Review Summary: IQ’s latest effort showcases the best that modern prog has to offer.IQ
are a British neo-progressive rock band who have gained a cult following amongst prog fans over the years but are otherwise not well-known. So far they have released nine albums, this, Frequency
, being their tenth release and a strong contender for prog album of the year.
Their sound comprises a heavy use of keyboards, with little emphasis on the standard rock instruments: guitar, bass and drums. That’s not to say they are overpowered completely, just that focus is almost always on the atmospheric synth, keyboard or piano provided by Mark Westworth. For example, the second track, Life Support
, opens with a piano melody but eventually moves on to creepy, sci-fi style guitar and synth solos, neither of which are technically impressive but add a lot of atmosphere to the song. Then there’s Stronger Than Friction
, which builds up with some light guitar and synth for around five minutes only to then thunder in with some strong chords and rhythmic drumming, before the dual guitar/synth solo climax.
Build-ups and climaxes are a huge part of the album, as almost every song contains them at some point. Often the whole song is a build-up to one huge climax at the end, as in Stronger Than Friction
, or it may occur towards the end of the song, the title track for example. This doesn’t make the album repetitive by any means; there is definitely a variety of tracks on show. The ballad, One Fatal Mistake
, provides a welcome break from their epic synth heavy sound with some soft acoustic guitar and bass, light drumming, and ambient synth.
The majority of the album is very dark and moody, aided by the lyrics and vocals of Peter Nicholls. His vocal range, like many prog front-men is quite impressive, capable of soft, brooding vocals, such as those in One Fatal Mistake
, and operatic, soaring vocals, often in the same song. This is best seen in their epics, such as Ryker Skies
, switching from the soft croon of:
I've had more than enough
The wings of butterflies are made of sterner stuff,
With all those years to kill
I'm yours until...
to the almost angelic:
So before I state my intention to live or die
I command your total attention,
In Ryker Skies
You’ll never fly
If there are any bad points then it’s the fact that Frequency
isn’t the most accessible album. The heavy emphasis on the keyboards and the long song lengths will make this difficult to get into for the non-prog connoisseur. It took me a while to familiarise myself with their sound before I could appreciate the music, and it’s this aspect which may turn a lot of people away.
is a brilliant album, and well worth the time and patience required to truly appreciate it. IQ
showcase the best that modern prog has to offer, and what more could you ask from a band that’s been around for 27 years?
Overall – 4/5
Stronger Than Friction