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IQ - Ever CD (album) cover

EVER

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

4.05 | 676 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Being arguably the most solid band to emerge from the modern wave of 80s British prog rock, IQ has released some real masterpieces that honor both their career and the prog genre in general (inc. neo, of course). One of those master opuses has to be "Ever", the 1993 release that marked the return of vocalist Peter Nicholls, the presentation of newcomer bass player John Jowitt and the starting point for the second (and best) musical era for the band. Everything that had been missed since the "Wake" days is here: melodically ambitious compositions, true symphonic arrangements, lyrics as evocative as they are mysterious. Nicholls' singing has varied, since the punk-friendly edge is gone in favor of a more subtle nuance, which in turn makes his voice exploit its melancholic potential more thoroughly. And this is where the new things begin to make themselves noticed: a more introspective vibe in the compositions, an enhanced poetry in Nicholls' lyrics, a more balanced sound production, a more focused dynamics in the rhythm section. In many ways, "Ever" encapsulates the sort of mood and sound that the first Nicholls-era albums were headlong for but didn't manage to accomplish. The album's mood clearly signals a new melodic predominance, as it became to be confirmed in the "Subterranea" and "Seventh House" albums, but there is also a particular reason for the overall melancholy of "Ever": relatives and friends were gone from this world during the writing and recording of the band's material, so that had to inspire the dominant atmosphere of meditation and reflectivity in a very strong way. The opening epic 'The Darkest Hour' kicks off with a powerful instrumental prologue that sounds like the prog dream unfulfilled in the Menel days: something like Rush meets Genesis with a touch of Camel, which wouldn't have been out of place beside 'Wurensh' (from "Are You Sitting Comfortably?") or 'Human Nature' (from "Nomzamo"). Once Nicholls settles in, the whole band is driven back to the "Wake" days with the refurbished scheme that I've described earlier. The sung epilogue states a beautifully emotional moment of serene sadness, properly driven by the piano lines. 'Fading Senses' coherently succeeds 'The Darkest Hour' concerning the aforesaid prologue: its sung section is kind of bucolic, reinforcing the momentum's tranquil sadness; the instrumental second section is eerie, almost dreamy, exploiting the main motif's simplicity very craftily. 'Out of Nowhere', with its up tempo pace and hooks, explores the pop-related facet of neo-prog with undisputed tightness. It bears enough room to provide some of Holmes' lighter side and Orford's AOR ghosts. Speaking of ghosts, here comes 'Further Away', the "Wuthering Heights"-inspired epic that incarnates the album's most bombastic moments. All the way through the melodies and arranged sequences we hear the succession of sadness, anger, despair and hope that signal the two main characters' love story. Holmes' final lead is just awesome, the ensemble's deliveries are solidly driven through the recurring 6/8 and 9/8 signatures, and Nicholls states one of his finest performances in the album. After this highlight comes another, 'Leap of Faith', a beautiful song that starts as a piano-led mid tempo and eventually turns into a typical prog parade of well-crafted guitar/key solos and fluidly shifting signatures. The segued closing ballad 'Came Down' pertinently culminates the overall mood displayed in the album. Despite being a slow song and not bearing overwhelming keyboard orchestrations, it feels really powerful. IQ for "Ever"!
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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