Top positive review
31 people found this helpful
on 6 May 2014
For starters, IQ need a good slap on the wrist for leaving it five years between studio albums. That being said, the band have occupied themselves by releasing remastered anniversary box sets of their first two albums ('Tales From The Lush Attic' and 'The Wake') with accompanying gigs as well as taking 1997's 'Subterranea' back out on the road with a new bells and whistles show in addition to writing and recording a new album, so it's not as though they've been idle.
Much has been said about the three changes in band line-up, but when you consider that four-fifths of the group on this new album (Peter Nicholls, Mike Holmes, Tim Esau and Paul Cook) made up the original IQ, there's nothing really to be worried about here.
As for the album itself, 'The Road Of Bones' has been well worth the wait. Darker and harder in tone to most of their other albums, with a more sombre, reflective lyrical approach, this album is everything that progressive rock should be about in 2014. Like most IQ albums, it's also a production marvel; guitarist Mike Holmes has delivered yet another terrific sounding record.
Opening track 'From The Outside In' is typical IQ territory. A lively, rocky workout with crunching guitars, swirling keyboards and a thumping rhythm section. We're off to a good start.
The title track was previewed on YouTube some time ago and was a perfect tongue-wetter for this record. A dark, brooding, cinematic tale taken from the point of view of a serial killer in a US Mid-Western town, whose killing spree has gripped the area in fear, it's arguably one of the most absorbing pieces of music that IQ have ever written. It's progressive rock at it's most sophisticated, with a perfect balance of atmosphere and power and a spot on vocal display from Peter Nicholls, whose lyrics are quite chilling on this track.
'Within These Walls' shows the band moving into epic territory with a nineteen minute juggernaut that raises the bar of technical proficiency up a notch with some outstanding playing, particularly from new keyboardist Neil Durant, whose mixture of old mellotron/moog sounds and modern synths are a pleasure to listen to.
'Ocean', which follows, shows that IQ have a good ear for a ballad. Beautifully sung once again by Nicholls and with one of the most complex time signatures I've heard in a while, it's the most accessible track on offer.
Closing track, 'Until The End' is another widescreen piece with a cinematic edge that shows the band loosening up a touch and letting the song go where it needs to go, irrespective of length. The low-key acoustic guitar/piano closing section ends the album perfectly.
If you've any sense, you'll grab a copy of the two-disc version of this album, which like Marillion's 'Happiness Is The Road' from 2008, features a collection of songs that didn't fit the mood and tone of the 'main album'. Like the extra songs on that record, there's nothing dispensable about these tracks and disc two could quite easily stand alone as a good IQ album in it's own right.
'Knucklehead' has a Dream Theater vibe to it, whilst '1312 Overture' is an entertaining instrumental romp. 'Fall And Rise' and 'Ten Million Demons' in particular, are surprisingly accessible and one hopes that the band will dip into this second disc during the live shows to promote the album.
It's always been a mystery to me that IQ have never moved on from 'cult status' and enjoyed major success. Apart from a brace of passable, yet slightly more commercially sounding records in the late 1980s that side-stepped the band's natural evolution, IQ have recorded arguably some of the finest progressive rock albums of the last thirty-plus years and I would urge any prog fan to explore their back catalogue if they haven't already done so. It'd be time and money well spent.
'The Road Of Bones' is another vital, top class entry in the IQ cannon and will certainly be a contender for prog rock album of 2014 by the time the year is out. You'd be mad to miss this one.