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IQ - Ever CD (album) cover





4.05 | 679 ratings

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4 stars Ever marked the (glorious) return to IQ of original vocalist, the exceptional Peter Nicholls, and also the debut album with classy bassist John Jowitt (who has, sadly, recently departed).

If is, therefore, something of a fresh beginning for the band, almost a sort of second debut, if you will. And what a fresh start it is. Right from the opening pomp bars, and the moment Nicholls enters the fray on the incredible The Darkest Hour, there is an energy and a frisson on this album which makes one sit up and take notice immediately. Of course, back in 1993, we old fans lapped it up following the relative disappointments of the preceding two albums without our hero. Perhaps more than on any other album, you get the absolute full range of his vocal talents, from the deliciously fragile, to the out and out rock star.

Ever also marked the album where the band abandoned any pretence of seeking grand commercial success. Ever is a Progressive Rock album pure and simple, with no hostage to commercial fortune whatsoever. Having said this, it is the case that only a band which grew up and learnt its craft in those heady days in the 1980's could possibly come up with something as markedly contrasting as Fading Senses. Only six and a half minutes long, it has two distinct sections. The first, After All is gentle and almost floating, whilst the eponymous second section is an altogether darker affair, marked out by a thumping rhythm section backing swirling, dark, Orford synths and Holmes riffs. The temptation on this must have been to turn it into one of those lengthy epics, but I am glad they didn't, because there is more packed into this than in many twenty minutes epics. You could also, of course, make a reasonably intelligent argument that the old style rocker Out Of Nowhere, in a different era, would have been a contender for the singles chart. Not in 1993, though.

The highlight of the album is the longest track, Further Away, at some fourteen and a half minutes. It represents all that is good about IQ, namely some incredible changes in tempo and mood. Some of Orford's passages, especially, are as dark and gothic as the great man ever put to record, whereas other passages put you more in mind of clear summer days, with Nicholls at his fragile best. Perhaps, though, the last comment on this byword for quality should be the staggering guitar performance of Mike Holmes, who reflects these moods perfectly, from gentle acoustic, to sharp, harsh, riffs, to gloriously uplifting sequences that sing above all else to lead us into the denouement.

Following this treat for ears and brain, the boys take us into altogether more gentle, and straightforward, territory with the shorter closing tracks, Leap of Faith and Came Down, both of which are hugely enjoyable, more "traditional" tracks. I love the manner in which the former gently segues into the latter with a gorgeous, lilting Holmes guitar passage.

Ever marked the commencement of an incredibly high quality run of albums by IQ. I do not think it is their best - they, in my opinion, are Subterranea and Dark Matter, but this is very close to those ridiculously high standards.

This is the sound of a united and determined band, and one that would continue to produce some of the highest quality prog rock. Four stars for this. Quite excellent, and worth buying for the sound of Mike Holmes at his very best alone, whose beauty takes us fading out of the album.

lazland | 4/5 |


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