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IQ - Ever CD (album) cover

EVER

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

4.05 | 654 ratings

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Fight Club
Prog Reviewer
4 stars IQ's Ever marks the return of vocalist, Peter Nicholls and a more solid sound. After a few weak albums, IQ seems to have found their sound with this one. The Genesis and 70s progressive rock influence is more clear again and with Peter's voice back in the mix it seems IQ may have made one of the strongest neo-prog albums of the 90s.

This is a very strong album by perhaps the most notable act in the neo-prog scene today. This album echoes back to the glory days of Fish-era Marillion and Gabriel-era Genesis. There's not really anything highly innovative going on here, but don't get me wrong it's still a good album. I'm very glad to see the return of Nicholls on this album, because in my opinion he is one of the essential ingredients to IQ's sound. He is one of the things that separates IQ from the loads of other Genesis and Marillion imitators. He has an operatic voice like that of Fish and Gabriel, but it also has a unique "twang" that makes it not just another neo-prog group, but IQ.

However, I find that the great and unique sound of his voice is also one of the things that makes IQ weak at times. When I listen to their music I often find that a great deal of emphasis is placed on the vocals and lyrics. You might be thinking "so what, don't a lot of musicians do that?" but the problem is the music is somewhat sacrificed for vocals. Don't get me wrong there are still a good amount of catchy themes and guitar work, it's just I find the more interesting stuff goes on when Nicholls isn't singing. This isn't always the case though, which is most proved on Ever. Almost 100% emphasis is placed on the musical quality.

The opener, "The Darkest Hour" is a great example of the overall sound produced by IQ. Starting out with a great 7/8 bass groove and keyboards harmonies, the track proves the band can be witty and dynamic while keeping a sense of emotion and good songwriting. It's unconventional, elaborate and cohesive, representing all of the aspects of IQ's prolific career.

Production is excellent. The omnipresent keyboards and guitar with loads of delay offers a very clear 80s sound. Everything has a very live feel to it, like it's echoing throughout a stadium. The listener can feel the piano and clean guitar tones reverberating off the walls like they are in the midst of the greatest concert of their life. It is all very lush and very clear.

They touch upon a various number of feeling and emotions as the album progresses from one song to another. Ranging from the jittery excitement of "Darkest Hour" to almost a sense of impending doom on "Fading Senses", this album is a trip for the listener. This is accentuated by the use of eccentric keyboard solos and pulsating bass grooves. These accomplished musicians give everything they have, which is one of the reasons I appreciate their style so much.

Musical skill is not the top priority with this group, however. As good as the keyboard and bass player are (who I am most impressed by) they don't sacrifice sound for musicianship. The guitarist often shows his true lights through the winding guitar solos and crescendos. Unfortunately, I don't find that the drummer offers much to the dynamics here. Not many polyrhythms or syncopation here ladies and gentleman.

Out of all the positive points I have mentioned in my review, there are a couple things that drag this album down significantly. At times the music can seem to be going nowhere as if the band doesn't have an idea of what to write next. Instead of cutting out the tedious parts they tend to leave them in, which drags the music on for longer than it should. An example of this would be the 14-minute "Leap of Faith". While it has some great themes and memorable moments, it just does not need to last 14 minutes. If condensed by a few minutes it may stand as a better, shorter song. The band can often be tedious, which is why this is a better album than the 100-minute Subterranea. The music often seems very dependent on the soaring keyboards as well. The guitar riffs are always low in the mix and offer more as filler than a vital contribution to the sound. As I said before as well, the drums only keep a constant backbeat and don't use much variation. This can tend to be boring for a non-progger.

IQ is one of the more "classic" sounding modern progressive acts, and one of the best of them, but they still haven't put out a true masterpiece album. Ever has tight compositional songwriting and some good themes, but it simply does not have the inspiration and memorable hooks to achieve masterpiece status. For those new to prog, this album will be a grower, getting better and better with each listen. However, for people used to the prog formula this album will seem to rehash the old cliches of the great 70s acts and may grow old with extended listening. Therefore, being not quite a classic but still topping most 90s prog I give this album an 8/10. Very good release, but nonessential.

My rating: 8/10

Fight Club | 4/5 |

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