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IQ - The Road Of Bones CD (album) cover

THE ROAD OF BONES

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

4.24 | 1098 ratings

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Roland113
Special Collaborator
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.

Roland113 | 5/5 |

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