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IQ - The Road Of Bones CD (album) cover

THE ROAD OF BONES

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

4.26 | 1200 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
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.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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