280)
Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Five years on from 'Frequency', IQ delivers yet again another sublime album, only this can be called a masterpiece of progressive rock (hence the 5 star rating) unlike Frequency that is an excellent album like many IQ albums before that. This is the best album that they've ever released. I have listened to the 2 CD album, and I have to say that disc 2 is almost as good as the first one, well worth your time (and money). The only downer is that we have to wait another 4 to 5 years for another IQ release, but if it's anything like The Road of Bones, the wait will be worthwhile.
Report this review (#1312250)
Posted Wednesday, November 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars This is the album of the year 2014. I didn't think IQ were going to get anywhere near as masterful as "Ever", or for that matter, to reach the heights of the brilliant "Frequency", but "The Road of Bones" tops the lot, and that is no mean feat given the quality of IQ's back catalogue. This album continues to showcase the star quality of Peter Nicholls powerful melodic vocals and the incredible guitar playing of Mike Holmes. The rhythm is a powerhouse factory with Tim Esau's bass and Paul Cook's drums. However the real standout for me on this album is the extraordinary keyboard wizardry of Neil Durant. He is a revelation to this current lineup. It is a stunning collaborative effort from all involved.

The tracks are only 5 in total but they are all killer and no filler. The album has an immediate impact on the listener that they are hearing something very passionate and special, but the greatest thing about the album is it grows on you and simply gets better and better with every listen. There is a bonus album and these tracks are excellent too. Perhaps it could have been a 2 CD set. Still as a bonus album there are some delights for those who can get it, such as 'Knucklehead', 'Constellations' and 'Hardcore '.

It is an instant classic with Nicholls' vocals precisely executed on every note and the lead guitar breaks are dazzling and at times emotional such as 'Oceans'. Also the melodies are so infectious that it feels like it might be listening to IQs greatest hits. indeed some of their greatest hits are here such as the epic 'Without Walls', 'From the Outside In ' and the title track. All five songs have a quality and mesmerising hypnotic essence of their own. It's a concept album about a serial killer's mind and it's dark in content but the music is more upbeat and lively than the themes themselves.

This is definitely an album that will take some beating but I believe IQ are able to, given their wonderful lineup at this point in their career. I can't wait to hear some of the songs live in concert on a DVD or perhaps a live CD release coming up soon hopefully. IQ remain one of the quintessential Neo Prog artists on the planet and this album certainly proves that they are far from losing their creative and innovative spark. It is simply a wonderful album on every level.

Report this review (#1365580)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I do like quite a bit this neo-prog group, as numerous of their CD are nice to my ears, with a very good production and very well constructed music. I did not review or scored all those CD I have, but I consider IQ as a solid group from quality-side, and they might be in my Top-10 or -12 as an overall good prog-music. When I saw the very high scorings this CD received at first, when it was in the Top-20 all-time (!), I went thinking as they delivered something special. From the recent years, I saw "Subterranea" their best before, followed quite near by "Dark Matter", and it could well be possible that this one would get a high score.

Well, when I listened to it the first times, I said it was very good, at that time not clearly better than those cited above, but close. After 4-5 more listens, I started to understand !! This double CD is a real, true, incredible masterpiece !! It is all a question of "ambiances" and feelings started, elaborated, constructed, and concluded in a master fashion. Plus the marvelous and unique voice of Peter Nicholls who enters at the right moment to consolidate the atmospheres. I am impressed. The first time this time-construction appreciation builds like that, for any CD's I have (a few hundreds...). I even saw the group "live", it was before I considered putting a "5-stars" score... And it got me when I turned my ears to the atmosphere created, which was also there in their concert, only realized afterwards. Strange, but it went like that.

The sound is top-notch quality, perfect, the experienced musicians incredible, M. Nicholls at his best. And the 'ambiance' is always present, on every song, like a concept idea that spreads from the first minute to the last. Further, it is a double CD. And the qualities enumerated are also on the second one; it is a rare feat that every song, on a double CD, are good and more, but they have done it. Signaling a preferred song is difficult, but "Without Walls" would be the choice, representing in one song the special feeling this album gets on you. The synthe solo at the end brings back what the piano does at the beginning, and the "voice" sound is amazingly at the right moment, creating a "climax" ! Of course, some moments are very calm (too much, for certain fans), but it is part of this type of atmosphere creation, and if you put yourself in the mood to go for every song in their entirety, you will be involved in it.

"The Road of Bones" is certainly a true masterpiece to have, no less. I am first a sympho-prog fan, but this neo- prog creation is perfect to my ears and for the sensations it delivers. A must-buy CD ! What a nice surprise. The best of 2015.

Report this review (#1450943)
Posted Sunday, August 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars I distinctly remember the hype around this release which I was involved in initially, but I soon completely forgot about this album. Recently I was looking through the neo-prog genre for something new to listen to when I noticed Road of Bones. As I am writing this, Road of Bones is currently sitting at the top of the neo-prog genre, it is the highest rated album of 2014, and it's made its way to the top 100 prog albums of all time. I figured I'd give it a few listens seeing that I remembered the release fondly to see if it's held up. Now, I know that I shouldn't take others acclaim for the album into consideration for my review, but I have a feeling that hype may have played a role here for many people, majority of the 5* reviews here are within a month or 2 of the albums release. Perhaps the hype was due a notable classic prog rock group releasing their first album in 5 years, who knows. I guess it should be noted that I am not a huge IQ fan, I did however really enjoy their last release, Frequency.

From the Outside In starts creating a dreary atmosphere which is then cut short by a hammering rhythm guitar bit and basic drum beat. If this sounds familiar, it's probably because this is the same exact way they started their Frequency album. But where Frequency goes places from there, this song pretty much maintains this throughout its entirety besides a decent atmospheric synth section. One of the weaker tracks on the album, feels a bit one note. 2/5 stars

The Road of Bones actually has some buildup. It starts with a slow vocal and synth bit, leads into a simple groove interspersed with a great little xylophone riff, builds up to a decent breakdown, and finally revert back to the initial jam. One of the better tracks on the album but it is still a bit basic sounding, nothing super interesting going on here. 3.5/5stars

Without Walls is the epic of the album, clocking in at 19:15. There is a bit of a buildup which leads into another hammering rhythm guitar bit and a basic drum beat, if this sounds familiar, it's the same thing I said for From the Outside In. It is worth noting here there is some great synth work going along with this jam elevating it a bit above From the Outside In. The chorus section, which is repeated quite a bit, is probably the weakest part of the song. The ladder part of this track shifts it's atmosphere from dreary to a lighter more hopeful sound and ends with a solid outro jam. The synth work here in general is worth noting , it sets the atmosphere well and there are a few synth solos that stand out, but everything else is pretty standard/boring. 3.5/5 stars.

Ocean carries over the light/hopeful atmosphere from Without Walls into a very nice uplifting track. This is the only track that I've listened to regularly since the album's release. It is a poppier tune and I remember thinking that it was sort of my 'guilty pleasure track', it isn't going to blow anyone away, but it is a very nice track that I really like. 4.5/5stars

Until the End does very little to distinguish itself from the rest of the album so any of the problems I had with the other tracks can be said about this out. It does everything that the rest of the tracks have already done and goes nowhere new which wouldn't particularly be a crime if I had enjoyed the rest of the album more. 2.5/5 stars

As someone who fancies themselves as a drummer, I typically find a few grooves, fills, transitions, or even solos that blow me away due to their creativity or technical ability. This is perhaps my biggest draw into prog music. Besides the solid groove in Ocean, there is very little going on here that I haven't heard before and better (Frequency).

I typically find that my taste align with the prog-archives community but here I don't. I have to wonder if everyone did go back and listen to this after the hype died down, if it would have any impact on the albums reviews. 3/5 stars.

Report this review (#1551554)
Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another line-up change with the returns of the great Paul Cook (drums) and long-time gone bassist Tim Esau, and a new keyboard player, but still with Holmes producing. What can one say of new about the band and this album: for those who love their style - as I inconditionally do - nothing ever changes dramatically for some time now, which is good news for me at least.

If you like their past albums, specially the last two, you are in for a treat - more excellent compositions in the same vein, good musicianship as usual, one of the greatest contemporary vocalists whose voice keeps fresh and with the timbre unspoiled.

Rejoice, rejoice - IQ we know and love (still) in top form !!!

Report this review (#1566994)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.5 stars.

I actually thought I should rewrite this review. My primary review complained about the album not being dark, and heavy and gave it 2.5 stars, then 3 stars, then 4 stars!!! Well, I have to admit that this is indeed dark and heavy, but not straightly. It's the overall atmosphere that makes it so, not separate solos. Once I got familiar with Peter Nichols' voice and way of singing, the album grew on me. The opening track, "From The Outside In" builds around a cool guitar riff and remains heavy till the end. "The Road Of Bones" is a melancholic one with a great climax at the end. I think it's the best track on the album lyrically. "Without Walls" has beautiful keyboard works, ends happily after a climax with intense drumming (which may give you the feeling that the album is over, but it's not). "Ocean" is a calm track after all those ups and downs. And finally "Until The End", starts calmly, turns into heavy and then ends happily and clamly, which will keep most people satisfied.

The conclusion? The album has many beautiful moody moments. It may need some time to grow on you, but it surely is a strong and professional album with great musicianship and I can tell it's one of the best Neo-Prog works I have.

Why 4.5 stars? Well, it could be more dramatic and I feel that this is isn't as great as "Frequency". The main reason may be the lack of distinct solos.

And a little about the 2nd disc. The only track I like from it is Knucklehead. This track actually could be on the first CD. Has similar atmosphere and even lyrics (somehow). I didn't include the 2nd disc in the rating.

OLD REVIEW: This is my first review on ProgArchives. I started listening to Neo-Prog with "The Visitor" from Arena. After listening to their other works I went for Pendragon and listened to their latest album "Men Who Climb Mountains", and then their whole discography. As a big fan of Pendragon and Arena, I had high expectations from other Neo-Prog bands, including IQ. So I chose their latest and highest-rated album. As soon as I listened to the first track, "From The Outside In", I was hooked and thought that this would be one of my favourites because you know, I really like heavy, dark music.

But I was wrong ... The first two tracks, FTOI and "The Road of Bones" are good actually. I also like the first track on the 2nd disc, "Knucklehead". They transfer the mood well. Also "Without Walls" is not bad. But why don't I like the rest, or the whole album generally? Well, it goes back to my experience with heavy music + Arena and Pendragon. My main problem with this album is that it lacks thundering, bombastic guitar/keyboard solos. Take Arena's 2015 album, "The Unquiet Sky" for example. The keyboard solos in "Time Runs Out" add some very dark, heavy mood and really make the desperation of the narrator stand out. Also the vocals are in sync with that. In contrast, the vocals on The Road of Bones seem to be relaxed and lacking excitement. So are the guitar and keyboard. Another thing to mention is the Peter Nicholls' way of singing. It has too many pauses. It's not fluent. And that's because of the lyrics. They seem to be put forciblely in the songs' structures.

2.5 stars from me.

EDIT: The more I listen to the tracks mentioned (excluding "Without Walls"), the more I love them. "Knucklehead" is my most favourite and I can't decide between "From The Outside In" and "The Road of Bones". Notable moments are 1:35 in FTOI where the electric guitar starts roaring, the sudden kick of keyboards+drums in 6:25 of "The Road of Bones", the addition of atmospheric keyboards in the last storming of "Knucklehead" + when he sings "toll-taking, core-shaking". Also I highly praise the lyrics of "The Road of Bones". They're just powerful. 3 solid stars.

EDIT2: I have to admit I underestimated "Without Walls". Add this to the playlist, and the album deserves 4 stars.

Report this review (#1948034)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 | Review Permalink
The Crow
5 stars Talking about a band with so much prestige, if I have to say that an album is their best to date that's a big deal...

But this is just what Road of Bones is. In my opinion, it's best IQ album to date. A dark, mature and epic collection of marvelous songs with almost no flaws or weak points. And talking about a double CD release, that's an extra point!

The rhythmic section is perfect, Holmes is so elegant and gifted as ever, the keyboards are awesome, modern and not so old-school like most of the Neo-Prog bands, and Peter Nichols... In my opinion, he has improved his singing throughout the years, being not so high pitched but much more mature and natural. And his lyrics are his most personal and obscure to date, making this album worthy to be heard again and again and again.

Best songs: Road of Bones, Without Walls, Ocean, Until The End, Constellations... Should I continue?

Conclusion: Road of Bones is not perfect. It contains an average song (Hardcore), some good ones (Ten Million Demos, Knucklehead, 1312 Overture) and a bunch of great ones (the rest). But it's really rewarding to hear a band with more than 30 years of history in such a great form, releasing their most complete, mature and well-made album to date.

For this reason and for the outstanding musical quality of Road of Bones, I'm giving this effort five solid stars, being one of the best Neo-Prog albums of all times.

My rating: *****

Report this review (#2054926)
Posted Monday, November 12, 2018 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Very few bands have the ability to continue to improve after three decades on the scene, but the neo-prog legend IQ is no ordinary band for sure. Forged in the early prog revival scene of the early 80s, this band has consistently delivered one compelling album after another with only a few speed bumps on the way ('Are You Sitting Comfortably' = puke icon). Part of this surely has to do with IQ only releasing a new product roughly once every five years so the band takes the proper time to make sure that all the t's are crossed and all i's dotted as they forge a new fine-tuned slab of 21st century neo-prog.

Following 2009's 'Frequency,' the band returned in 2014 with its 11th studio album THE ROAD OF BONES which resulted in a major lineup and change of the guard. Firstly, Neil Durant replaced Mark Westworth on keyboards as well as the return of original members Paul Cook on drums and Tim Esau on bass. Esau hadn't played on an IQ album since 1989's 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?,' an album so bad that i can understand why he wanted to jump ship as it was sinking. Remarkably though IQ returned to form with 1993's 'Ever' and has delivered a consistent neo-prog canon ever since. While the band may have absorbed former members on THE ROAD OF BONES, the stylistic approach is not retro at all and instead finds the band expanding its horizons.

THE ROAD OF BONES was released in two formats. Firstly as a single album that contained five tracks with a running time of just over 53 minutes and also as a double album with the second disc adding an extra six tracks bringing the total running time to over 102 minutes and thus practically doubling the playing time. A wise decision however for those of us who didn't do our homework before our purchase didn't realize the double disc option and mistakenly ordered the single disc. While this may sound sufficient for the casual listener, for the hardcore IQ fan, this two disc version is definitely the way to go as there is no quality decline between the discs. In fact, the second disc explores even more possibilities that evolve the neo-prog paradigm into brave new worlds.

While many components of IQ's sound are a given such as Peter Nicholls' melancholic vocal style lamenting narrations about dark and depressing subject matter, the musical components of IQ's sound took a leap forward with THE ROAD OF BONES. Not only is the music darker and noticeably softer than previous albums but the instrumentation is more varied with the interplay between instruments crafting new variations of possibilities. Firstly the drumming and percussive parts of Paul Cook have taken things to a new level. IQ's percussive drive on previous albums has been chiefly subordinate to the melodic flow and overall thematic nature of the subject matter but on this album his drumming skills actually provide the leading role in many cases upon which many of the intricate melodies and counterpoints follow.

To sum up THE ROAD OF BONES is quite simple. It's a lengthy sprawl of epic tracks that displays a decorative display of various rhythms, melodies and dynamics but is held together by the gravitational pull of Peter Nicholls' distinct fragile vocal style which narrates an impending tale of emotional gloom designed to unleash all the tearjerking emotional tugs. Overall the album is more atmospheric and less on the heavy rock side of the equation but the album does start off with some heavy rock bombast on 'From The Outside In' as well as on the title track at key moments before drifting into a more ethereal ambient realm. The track 'Without Walls' covers all grounds with a sprawling run of over 19 minutes as it wends and winds through classic IQ developments and unexpected detours.

With a darkness and consistency virtually unmatched since Marillioin's 80s reign as top neo-prog dogs, THE ROAD OF BONES provides an excellent display of melancholic thematic material wrapped in an excellent musical package. The tracks are more varied, the instrumental interplay is highly developed and the unique mastery of atmospheres seamlessly blending with the melodic flow and range of dynamics displays IQ at the top of its game. While the single disc version provides many new ideas forged, the second disc is even more liberal in allowing experimental touches to come out of the background and become the dominant features in some cases. Amazingly THE ROAD OF BONES retains a high level of professionalism and song quality throughout its run and that's including the second disc in that equation. Add to that an impeccable production job and you have a neo-prog classic. The only complaint i have about most IQ albums in general is that Nicholls' vocal style can become a bit monotonous at times. If his range was as dynamic as the instrumentation the album would be much richer but even as is, this is an excellent slice of prog.

Report this review (#2278895)
Posted Thursday, November 7, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars IQ is arguably the most prolific neo-prog group of the 21th century so far. I started listening to 'The Road of Bones' after I got hooked on its follow-up 'Resistance' from 2019. Both these albums have a full second disc of strong B-material, which brings the playtime of this album over the 100 minutes.

'The Road of Bones' album (the first disc) offers a gentle, adult and well-produced version of IQ that seems especially keen on honoring and up-dating its debut album 'Tales From the Lush Attic'. References to 'The Last Human Gateway' can be found in choice of sounds, chord progressions and how the compositions flow. There is lots of atmospheric spaciousness in these compositions and little of the rock/metal density that for instance 'Dark Matter' from 2004 offers. The compositions are given the space to evolve and there's relatively little instrumental keyboard melodies/progressions or guitar-leads for an IQ album. The album has some bleaker moments in which Peter Nicholls sings in a lamenting tone (the title track comes to mind), but overall the album doesn't offer much the sci-fi doom that would dominate 'Resistance'. By referencing to their early period and adding a layer of adult atmospheric growth (like Pink Floyd would do on The Division Bell) the band has found itself a renewed interest from the broad progressive community. I myself am not blown away by this first disc, because I think its beautiful content is a bit spread out. IQ sounds extremely well-versed in advanced symphonic progrock, but in the meanwhile looses some of its spontaneous edge.

The second disc is quite the opposite. Notably less detailed in its production (though the quality of the sound is equally good), it shows the band experimenting with drum-loops, drones, sound samples, heavy prog, electronic soundscapes and a more diverse type of song-writing. The compositions are less finished and refined, but the chord progressions and melodies are more to my liking here; more nerve-wrecking, dark and abstract. This is IQ in its free-thinking mode and it really triggers my attention, for it makes the music that less predictable.

I think the combining of the finesse of the first disc and the experimental side of the second disc of 'The Road of Bones' is what makes 'Resistance' one my favorite albums ever made. For this album I can highly recommend the 2cd version that should offer more than enough neo-prog delight for all fans of IQ.

Report this review (#2419974)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2020 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars I must say it took me a long time really enjoy this album. At the time I got The Road Of Bones I had also had bought several others CDs and I guess others pleased me more at first listen, so I sest this one aside for a while. And everytime I took the trouble to listen to it again I was not captivated by the first two tracks,and I usually ended my session right there. It just sounded too much like Subterranea or The Seventh House, not my favorite IQ stuff. That kept happening until recently, when, by mistake, I put the second CD on and was amazed of how good it sounded. The bonus material was much better than the "official" one, or at least that´s what I thought then. Nowadays, after repeated spins,I discovered that the whole work is one of their very best.

I guess this CD was a challenge for the band, being the first one to be completely written without founder member Martin Orford .And I did not know at the time that not even Orford´s replacement on the previous Frequency (2009), Mark Westworth, was gone and newcomer Neil Durant had taken over keyboards duties! On the other hand, original members Paul Cook (drums) and Tim Esau (bass) are back, thus meaning that 4/5 of the classic line up is playing here! And both are on top form, with Esau showing great bass lines here, specially when he plays some fretless bass.

What really amazes me the most if the fact that this is surely a keyboards driven record, with novice Neil Durant taking a major role on this record. Although his style is not exactly the same as Orfords, his extensive use of vintage sounding keyboards, along with few more "modern" stuff, gives the tracks an unmistaken IQ feeling on all tracks, and yet he also brings some fresh and exciting new tones and colors to the music. He is the main figure here. The downside is the fact that Michael Holmes trademark, tasteful guitar solos for some reason are few and far between. The Road of Bones would be a five star record if he had add more of that on this album.

As for the songs themselves, this is a killer album, with only winners and no fillers. Their sound is becoming more and more complex and symphonic, even if still melodic and accessible. The first CD is a concept album about a serial killer and that´s the one that takes more time to really sink in, but it´s a magnificent work, while the bonus disc is, at least, as good as the official one. It´s hard to pont out a highlight since the quality of the stuff is so high and varied. But I must say that the 19 minute epic Without Walls is defintely one, while Constellations and Until The End are also favorites. But, nowadays, I always hear them both from start to finish now without skipping a single track. The production is excellent, as are the arrangements and performances.

Conclusion: One of the best IQ CDs,ever. If it was not for the lack of more Michael Holmes guitar solos this could be their very best. But a brilliant and inspired opus that will please anyone who likes great synmphonic prog music. 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#2436411)
Posted Sunday, August 9, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars After five years from the last work, the British IQ, one of the bands that contributed, in a period certainly not rosy for the genre, to keep progressive rock alive, is back on the scene. In addition to historical merits, this band can boast a well-fed discography and a quality level that has always remained at the highest levels. While never bringing major innovations, over the course of thirty years of career these musicians have managed to maintain their own identity, always offering compositions of fine workmanship. So, what to expect from their 11th studio album? Should we expect "an IQ record, as they have accustomed us, or a change from the classic sound? After Frequency, the band underwent an important line-up change that saw the historic rhythm section return to formation, which had not appeared under this label (if we exclude rare collaborations) for almost twenty-five years. Furthermore, we see the new entry Neil Durant appear on the keyboards, even if in reality he has collaborated with the group since 2011; this however remains his first studio job.

The production results in a very compressed and powerful sound, which at times is "super produced", making some parts quite "plastic" and far from the real sound of the instruments. It cannot be considered a real negative point, because in fact the final result is fully enjoyable, but a more real sound would certainly have benefited an album of this kind.

The Road of Bones opens with From the Outside In, a very articulate song that alternates psychedelic atmospheres with parts oriented almost to heavy prog. The piece essentially unfolds into four distinct parts: an atmosphere intro, then a fairly heavy section which then flows into a new softer area, of fine workmanship. Above all, the excellent work of Neil Durant is remarkable as he mixes mellotron choirs and clavinet very well. The piece concludes with a fourth and last part with full and sincerely little hidden references to the style of Genesis. A very long psychedelic introduction welcomes us to the title track, with very soft and atmospheric sounds. Only in the final does the dynamics rise, reaching a sound more akin to metal. The piece is also characterized by a very strong use of mellotron strings and pad synths, instruments that contribute to creating a relaxed and slightly melancholy atmosphere. It is the turn of Without Walls, the suite and probably the most interesting song of the LP, which strangely is placed in the center of the tracklist. We are faced with nineteen minutes full of variations that intertwine like the plot of a novel. It would be useless and not very exhaustive to explain what happens in this piece, as it must be for any self- respecting suite. I can not help but tell you to take the CD and listen to this composition, which deserves attention and detail. Ocean is introduced by a synth vibraphone that plays a very rhythmic accompaniment with sounds similar to those of an ancient music box. The song develops in different parts, maintaining a fairly constant dynamic: a mixture of soft, wide and melodious atmospheres that gently sway throughout the song, making it sweet and melancholy at the same time. It is not one of the top songs of the disc, but surely if you are inclined to this type of atmosphere it can give you some good moments. Untill the End, as the title suggests, takes us to the end of this LP. The first few minutes are particularly interesting thanks to the particular harmonies created by the sitar guitar that intertwine with the chords of the keyboards. The piece develops once again in several sections which at times are a bit forced: some solutions in particular are slightly artificial and unnatural. Perhaps they wanted to create a more complex song than the previous ones but exaggerated a little, bringing out a product that was too mental and not very smooth unlike the other songs.

There are no surprises, it is a one hundred percent IQ record: studied well and played equally well, with a composition that is not stellar but which is compensated by an excellent arrangement and by more than discreet sounds (even if "overproduced" as we said in opening). The conclusion is only one and it is quite simple: if you are a fan of neo prog and in particular of IQ, The Road of Bones is a record that will hardly disappoint you.

Report this review (#2580671)
Posted Thursday, July 22, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars After releasing a string of strong albums that occasionally reach levels of brilliance, IQ finally hit their highest peak here. Original bassist Tim Esau returns after 25 years, but the big change here is another keyboardist, Neil Durant. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what changes here in IQ's overall approach, but there's definitely a heavier edge, more metal, and the songwriting is unique, distinct from song to song and unified in approach. This is their first true essential master piece, more than 30 years into their career.

From the Outside In: huge strong opener here, heavy riffing with all the instruments coalescing around the main riff to color the outside spaces with different melodies and textures, so instead of sounding like a metal song it sounds like a prog song. This new heavier style compliments Nicholls' voice very well, whose tone seems to change and sound angrier without losing its angelic quality. Neil Durant proves himself the new star of the band, using many textures and sounds through out to flesh out the band's sound to a full and robust style. A slow section with great keyboards is among their best, and the lyrics seem more strange and paranoid than ever before. Dark, but tempered. Beautiful. The closing section features keyboard and bass interplay that will come to characterize this new IQ era: creatively flourishing, shaking off the stagnancy that previously held them back. Each instrumental section sounds new rather than like an older song.

The Road of Bones: one of IQ's absolute best songs. Beautiful piano and keyboard set an incredibly spooky atmosphere, appropriate considering the title of the song. Next, Nicholls' voice enters with lyrics describing "my night's work", seemingly suggesting someone committed murder in the night time, and they grow to build out the creepy and dark atmosphere. When the band kicks in, the drums and bass find an incredibly funky groove that actually fits the atmosphere rather than distracting, and the song just BUILDs to the climax. Absolute perfection, and hauntingly beautiful and dark lyrics. Absolutely masterful full band work here.

Without Walls: A 20 minute epic, akin to Harvest of Souls, but better written and more tightly constructed. Beginning with a lovely piano theme from Durant, and a drum machine that actually fits. Very wistful and soft lyrics about losing your sense of order? Always hard to describe, but Nicholls is at his best here. Things take a minor key turn before breaking into some heavy riffing and mellotron work from Holmes and Durant. The bass yet again is almost funky, standing out in a way it hasn't before. Lyrics take a dark turn to match the music, and the organ melody helps build the pre chorus and drive the energy up. Keyboard work is especially strong, adding choir mellotron and a syncopated synth melody to keep the atmosphere changing and darkening. Then the band drops out and Durant carries the next section entirely by himself, with at least 5 different keyboard voices developing different melodies overlapping. The bass and bass drum pulse eventually help but it's really Durant here. Stunning work, seemingly boundless creativity. Acoustic guitar comes in for the next vocal section, while the keyboards and atmospheric guitars keep evolving the atmosphere surrounding Nicholls voice. Full band kicks back in for a soaring guitar and synth trade off solo from Holmes and Durant before they sync up melody wise. The key is different and the tone is more upbeat, but the same keyboard patterns find their way in, making this a truly cohesive piece with themes recurring in different contexts throughout. As the build becomes unbearable, the vocals drop out and the band kicks into high instrumental gear, with a tricky time signature, guitar and synth parts bouncing off one another as the drums and bass keep things driving. Nicholls comes in for one more climactic soaring yell before the crashing climax comes, full of dissonant mellotron choirs and booming bass synths, before the final section hits, a reprise of the opening piano section but, of course, as pompous and triumphant rock section complete with guitar solo. Just perfectly executed form with the 20 minute epic here, not a note wasted and incredibly tight writing and performing.

Ocean: lovely keyboard/xylophone voice? Melody opens up this shorter, mellow, but still lovely and excellent song. The piano takes over the melody as Nicholls gives one of his most heartfelt but still cryptic lyrical performances. Acoustic guitar, bass synths, bass guitar, some creative drumming, all these elements come together to make a lovely piece. Neil Durant uses his keyboards with such a light touch and perfectly complements the full band sound. Eventually he hits the organ as the song builds slightly, and the sound is just perfect. Great little piece Until the End: typical keyboard mood setting intro, dark and atmospheric, with the guitar melody adding before Nicholls comes in, with his voice being altered to fade in and out with dark tones. An eastern sounding set of instruments, strummed and drummed comes in to begin to push us forward. At the three minute mark exactly, the band kicks in, and Durant is again the star with a magnificent organ sound, but the bass shines also, create riffs and fills. The synthesizer swaps solos with guitar melodies as the band stretches out in some of its best instrumental work on the album. Vocals come back with the same melody set over the more urgent music. A trickier and more off kilter section follows, with the drums taking as prominent a role as the voice, and there is a seamless transition to the triumphant guitar melody that follows and will bring this song home to its conclusion with beautiful organ, singing, bass synths and guitar. The last few minutes take the band out and leave just piano and voice with a touch of classical guitar, beautiful and touching note to end the first disc on.

Now the second disc here is technically a bonus disc, but it's clear the band had hit such a creatively fertile period they just kept firing on all cylinders, and I consider this a double album.

Knucklehead: Unexpected beginning here with the bass getting funky again while the drums get a full workout of rhythms, patterns and beats while the keyboards for once are the backing instrument. Acoustic guitar brings in the vocal. The way the vocals start 'and I can't go outside', as if picking up midsentence, to me it suggests the happy ending of the last disc wasn't all great, things keep going beyond a happy ending, life continues. Very nice touch. Some very heavy riffing and keyboards follow. The guitars take on interesting tones here, keeping the creativity flowing. A fast paced heavy section follows with great syncopated beats from the guitar and drums while Nicholls' voice flies effortlessly across the top. We return to the acoustic beginning and funky bass with more driving instrumental to close it off. Nice track, lots of new ground broken every song on this album.

1312 Overture: opening with a portion of the 1812 overture (haha) before the band drops right in with a tricky riff in a tricky time signature, choir mellotrons soaring overhead. Great little song, instrumental with great playing from all.

Constellations: More creative playing in the intro here, a unique time signature with the drums taking the lead, seemingly a theme on the second disc, with dissonant choir mellotron before the melody comes in brighter, and Nicholls trades lovely melodies with Holmes on the guitar. Neil Durant's arrival and the return of Tim Esau on bass seems to have given everyone in the band a new spurt of creativity that doesn't even end with this album. This song goes through many classic prog moments, and though IQ's sound always becomes familiar over the course of an album, the songs themselves are distinct and unique rather than same-y sounding. Great synth solo followed by an equally great guitar solo in the middle section, followed by a beautiful piano and mellotron led vocal section. Following this is the triumphant ending section, but it oddly alternates to be slightly more off key in some of the verses, again maybe suggesting things aren't as great as they seem? Great guitar and organ playing, and the final 2 minutes really build up but then the song just fades out, an interesting anti climax with no real melodic resolution. Fall and Rise: A lower key song with some mystical keyboard melodies whose voice I cannot identify, with the bass and drums again having a more prominent role. Almost like this disc is the rhythm section getting to write songs and the others have to build on them. Bass especially is essentially the lead instrument here. Classical guitar comes in for a little, but the song is loose with a spacey feeling, with the absence of electric guitar creating a hole that actually is a plus for the song creatively, generating an entirely new feel. The song doesn't develop further than that, but gets by on creativity and mood. Great stuff.

Ten Million Demons: A bouncy synth melody sets the song up for a hard charging, darker and heavier rock song, fitting the title. Great melody, memorably creepy lyrics, more bass and drums leading with keys soaring, guitar almost absent but it works. Weakest song on the album, but still stands out from their material as a whole. Hardcore: After an hour and thirty minutes of top tier, highest quality prog by some of the finest musicians working, you'd think IQ wouldn't have any gas in the tank for another 10 minute mini epic, but the opening is as eerie and unique as ever, quickly giving way to heavy riffing with the guitar and bass setting the mood. The heavy riffing only gets harder and more intense, practically sounding like Dream theater with less overall notes (hah). This gives way to a more eerie slower section driven by multiple keyboard melodies and voices alone, Neil Durant again showing he is a perfect addition to the band. The drums and bass jump in to take this section to the end while Holmes plays a mournful guitar solo, with the bass in particular shining again with riffs and licks to spare. Another sort of anti climax, as the melodies never really intensify or climax, but continue their mournful and sad progression until the fade out.

I've written enough about this album. Get it. It's an absolute masterpiece.

Report this review (#2581872)
Posted Wednesday, July 28, 2021 | Review Permalink

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