Sunday, 24 August 2014

Albums Of 2014: IQ - The Road Of Bones

Anyone who has read deeper into this blog will know that I'm partial to a bit of Prog Rock. 
This year I became reacquainted with a band who have been making quality Prog for 30+years.
The band is IQ.

While I was having a pre-gig drink at The Duke Of Wellington in Cardiff city centre prior to the Rick Wakeman Journey concert earlier in the year - my gigging Padwan, Craig and I, got talking to some Norwegian fans who had a couple of days before seen the IQ Launch gig for their new album. They raved about it saying how good it was and how it was the best thing IQ had released in years. So when I got home I ordered the CD.

Formed back in 1981 by guitarist Mike Holmes & Keyboard player Martin Orford the band have released 11 Studio albums plus other live and compilation albums and have been producing quality music from day one.

Back in January 2013 - the band took the opportunity to re-release a 30th anniversary version of their debut album Tales From The Lush Attic. It proved to be a remarkable version, like a Renaissance masterpiece being restored & cleaned and presented like the day it was produced.

This is a short video of the Anniversary version - just click on the link.

Tales From The Lush Attic

Initially owing a lot to Gabriel-era Genesis in their stage work, the band then released their second album The Wake - judged by many fans to be their best early work.

Photo Courtesy of

I then lost track of the band until their 1997 album Subterranea, a classic double Prog outing.

Like most classic Prog outfits, the band have had their fair share of personnel changes and their last album was 2009s Frequency.

But, this year, they have come back with the almost original line up - only difference now being the  latest replacement of original Keyboard player Orford with Neil Durant.

The  almost original IQ are back with a new album The Road Of Bones - and by God it's a beauty.

Firstly, lets's kick off by saying that if you find yourself interested, make sure you get the 2 disc version. 
The Road Of Bones has been released in differing formats and for the couple of pounds difference, the 2 disc version gives you an whole albums worth of extra material, all of which is worthy of inclusion on the 1 disc release.

There's even a 3 disc vinyl release coming up for those who want an even more inclusive experience.

Here's a video of guitarist/producer Michael Holmes talking about The Road Of Bones.

The 7.24 minute album opener, From The Outside In, sets the tone for the rest of the album with dynamic guitars and keyboards set to a pounding bass & drum with the vocals of Peter Nicholls soaring and swooping over the change in tempo and typical Prog musical palette. They sound like a heavier version of Lamb-era Genesis on this track.

Indeed, the whole album is probably IQ's heaviest set but it adds more drama and dynamics to their sound. I can't wait to hear this album on vinyl - and yes, it's on order.

The next track is the majestic title track, The Road Of Bones - it's 8 minutes of cinematic Prog about a serial killer in a USA Midwestern town.  If this sounds kind of out there, you're right, it's about the road that the killer builds with the bones of his victims but the track is superb. Peter Nicholls doesn't write lyrics about Prog staples such as Elves and Dragons.

photo courtesy of The Progmeister

Next up on this 5 track album is the 19 minute Without Walls. Being the centrepiece of the album, you would expect it to be Epic. And it is. Starting off as a quiet, almost ballad-like piece of music, it soon breaks into a different beast altogether, with some blistering heavier guitar work, before it heads off into many different paths and sounds - being intense and delicate in the same song - exactly like a good Prog classic should, before the Genesis-like resolution which sounds as if it could have come from Wind & Wuthering.

After the drama of Without Walls we are treated to a lovely song called Oceans, which is IQ at their most tender but halfway through the drama returns again as Peter Nicholls raises the bar on his vocal performance and gives some beautiful soaring vocals before the peace returns again.

photo courtesy of 

The album closes with another epic, Until The End - here's a very short clip.

As I said earlier, you should really be buying the 2 Disc version. This includes tracks which really do not fit in with the dark feel of the initial album. But the quality is just as good as Disc 1.

It starts with Knucklehead. Which was due to go onto the album until the very last minute and has a militaristic beat which sounds like a march. It's dense and heavy, you can see why it could have fit easily onto the Disc 1.

1312 Overture is a Mellotron driven instrumental piece which chugs along nicely and has lots of keyboard sounds and textures to listen decipher .

The 12 minute Constellations is the next track up and begins with some keyboard and rhythmic interplay which cuts across your speakers with swathes of Mellotron adding the dramatic Prog effect. It is very Genesis of the Wind & Wuthering era - it is probably the most tuneful song on both Discs and is lighter in feel, which is probably why it didn't make it onto the initial album.  But is no less dramatic and moving.

The more delicate moments continue with the next track, Fall & Rise, which has some lovely keyboard and acoustic guitar touches within it's 7 minutes.

The driving rhythms last throughout the next track, Ten Million Demons with it's sound affected vocals and keyboard heavy structure.

Disc 2 ends with the 11 minute Hardcore which is more in keeping with the music on Disc 2 with it's sweeping delicate themes and acoustic guitar passages.

If you feel that you've neglected some Prog Rock leanings in the past, or if you feel you'd like to see what the generation of bands that followed YES, GENESIS etc have achieved, then this may well be the album that reignites your interest in the genre. It's Prog at its very best - so go and invest - but make sure you get the 2 Disc version - It's Worth It.

By the way - Prog is made for headphones - so get yourself a decent pair and let the music take you far, far away.

Twitter - @IQHLive

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