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3 stars IQ's third album presented two major changes: a new vocalist, Paul Menel, and a change of musical direction towards more commercial but still progressive rock. I don't like Paul Menel as much as Peter Nichols and I prefer IQ's more progressive moments. Suddenly the reminiscences to GENESIS had disappeared and they were now reminiscent to YES ca. "90125" (1983) and "Big Generator" (1987). These two changes would, in my book, affect the rating in a negative way but it hasn't. Although the commercial approach of this album it's still high quality music. With tracks such as "Nomzamo", "Human Nature" and the closing "Common Ground" I must admit that it's hard to resist this album. Recommended.
Report this review (#3653)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars In my opinion , Nomzamo is a very dissapointing album, especially when compared to IQ's two wonderful first debut albums ie: Tales from the Lush Attic and The Wake. They changed singers and went "PoP" and its "ordinary" 80's pop at best... There is very little prog in this album. Because Songs 3,6,10,11 save the album from a total flop,I rate it average and I'm being nice.
Report this review (#3654)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This was their first effort with singer Paul Menel. It must have been a hard job to replace Pete Nicholls. Menel's voice obviously sounds better on the high tones. His singing is quite enjoyable even though it lacks depth in the lower regions. Moreover I always found there's not much of an attitude in his way of singing but that can be a matter of taste. "Nomzamo" was the first album for a major record company and I think you'll easily notice that. The sound production is a smoother than on previous albums. Half of the album is accessible for pop audiences. These poppish songs are a bit unlikely for this band as they are known for dark, emotional, complex epics. This album could be called a mixed bag. Some excellent eighties pop ("no promises" and "still life"), a rock track ("passing strangers") one ballad ("Colourflow") and fortunately some fabulous epics which are reminiscent to previous albums ("Human nature" and "Common ground"). This is the main reason for prog fans for obtaining this album. These long progressive tracks don't hold the depressing feelings of the first two albums even if the lyrical issues are real heavyweights. The title track is the masterpiece here ; "Nomzamo" sounds cold, calculated and complex but after several listens it becomes a the masterpiece that never bores the listener. It starts with reflective keys and vocals on a bed of hypnotic African percussion that stays present during the whole track. Later on the rhythms and moods change drastically and there's some overwhelming musical walls constructed by bombastic keyboard parts and guitar soloing. This is the only occasion on the album on which Menel's voice sound menacing. "Common ground" is a static epic. It starts with gentle classical guitar parts but after a while the sound gets broadened by keyboards, mellotrons, bombastic drums and electric guitar chords. Here the atmosphere of earlier albums gets recaptured. A battle in France during the second world war makes an excellent lyrical theme for this song. There's many different parts and moods to discover in the longest epic of the album "Human nature". This is slightly reminiscent to Yes and Menel's voice serves that purpose perfectly. Again, there's some wise messages in the lyrical themes. This is a typical IQ epic, with the exception of the uplifting mood which shows a different side of the band that was new in 1986. Since then, the band puts that mood in the sound of the albums that appeared during the nineties.

Half of the album is truly wonderful although I miss the mellotron that dominated earlier efforts. Most of the pop tracks are quite enjoyable with the melancholic "no promises" as the highlight. The commercial arrangements are taken a step too far in "screaming" that has links to typical eighties bands like Deacon Blue or Then Jericho. I can imagine the pop elements that are typical mid-eighties may come across outdated listening to the album now. "No love lost" melts the pop and prog into a composition that still is a concert classic nowadays. With its threatening keys and catchy melodies, this is the perfect opener for a pop prog album. At the time, the album came as a surprise for many long time fans but it didn't alienate them. In the post 2000 years the album is an interesting step in their career no IQ fan should miss.

Report this review (#3658)
Posted Friday, April 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On this record, there is a new singer named P L Menel: his voice is excellent, even better than Peter Nicholls. The overall sound here is really professionally recorded, for the first time. For the first time too, IQ compose some more pop & accessible tracks; nevertheless, some are still progressive too, like the wonderful "Human Nature". "No Love Lost" is a rather slow catchy & rythmic track. "Promises" is dangerously pop & accessible: I must admit that it is very cute & addictive, with a clean rythmic guitar a la JADIS; Menel sings VERY well on it, quite having highly pitched vocals! The percussive "Nomzamo" is slightly dark. "Still Life" is a beautiful, very floating & sentimental masterpiece, having some excellent fretless bass and romantic saxophone. "Passing Strangers" is a dynamic, rythmic, fresh & catchy track, having an excellent guitar solo. The next track, "Human Nature", is the really progressive & sophisticated one: WOW! This track is definitely a must: VERY rythm changing, catchy & addictive, it is going to make you beat the ground! Everything is excellent on this track! The bass is pretty elaborated and fast, the keyboards are very varied, atmospheric, rythmic and melodic, the guitars are absolutely pleasant and the vocals are delightful: this track is definitely among their best ones! The very pop, dynamic & rythmic "Screaming" will wake you up: just follow the beat, and you will find that it is really well made! The album finishes with a wonderful & poignant track named "Common Ground": excellent fretless bass, insistent & emotional vocals, crystal clean acoustic guitars, unforgettable keyboards parts, it finishes with a poignant & sustained melodic guitar solo: it is the kind of song which must be listened hand in hand, with thousands of candles or Zippos lit!

The main weak point on the album is the repetitive hammer-like drums on some tracks.

Rating: 4.5/5

Report this review (#3659)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars A bit of a come down after the classic 'The Wake' partly brought about by the departure of Pete Nicholls (to be replaced by the less 'interesting' P L Menel) plus the signing up to a major record label.Too commercial in style and without the passion of earlier works this came as a big dissapointment to me at the time.However there are some good tracks ,notably 'No Love Lost' and the anti-war song 'Common Ground'.Not a bad album but IQ are well capable of better as they have proved both before and since.
Report this review (#3660)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars For me, it is debatable should the so-called neo-prog be considered "progressive" music at all, but OK - some MARILLION works are indeed very good. What is happening with this IQ album is that they try to imitate the pop/non-prog phase of GENESIS, which they did here quite successful. "No Love Lost", "Promises" (even with terrible vocals), "Nomzamo", "Still Life" and "Passing Strangers" are surely pleasant, listenable pop songs that could hit any popular radio station. Album is closing with a decent, atmospheric anti-war song "Common Ground". However, the problem for me is that "Nomzamo" album is all too decent, predictible, too much Phil Collins-style singing and Hackett-style guitar playing, no innovation, no experimentation, no new ideas, no-prog sound. This is absolutely non- essential album for serious prog fans, and may be interesting for neo-prog experts and lovers of post-"Duke" GENESIS period.
Report this review (#3661)
Posted Monday, May 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars well, well, I was afraid of rating this Cd, a big time Prog Collector that enjoys all types of Progressive Music rating a Pop Album???????????but honestly the songs can´t be satanized, most of the songs are FM tunes but at least they are pleasant if someone, like me, can be somtimes open to more accesible music. The CD has a couple of songs that are decent tunes. Conclusion: For a Prog Purist 0 stars, for a Symph Prog Fan 2 stars, for a Neo Prog Fan 3 stars, for me 2 1/2 stars.
Report this review (#3663)
Posted Tuesday, June 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars I have bought this record back in 1987 and that was the last record I bought from IQ. What a crap! For a long time I thought that all of their records were crap but it seemed to be not true. Maybe it was bad luck to buy one of the worse cd's of this band. I think this record is very inspireless and repetetive in sound. I never get some ant tits on my bodie from this record unfortunately.
Report this review (#3664)
Posted Thursday, July 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Being a Marillion fanatic of the early 80's, I was introduced to Tales From .. and although interesting, I did not think at the time it compared to the stuff being released by Marillion.

Then Misplaced Childhood and The Wake came out at almost the same time, and I was in heaven .. two fantastic albums within a week of each other.

This album Nomzamo, was the album that finally turned my head away from Marillion, towards IQ as my favourite prog band of the 80's.

I've read all the criticism .. too commercial, not as complex, Paul Menel is not Peter Nicholls, etc.

For me, Paul Menel sparked a new life into the band that had been missing with Peter. And his vocals are much more suited to a more commercial sound. It is possibly their 2nd most commercial release (their next album being even more so), but .. so what?

There are couple of songs, no love lost for example, that could have been great hits for a more commercial band. There are some great examples of PMs voacal range, which I'm sure PN could not reproduce.

As for Human Nature - my favourite song .. possibly ever (no pun intended).

If this album had been released by a commercially recording artist, say Meatloaf, it would have been hailed as another Bat Out Of hell.

Don't get me wrong, I like PN and the current direction that IQ are going, but don't knock this album. It is a welcome interruption to the progression of one of the best prog bands.


P.S. Did I mention - my favourite album, of ALL time, and I've listened to a lot.

Report this review (#3665)
Posted Sunday, October 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Okay, this one is not really a must-have and most certainly does not rank among their best. But it really has its moments and as an album it is far better than their next one "Are you sitting comfortably"? It starts off with 'No love lost', a simple straightforward song where Menel's rather high-pitched voice suits well. It's not good, it's not bad, it's enjoyable. 'Promises' was a small hit in The Netherlands although it hardly hit the charts. I saw the video clip once or twice on Dutch tv and was delighted. Actually I like this song a lot for its melody and rhythm. But it was also one of those songs that was live a a disaster. Menel was never able to reach those characteristic high notes but tried it anyway, singing as false as a aged carrion crow. It must have been hard for the other members to experience that. Nomzamo is one of the highlights of the album, another simple but very effective song dealing with Nelson Mandela's wife. 'Passing strangers' and 'Screaming' are songs of which you wished that IQ had never recorded them because they never meet the standard they applied with Pete Nicholls as singer. But the rest of the songs are actually quite good (Still life, Human nature) to very good (Common ground). IQ hardly performs these songs but those they should not be ashamed of. There was worse to come....
Report this review (#3668)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars The first offering by IQ without their bizzare front man Peter Nichols brought something new with new singer Paul Menel. Though a little easier on the ears, Menel doesn't seem to posses Peter's songwriting ability or his flair for the dramatic.

The sound quality of the band improved but their trademark style parred down. Nomzamo boasts a couple of better than average song but over all the album was flat.

NO LOVE LOST opens the CD and has some nice effects. The bass pedals are deep and powerful and Menel does a pretty good PHIL COLLINS impression. The best of the lot here is HUMAN NATURE. I found that song to be out of place with the rest of the album because it was so close to what the band used to do whereas the rest of the material seemed to be going down a rather bumpy and trap ladden road. The title track is noteworthy if for no other reason, the interestingly haunting chorus notes.

I wouldn't recommend this CD to anyone unless, again, they are an avid collector of the band and wanted a complete collection.

Report this review (#3669)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sure I like early IQ (The Wake) and the later stuff with Peter (Ever thru D.M.) but lets not throw the Menel era to the wolves, it was great to have these albums released during a sea of mediocrity in the music world during the 80's. I just dug'em out after 10 yrs., brought back some great memories, give it a re-listen perspective, sure it's not Supper's Ready, but it's cool for what it is- not for what it is not.. Now happily residing on my iPod for a while.
Report this review (#35811)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "I think maybe we should go on out into the moonlight, out of the spotlight. And examine where we are and where we have been to. Where we're going is down without a happy ending." - IQ "Still Life"

My first collection for this album was in the format of cassette altogether with "The Wake" that represents my first introduction to the band sometime in the mid eighties when Marillion was heating the ground in the progressive arena. In February 1997 when I started my CD collection I upgraded Nomzamo into a CD format with three bonus tracks: "Colourflow", "No Love Lost" (piano/vocal version), "Common Ground" (live). Through this album IQ featured PL Menel as lyricist / vocal and Tim Esau in bass department. As you might have known that these two gentlemen stayed shortly with the band. The other three members were stable, i.e: Martin Orford on keys, Mike Holmes on guitar and Paul Cook (who recently left the band for a change in his life and his family - after IQ's last album, the ground breaking "Dark Matter") on drums.

Highlights of this album are the following songs: (6). "Human Nature", (4) "Still Life", (10) "No Love Lost", (1) "No Love Lost", (2) "Promises (as The Years Go By)", (3) "Nomzamo" and (11) "Common Ground". Nice try. As you've seen, I have identified most songs in this album as highlight. It suffices to say that this is an excellent addition to any prog collection. Yes, it is. Especially if you were there during the time when prog music was dying in the eighties, swept by the new wave and punk rock era. How could I say that this one was not an excellent one? It was very few bands that carried the torch of prog music. I knew only IQ, Marillion, Pallas, Pendragon. With the passage of time, even today, I still consider this album as excellent not only because of historical value but also the fact that the music composition is really good.

"Human Nature" (track 6) starts with wonderful keyboard and bass line followed with excellent voice - all performed in ambience. Drum enter the music and brings the music gradually into more upbeat one with stunning guitar work. In some transition sax fills the sound thinly. The interlude part of this track is really wonderful: started with lyrical part followed with guitar solo for a while and vocal returns back to music. On quieter passages with only guitar and keyboard followed with vocal "They pawned our world of peace ." you will find the early Genesis nuance. It's really great. This is the kind of track that you might expect IQ to perform. Fortunately, the band also performed this track in their live record album even though with different lead singer - Peter Nicholls.

"Still Life" (track 4) is a slow and melodic song with simple, straight-forward structure. One thing that makes this song is completely different with any pop song is that the effects used by keyboards and also the varieties of notes used by the band in this composition. Keyboard and bass guitar play important role in this track as this is a drum- less composition. Sax is also heavily used as fillers as well as solo in the middle of the track. Paul Menel's vocal is nice and powerful - most importantly he sings with his heart through this track. The part that has this lyrical part is killing me: "When we say hello we mean goodbye. Feigning paradise, wanting to cry. Love, all our passion I'm sorry to say. Is part of the game we play .". Oh my God .this is truly nice!

"No Love Lost" (track 10 and 1). Well, I prefer the piano and vocal version that appears as bonus track in this CD, track 10. Composition wise, this is a very strong track performed in a mellow style. The piano work represents the classical influence outfit and it enriches the composition of the song. Vocal is really clear, transparent and powerful. I would say that the quality of voice that Menel has is probably fit in with early Genesis music. Even, he fits with Marillion early albums as well. Actually, Marillion should have hired Menel when Fish left Marillion. Menel is an excellent lyricist as well. So, actually it's a perfect match! Back to this song - yeah, it's a wonderful music with great piano and vocal (track 10).

"Promises" (track 2) is a simple yet interesting song to enjoy. It has an upbeat tempo with happy musical nuance. It's the kind of song that you would like to hear early in the morning as the rhythm section is uplifting. It starts wonderfully with simple keyboard work followed with vocal lines: "Don't make any false promises" . JRENG! Followed with simple drumming that function as beat keeper and brings the music into uplifting mood. Well, you may argue: what? Is this prog music? It surely not at all! I agree. But . my philosophy is simple: music is emotion! And this track has done its job really well in creating ultimate sense of emotion! This track really touches my nerve deeply. I cannot let my mouth shut whenever this track is airing my music room. WOW! Man . it's a great track to enjoy. Even, I always repeat this song with very LOUD volume on power amps - including now when I'm writing this review. Oh my GOD . this is the true joy of writing the music I love ..

"Nomzamo" (track 3) is another great track with tight composition combining the world music style through the sounds of various percussion with symphonic prog music especially when Menel's voice enters the music. You may not believe that IQ performs this kind of music. But it's really good. When the drum enters the music it makes the song full of energy especially when keyboard solo and rhythm enters during lyrical break. Keyboard and drums bring the music into uplifting symphonic prog during interlude with percussion sounds at the background. It's a wonderful track that you should not miss ..

Oh .. my writing is getting longer now - I'd better stop it now. How can I stop reviewing the band that I love? It's tough man. But I have to do it as I know that by this time you must be getting bored reading it. Overall, this is not the band's true masterpiece, but I still recommend you to purchase this CD especially if you love what so called Neo Progressive Rock. It's an excellent addition to your neo prog collection. Keep on proggin' .!!!

Progressively yours,


Notes: This review is dedicated to you, the progarchives readers and die-hard fans of IQ around the globe. In specific, I dedicate this to IQ Fans Club in Indonesia who has persistently and consistently love the music of IQ since the band's inception: Bowo Neo, Oga Zano, Tatan A Taufik, Nirata Samadhi, Imam S, Rachmat Hery, Ricky Yess, I'an Yess, Atang Haido Takarai and many more that I can't list down here.

Report this review (#38425)
Posted Sunday, July 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ok, so "Nomzamo" is not a prog rock masterpiece; in fact it's hardly prog or rock. I'd say it's a pop album with a few prog structures in some songs. Taking the album as it is -a pop record by a neo prog band- I must say that it's not a bad record at all. In general I don't like neo prog, but I think "Nomzamo" is not such a horrible work as some people say, basically because it's not pretencious; it's its simplicity what appeals me the most. I don't know much about IQ but here the band sounds honest: there are some echoes of the most commercial sides of Genesis and Yes but they don't copy anybody (which is a lot if we talk about neo prog, isn't it?). Highlights? Well, the first two songs "No Love Lost" and "Promises" are two good pop songs (the second one has got a especially catchy tune); "Still Life" is a very relaxing track and includes a very beautiful sax (the best song here IMO); the second part of "Human Nature" is quite nice (reminds me of It Bites); "Common Ground" is a good song with a symphonic ending. The rest is a mix of pop and AOR which you might find a bit boring and, honestly, is nothing especial. To sum up, not an essential record at all but not as bad as some reviews state. It'd have to be 2.5 stars.
Report this review (#51655)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars OK.... we've all got our views on the Menel/Nichols vocals debate... as well as whether the Menel albums are just pop diversions from the more serious IQ stuff.

Fine... The Seventh House and the really early albums are great while Dark Matter was a little disappointing....... but wow.... when you listen to NOMZANO and STILL LIFE and COMMON GROUND (live) in particular, it can't do anything but blow you away..... the vocals slide all lover the place, the sax is as woozy as a sax could be and the background stuff just flows over you like hot chocolate sauce on sponge pudding......ahhhhhh.

And how can you compare all this with Steve Hogarth from Marillion?...... he is such a plastic and two-dimensional singer......... without any of the bite, power and force that FISH gave the group. Hogarth is no Menel and Nichols is certainly no FISH.

If you've ever seen 'old' Marillion sing Market Square Heroes live then you will understand what I mean

Nomzano is a really GOOD ALBUM though..... worth buying and giving 500 watts and several thousand decibels to!

Report this review (#60241)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I take a look at the ratings and reviews for this album and the following one, I perceive the some antagonism that the one which strikes the Marillion's Hogarth era. On one side you have Nomzamo and Are You Sitting Comfortably for IQ and Seasons End and Holidays in Eden for Marillion ; on the other side, you have less accessible or "easy listening" stuff like Subterranea for IQ or Brave for Marillion. Most of reviewers and prog fans prefer the latter ones -not to add that many of them seem to deeply despise the first ones. Well I don't. I think that all of the four albums that I have mentioned before are masterpieces deserving four to five stars.

Coming back to IQ only, yes, indeed, there are pop-oriented songs on Nomzamo or Are You Sitting comfortably. And so what ? Isn't there a life aside pure complex prog rock ? To me, those two albums combine the best of different worlds. There are true prog rock epics like "Human Nature" or "Wurensh", beautiful against-war songs like "Common Ground" or "War Heroes" and, yes, some easiest but not crappy stuff that I could compare to, for instance, Kino's Picture.

I could add that if I had met IQ's music with, let's say, the much praised Subterranea, I wouldn't have gone further with the band since I can't, at this very moment, remember a single melody of this album !

So, please, to all the newcomers to IQ, give a chance to Nomzamo or Are You Sitting Comfortably and make up your own mind.

Report this review (#84760)
Posted Tuesday, July 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Paul Menel was already in charge of the leading vocals on the (studio) live album "Nine In A Pound Is Here". We could notice that his tone of voice, although less poignant was not too far away from Peter's one (Nicholls, I mean). This ensured a smooth transition for their work as far as the voice is concerned. In terms of creativity, I have to admit that the band did not produce their best work under Paul's period.

I ranked their first two studio albums more in the symph prog category, but with this one, neo-prog is definitely more appropriate. "Nomzamo" is far from being original. It seems that IQ has (unfortunately) followed the same evolution than Genesis and Yes in those days. This is easily noticeable on the opening number "No Love Lost" (Genesis, "Invisible Touch"), "Promises"or "Screaming" (Yes "90125", and Asia of course). The latter two ones being really poor with these AOR sounds that I quite dislike. But this was the mood of these days, so maybe they did this only to survive and come up with better ideas later on (which they will do) ?

The title track is more in the prog vein but is totally uninspired and dull. A kind of tribal prog song (a new genre maybe ?). It is a combination of Genesis while they were three (if you see what I mean) with Gabriel on the vocals ! Paul Menel trying desperately to match the master's voice. I'm not totally against bands spinning off the Genesis influence (like the previous IQ albums) but only when the best side of the masters serves as base of inspiration. I really see no need to try an emulate one of the greatest prog band in the history during their crappy (and long) period (1981-1991).

We'll even get some good songs in here : the first one being "Still Life". The quiet mood will be the occasion for Paul to use Fish's so emotional vocal style. The sax will bring a nice touch (although another giant did use this quite extensively, Floyd to name it). Still not very original, but at least a pleasant break.

We are back to the poppish / AORish sound with "Passing Strangers". One of the poorest track ever written by IQ (together with "Screraming" also featured here). But to earn the title of the worst IQ song, it can of course not compete with "Corners" (from "The Wake").

Even if the next track might seem to be an epic (in term of lenght) but has little to do with this definition. Prog-FM. That's it. But above average on this album. As will "Common Ground" but only thanks to a great (but short) guitar break in the last portion of the song which leads to a great finale. So, we got finally three great IQ minutes featured on this album so far. But this track will be the last one of the original album.

We are very fortunate (!) to get three bonus tracks on the remastered version. A stripped of version for "No Love Lost" which is not too bad I must say. I even prefer this duet (piano, vocals) than the traditional version. A good live version for "Common Ground" which was one of the best track of this album. "Colourful" is not worse than the majority of the original album. Actually it is very pleasant. Melancholic like IQ can be. The vocal duet is rather nice. It should have replaced "Passing Strangers" or ""Screraming" easily. At the end of the day, these bonus tracks are very welcome.

I am not sure that the departure of Peter fully explains this downward quality in their work; they would probably have developped the same type of music anyway. But we'll never be able to confirm this. Of course if you are found of AOR / FM music (and there are a lot of fans who appreciate this type of music) you might find it interesting. If you are new to IQ, DO NOT start with this album. It is only dedicated to die-hard fans (at best). I would even say for completionists (as I am). So, the rating is somewhere in the middle (between one and two stars). I will rounded up because I really like IQ, but only for this reason. Two stars.

Report this review (#122299)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars In one of my earlier IQ reviews I said I'm not an IQ fan (even though I'm a neo fan) and I was talking especially about IQ of the eighties. Because all albums since Ever (1993) appeared not that bad after all. I've even become a bit of a fan of IQ of the nineties. The only eigthies album I reviewed so far was The Wake and I've always considered that a bit of a slow, even dull album and gave it two stars in the end. I was a bit of an outcast with that rating because it's considered one of IQ's best albums ever by many. Anyway, time for the successor of The Wake now, Nomzamo. An album I just recently discovered. I will review it song by song and to be honest I'm curious how it will turn out.

1. No Love Lost sounds like an average IQ track to me, Paul Menel plays a leading part in this song and performs varied singing. Besides this feature there's little spectacle in this song. 2,75*.

2. Promises (as the years go by) is a bit more recognizable/accessible but I can't call this an impressive track either. Paul Menel sounds a bit affected. Not a fan of this one. 2,5*.

3. The title track is characterized by interesting rhythm with nice percussion at the start. Later the instrumental part features a shining Martin Orford though nothing exceptional again. Nice song. 3*.

4. Still Life is a ballad with laid back vocals by Menel doing a good job here. Nice sax as well by Ray Carless. Quite a beautiful song, I like it. 3,5*.

5. Passing strangers sounds just about as cheerful as Promises with same kind of vocals by Menel. The song is slightly better or rather: less annoying with a bit of nice guitar. 2,75*.

6. Human Nature though has the same impact on me as Promises. The song has more substance though which is not strange since it's more than twice as long. It's obvious we're in the eighties when this album was released. Pop music was quite poor in those days and so was prog, relatively spoken. After six songs I have to conclude this IQ comes nowhere near IQ of the nineties. But I expected that. 3*.

7. Screaming is another accessible energetic song but again I'm not impressed. 2,75*.

8. Common Ground proves the band saved best for last. Second ballad and second song above average. But also this one is not exceptional, more good/very good. Last few minutes are the best of the album with finally some impressive Holmes play. 3,5*.

(9). Colourflow is actually a bonustrack so I will not count it the same way. Good song with good vocals by Jules. 3*.

Like the songratings obviously show there's just one rating possible for this album: 3 stars. This album proves less proggy than the predecessor but more energetic and cheerful. Nothing special I'm afraid.

Report this review (#207928)
Posted Saturday, March 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
Founding Moderator
2 stars [N.B. This review is equally applicable to the band's next album, Are You Sitting Comfortably, which I will not review for that reason.]

With the departure of Peter Nicholls, IQ practically dropped all pretense of being prog. Yes, there are some proggish moments in a couple of these compositions, particularly in the instrumental sections. But new vocalist/lyricist Paul Menel apparently had a radical (and largely negative) effect on the band, moving them decidedly toward the commercial side of Genesis, Asia and Yes. Taken in that light, the songs are not that bad, and Menel does have some strengths as both vocalist and lyricist. What is perhaps most sad is that there are some good ideas here, particularly lyrically, but they never reach even a fraction of their potential. Instead, the band seems hellbent on writing a hit song (probably because they were now on a major label), and seems to have consigned its formerly increasingly proggish nature to the past. Oh well. The good news is that we would only have to wait one more album before Nicholls returned, and the band began making up for lost time...

Report this review (#210945)
Posted Friday, April 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have read many negative review on this 3rd album of IQ, people arguing this is not sufficiently prog-oriented. Even if I should admit this album is more on the POP edge, I disagree with the qualitative evaluation made by some others reviewers. This album is GOOD. Let me explain my point...

Yes, Peter Nicholls's replacement by Paul Menel had certainly an influence on the IQ productions of the late 80s and on the trends of producing more mainstream albums. However, I don't understand why a "prog-related" album should have a lower rating as long as it delivers on its promisses.

This album is not a pure neo-prog one (as opposed to all the Peter Nicholls ones, both the previous one (The Wake) and the latter ones (starting with "Ever"). It would rather compare with the Phil Collins period of Genesis, the albums of an Alan Parsons Project or from superbands like Asia. None of these references has a pejorative meaning to me even if they could hardly qualify for being typical prog albums. These are good POP albums but that still hold in them some of the ingredients of prog that makes them more elaborate than the average POP songs while leaving them a chance for a radio-hit and (to get back to Nomzamo) Paul Menel delivers a rather good singing (with a more clear voice, even if less expressive, than P. Nicholls) and IQ's musicianship stays intact.

To summarise, this is an excellent album that I would recommend to prog lovers that wants to make a break and do some "easy listening". This is "only" prog-related but once it is agreed, it delivers on its promisses. I still listen today with pleasure to this 1987 album that sounds to me less outdated than its predecessor (the classical and appraised "The Wake"). Yes, there is "Still Life" in this album !!

Rating : 4 stars.

Report this review (#262217)
Posted Saturday, January 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars Some say it's a challenge to review a band perceived as an also ran in one's own humble opinion. I don't agree. Reviewing is easy and can be pleasurable, but it's listening that can be so arduous, especially since I believe in listening until I really "get" it. Some years back I chanced upon two IQ LPs for a reasonable price in a Montreal used record shop. Since I was aware of their status as neo prog pioneers, I scooped them up and skulked out of the shop convinced I had taken its keepers to the cleaners. Turns out I was the one fleeced.

More than half of this anonymous late 1980s recording sounds just like... well, that. It swells with musical and lyrical cliches absolutely numbing in their transparency, such that it must have sounded equally stilted in its day. For the most part, this is a pop recording along the lines of GENESIS of the period without the hooks and any sort of clarity. Its only advantage is that it generally omits the chest thumping drums which became trademarks for their idols - well, the dreadful "Screaming" notwithstanding. The low point is definitely "Passing Strangers" which, apparently without a trace of irony, counts no less than a half dozen of the most bathetic expressions from the pen of Paul Menel. Actually most of the tracks include at least a few lines that leave me writhing, and you must know I generally suffer this sort of thing quite well. Maybe one problem is that the music doesn't redeem matters. "Human Nature" could have been grand but was flattened by its own lofty goals gone leaden.

Only "Promises" seems to celebrate the pop idiom and how sophisticated instrumentation can highlight a melody rather than drench it, while "Common Ground" is a decent closing ballad with a measured guitar solo to round out the proceedings.

I realize this is probably not one of IQs stronger recordings. These were the 1980s, and the priorities of prog music makers and audiences were sometime at odds. Nonetheless, the near total lack of group identity and intelligence quotient do not speak well for the band. 1.5 stars barely rounded up.

Report this review (#328748)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Things turned around for IQ after the ''Living proof'' live release.The heavy live schedule and the bad relationship of Pete Nichols with the rest of the band led to his departure.It's hard to believe that they were disagreements regarding the style of the band,as the new Nichols' band ''Niadem's ghost'' was even more poppish than anything IQ ever released.Anyway,he was replaced by the young Paul Menel,who even had an active role,writing lyrics and co-writing music for the upcoming album ''Nomzamo,released in 1987 on Mercury.

The presence of a new vocalist brought many changes on IQ's style.The band would lean towards the commercial and fairly accesible style of Neo Progressive Rock,like presented in the opening ''No love lost''.The symphonic keys of Orford are there,but the overall structure is very simple and catchy,while Menel's voice,despite being sensitive and expressive,lacks the depth and theatricism of Nichols' one.Listening to the first five tracks (with exception of some moments of the self-titled track),you will hardly believe this band created two excellent Symphonic Rock opuses a few years ago.Plastic digital synths,cheesy vocals,a strong amount of pop tunes and cliche song structures.This doesn't mean that the tracks are bad,they are quite good actually,but they are also very far from the band's real abilities of composing grandiose music.Fortunately by ''Human nature'' the old spirit will wake up.Dreamy symphonic keyboard work,spacey soloing by Mike Holmes and certainly Menel's best performance by far.''Screaming'' is really awful,badly played synth Pop-Rock of the lowest quality.With ''Common ground'' the album will close in a sensitive way,a fantastic ballad with sensational vocal lines and the trippy guitar and synths of Holmes and Orford respectively in the background.

The decision of the band to remove from their symphonic past is of course respected,but time would show that it was not the best thing to do,as even their sellings were not that high.Yet,I do not think that ''Nomzamo'' is a black hole in IQ's discography.Their ability to create memorable tunes and the few great signs of their old sound make this album worth owning.Recommended for fans of the accesible face of Neo Prog.

Report this review (#507285)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars All good clean fun

Following the release of IQ's second album "The Wake", original lead vocalist Peter Nicholls left to form his own outfit called Niadem's Ghost. He would return to IQ a few years later, but meanwhile in his place came Paul (P. L.) Menel who sings on this, IQ's third album and writes all the lyrics. Whether coincidental or not, "Nomzamo" also signals the beginning of a shift in emphasis for IQ, in much the same way as their mentors Genesis had experienced several years earlier. Admittedly, the music here does not involve a wholesale migration towards disco pop or cod-soul, but there is for the most part a definite change in style here.

Reassuringly, the Genesis style of previous albums is there in the "Squonk"-ish opener "No Love Lost". Indeed and perhaps deliberately, the track shows the migration from Nicholls to Menel to be similar to the Gabriel to Collins change for "A trick of the tail". As with this album as a whole, the style is prog-lite, the music retaining many of the positive tenets such as strong melodies, lush keyboards, and impressive guitar work.

"Promises (As The Years Go By)" takes us towards the sound of Yes, but once again, away from their true prog period. Here we have an "Owner of a lonely heart" like pop rock number with strong harmonies and a toe-tapping beat. OK, not much prog, but it's all good clean fun. The title track is in the style of (Fish) Marillion, and as such is one of the albums most progressive affairs. "Still life" is a fine prog ballad, complete with some impressive sax (Ray Carless) and keyboards. The vocals here actually sound similar to those on IQ's more recent work "Dark Matter".

"Passing strangers" is the most overt attempt at a hit single on the album, with more than a passing hint of Asia. Embarrassingly enjoyable, but hardly memorable. The longest track here is "Human Nature" at around 9˝ minutes. While the song does boast slightly more in the way of instrumental development and prog nuances, it remains fundamentally accessible (not a criticism). For my money, "Screaming" is the low point of the entire album. The track is a muddled pop rock affair, sounding much like the mass produced electro-pop of the period. The closing "Common Ground" makes for a fitting elegy, with pleasant "Wish you were here" like synth and a fine vocal performance.

Overall, an enjoyable album from IQ. Those seeking pure prog will hold their hands up in horror at the thought of yet another prog band doing a Genesis, but the fact is that the changes here are far less pronounced, and thus far more natural. Not a perfect album by any means, but worthy of attention.

Of the bonus tracks on the CD, "Colourflow" is interesting as it features a duetting female vocal by Micky Groome. The track is light and wispy, and was probably correctly left of the original album. It is worth a listen though. The other two additional tracks are a pared back rendition of the opening track, and a live one of the closer.

Report this review (#544256)
Posted Thursday, October 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The first IQ album to feature Paul Menel sees the band seriously compromising their music in response to commercial pressures. There's two types of songs on here, neither of which quite measure up to the band's best work.

First off, you have tracks which are actually decently written pop-prog pieces which are unfortunately compromised by some rather dated production values - the drum sound is particularly badly affected by this. I include album opener No Love Lost among these; the band have in fact produced perfectly acceptable live renditions of this song with Peter Nicholls on vocals (and kudos to Peter for being willing to tackle material from the Paul Menel era). (NOTE: I think GEP have sneakily provided more recent production runs of the album with, if not an actual remaster, then at least a bit of a spring cleaning, because I recently got to hear a more recently-issued CD of the album and this issue was mostly alleviated.)

The other type of track - such as Promises or Passing Strangers - are transparent attempts at hit singles. The band's performance on these isn't terrible - to be honest, everyone on the album gives a great effort except Paul Menel, who I feel is a somewhat inferior vocalist to Nicholls - but the songwriting itself will provide a major stumbling block for anyone used to IQ's usual fare.

That said, the material here has grown on me somewhat over the years, mind you, and it's perhaps better to approach this as the work of essentially a different band from the IQ we know - a slick 1980s pop-prog unit which happens to share a name and some personnel with the IQ we know and love. Promises is actually pretty catchy, and Martin Orford tells a story about how it actually got a lot of traction on German radio, only for the record company to completely drop the ball by not releasing it as a single there until that surge of publicity had already come and gone.

On the whole, Nomzamo - like Pallas and Twelfth Night works I cited earlier, and Pendragon's Kowtow album or Red Shoes EP - was part of a lamentable trend in the mid-to-late 1980s for neo-prog bands to compromise their sounds in order to chase after the commercial success Marillion had enjoyed. The wrong-headedness of this effort is all too obvious, since Marillion themselves never subverted their own musical approach to this extent - sure, Kayleigh was a catchy pop single, but it was a more lavish slice of pop-prog than the sort of material Asia or 90125-era Yes were offering up, and it was part of a super-proggy album-length epic for crying out loud!

On the whole, Nomzamo and its successor, Are You Sitting Comfortably?, represent a deeply misguided choice of musical direction on the part of IQ. I'm moderating my score on it up a bit because taken separately from the rest of the IQ discography and judged only on its own merit, it's a good but not great example of prog-leaning pop of a very 1980s vintage, but at the same time it clearly isn't an example of IQ playing to their strengths.

Report this review (#587323)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars (3/10)

Nomzamo was quite a let down, after then triumph of "The Wake". Peter Nicholls left the band, and was replaced by Paul Menel. Now, Paul Menel was competent, but Peter Nicholls he was not, and IQ lost a lot of their character as a result. I don't think (most of) the blame lies with Menel though, he isn't a bad singer. It seems like the real problem was that IQ moved to a major label, that wanted them to become a lot more commercial, and way less prog, and thus IQ went the way of Genesis. Everything became poppier, and less complex, the musicianship was far less impressive, far less moving, and IQ stopped being special.

Probably the worst offender of the album is "Promises (As The Years Go By)", a very obvious attempt at a hit. The cheesy lyrics (repeated chorus of "don't make any false promises as the years go by"), complete with pop-style harmonies and backing vocals, the unimaginative structure, the uninspired and repetitive rhythms backing it all up - it was all tragically standard, right down to a truly awful music video that I would advise you not to hunt down on YouTube. Mediocre AOR rather than prog. These criticisms could also equally apply to "Passing Strangers", another forgettable song in the same vein. Even the normally excellent Mike Holmes supplies a really generic guitar solo. Martin Orford also takes a real step down. On "Screaming" he uses some truly ridiculous keyboard sounds.

Occasionally the band does shine through, and "Human Nature" is a track I might even be generous enough to call 'good', given that it actually progresses interestingly, and has some intelligent use of the saxophone, as well as a few darker atmospheres. "No Love Lost" is kind of pleasant too, especially vocally. The anti-war "Common Ground" manages some emotion, with a sombre atmosphere and a driving guitar led ending, and I suppose "Nomzamo" (the song) has some pretty cool moments too. Some of these songs manage to have some interesting rythmic moments, and a few slightly more epic sounding moments than one might expect, but nothing really leaps out.

"Nomzamo" (the album) just ends up feeling insubstantial, especially compared with the two albums that preceded it. There's very little here that excites me, and I can only see this album being of potential interest to existing IQ fans. Those new to IQ should definitely start with something from the albums with Peter Nicholls. The two with Paul Menel are really dated, and take out a lot of the symphonic and darker elements which made IQ great in the first place.

"Nomzamo" is an album that will require not much effort to gain a passing enjoyment from, but also has a very low long term pay-off. It's definitely not (all) awful, there are moments that can be enjoyed, but the bad moments are rather cringe-inducing and ugly. From IQ this can only be seen as a disappointment.

[P.S. If anybody knows what a Nomzamo is, please tell me. I am actually very curious about this]

Report this review (#851565)
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars So, Peter Nicholls, leaves IQ and in comes Paul Menel. From the opening track, "No Love Lost", not too much difference vocally, but you soon tell a bigger difference with the much more mainstream second track "Promises". Another mainstream, "poppy" sounding, "Passing Strangers" and by this time you realize that this is not IQ from past releases.

Must say they lost their 'PROG' touch with this release and if it wasn't for the lengthy "Human Nature" and the tribal sounding title track, then this album could've rather been seen as a mainstream rock album. Rating wise, this is below their previous efforts and a 2 star rating seems fitting here.

Report this review (#1091908)
Posted Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars NOMZAMO marks the period where IQ entered the crisis zone even if they didn't realize it at the time. After two albums lead singer Peter Nicholls left the band (due to touring pressures and band tensions) so he could form his own alternative rock band Niadem's Ghost and possibly hoping to jump on board a more popular and more profitable form of music as the late 80s weren't exactly progger's paradise still being forced to the extreme outskirt niches of the musical world. Remember this was before Ĺnglagard and Anekdoten came around in the 90s and gave progressive rock a much needed kick in the arse. After the loss of Nicholls the band recruited Paul Menel to report for vocal duty and he would stick around for two albums before Nicholls rejoined the band.

Due to the fact that neo-prog was steadily gaining followers in the 80s is what caught the attention of record companies especially after the success of Marillion's "Misplaced Childhood." And because of the fact that IQ had been around for a few years and had begun to follow in their footsteps towards some kind of success, they got scouted out by Vertigo Records and headed into the chipper sounding Chipping Norton Recording Studios. What should have been a reason to celebrate soon turned into a prog band's worst nightmare as the record company demanded a more commercial product than the band were planning and the result was NOMZAMO which together with the next release "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" has become one of the most hated albums in their discography and it's easy to understand why once you put this one for a spin. But does it really deserve the vitriol heaped upon it? I don't think it's as bad as many make it out to be although i concede that this period was indubitably the weakest part of the band's career.

The title NOMZAMO comes from the name of a small township in the Western Cape of South Africa and the the title track is even about apartheid. The album isn't exactly a concept album but there are the common neo-prog themes of love and sadness and the usual emotional tugs that we can expect so the lyrical content or emotional connections aren't what make this a weak album by any means. It's not like the band were pushed into the world of mindless water-downed synth pop for heavy MTV rotation. While the musicianship is still as good as it always was the weak part of this album lies in the simple songwriting itself. While i find many of these tracks are excellent if taken as a pop rock album of the era, it is obvious that the sound is just a tad too esoteric to please the pop prog Asia fans and way too tame for progheads. Tracks like "Passing Strangers" are particularly cringe worthy as the canned electronic drums, insipid pop hooks and nary-a-care gleefulness of Menel's vocals represent the bottom of the creativity well. There is also time where the album has too much of an AOR sound especially with the Kenny G sax solos!

After all is said and done, i find NOMZAMO to have many very good tracks such as the catchy Zeppelin-esque opener "No Love Lost," the excellent title track and well crafted neo-pop-prog canzonets like "Human Nature." The closer "Common Ground" is pretty cool as well. So true that this is hardly the best the band has dished out in their thirty plus year career and truth be told this is one that i've avoided based on bad reputation alone but as i come to this after hearing all their ones before and most after, i have to also admit that i don't find this to be the horror of all horrors it's made out to be. There are still plenty of lush keyboard sweeps, melodic guitar hooks and good neo-prog energy lurking about with only a few duds. This very well could have undergone a more rigorous progification process and become a more decent album. Certainly not the album to begin with IQ but i could hardly own their complete collection with this missing on the shelf! And to top it off there are actually decent tracks on here! And yes, Menel does the neo-prog vocal thang quite well.

Report this review (#1537004)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars The vinyls of the early IQ albums are becoming increasingly hard to find. After walking for over two hours on the latest record fair I had to settle for 'Nomzamo'. Whereas their most recent release 'Resistance' could be seen as the bands most ambitious and progressive effort, 'Nomzamo' from 1987 stands furthest away from it on those regards. Peter Nicholls had left te band and new vocalist Paul Meno stepped in. Genre spear-header Marillion had pulled off commercial succes with their poppy song 'Keyleigh' and the other neo-progressive groups followed suit. These days bands are harshly criticized for 'turning pop' in the eighties, but I guess it must have been crazy hard to not feel that pull of that particular decade - the eighties.

So how bad is Nomzamo actually, listening to it thirty years later?

Now this album caries the mark of 'average' in all most every discipline. The vocals by Paul Meno are charming in their own way and obviously influenced by 'The Lamb'-era Genesis (most notably on the opening track 'No Love Lost'). My main concerns are with the small pitch imperfections of his vocal performance that bother me a lot, whereas (for instance) my girlfriend didn't even notice them. Otherwise this singer could have easily lead a Genesis tribute band. The sound of the album is another 'average'; the album has this light as a feather feel and could easily use one of those (otherwise so awful) low-end boost remasters. The poppy sounds on songs like 'Promises' and 'Passing Strangers' are really precisely what one would expect from an eighties symphonic poprock song. On the title song IQ opens with some jungle style percussion before finding a nice main instrumental lead. Fuzzing up that lead guitar and pulling it to the front would so much good there. The rest of the song is a bit directionless and the overall atmosphere a bit crude. 'Still Life' is an attempt to make a deep slow synth balled type Genesis popsong. The remaining synth during the song's fade-out are rather nice though. The two extended tracks 'Human Nature' and 'Common Ground' are clearly more advanced in their songwriting, atmospheres and instrumental performance. That light- weight sound doesn't help, but these songs could actually be made to work in a live performance with the band's current sound. 'Human Nature' is your everyday prog mini-epic, whereas 'Common Ground' is more a 'Cinema Show' type of song. Before giving up on this album these songs should be given a fair chance.

Conclusion. Well, my girlfriend instantly liked this album - as she is generally appreciative of eighties pop radio. That in turn forced me to give the album some strong consideration, for its ideally suited for listening together. In the end the vocal glitches of Paul Meno are my main problem with the Nomzamo album, otherwise its an average pop-progressive crossover by a band of which you can pick up at least eight better records (if you are looking for progressive that is). Eighties radio pop has a charm of its own and if you're nog allergic to it - why not give this album a try. Perhaps start with side two. Three stars, because my girlfriend is neither a collector or a fan of IQ and I'm not going to be a dick about it.

Report this review (#2278765)
Posted Thursday, November 7, 2019 | Review Permalink

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