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IQ - The Road of Bones CD (album) cover





4.23 | 1324 ratings

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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.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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