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Y no te confundas, no nos interesa la piratería, lo nuestro es simplemente desobediencia civil y resistencia cultural a favor del libre acceso al conocimiento (nuestra música es, entre otras tantas cosas, conocimiento).

jueves, 18 de agosto de 2016

IQ - The Road of Bones (2014)


Último discazo de la trilogía que componen los últimos tres discos de IQ que son la confirmación de que éstos veteranos músicos están pasando por un momento pletórico de inspiración, y eso es una suerte para todos. Una nueva obra maestra para el estilo, y de lo mejor del neo-progresivo, un álbum doble que no tiene desperdicio siendo casi cinematográfico y con un sonido dramático, moderno, implacable, denso, pesado, preciso y macizo. En el décimo álbum de estudio de uno de los pilares del rock progresivo británico se muestra muy en forma y sacan una obra que es un lujo y con el agregado de un CD extra que es tan interesane como el principal (cosa que es muy raro), y en donde todas las cosas son posibles. ¡Muy pero que muy recomendado! Una obra maestra de la música (dejando de lado catálogos, ya sea rock progresivo o lo que sea), esto es simplemente música magnífica, y punto.


Artista: IQ
Álbum: The Road of Bones
Año: 2014
Género: Neo progresivo sinfónico
Duración: 53:07 + 49:06
Nacionalidad: Inglaterra


Lista de Temas:
CD1
1. From the Outside In (7:24)
2. The Road of Bones (8:32)
3. Without Walls (19:15)
4. Ocean (5:55)
5. Until the End (12:00)
CD 2
1. Knucklehead (8:10)
2. 1312 Overture (4:17)
3. Constellations (12:24)
4. Fall and Rise (7:10)
5. Ten Million Demons (6:10)
6. Hardcore (10:52)

Alineación:
- Peter Nicholls / vocals
- Mike Holmes / guitar
- Tim Esau / bass
- Paul Cook / drums
- Neil Durant / keyboards



Una de las bandas reinas del neo progresivo ochentero está de regreso con un impresionante trabajo en el que los veteranos sigues sondando a los IQ que conocíamos aunque adicionan un nuevo punto de vista, algo más moderno y oscuro: guitarras fuertes incrustados en melodías de teclados exuberantes y una sección rítmica muy influenciada por el jazz palpitante, junto a la distintiva voz (que a algunos les puede no gustar pero no deja de ser distintiva). Es para destacar que es una producción independiente, por lo que resulta claro la libertad con que la banda pudo crear esta obra.
Así es que después de 30 años de carrera la banda se despacha con el que es quizás uno de los mejores álbumes de art-rock de la historia.




Hay tanto escrito sobre este disco y es tan bueno lo que dicen que me voy a limitar a copiar algunos comentarios que encuentro aquí y allá, si quieren más los pueden googlear pero te ahorro tiempo: todos dicen que el disco está buenísimo. Así que vos también ahorrate tiempo y directamente ponete a escuchar esta belleza.

Cinco años pasaron de la edición de "Frequency" una de las bandas mas representativas del rock neo-sinfónico reaparece con "The Road Of Bones". En estos años de ausencia de nuevo material, la banda sufrió algunos cambios, Peter Nicholls (voz) y Mike Holmes (guitarra) siguen dando pelea y no bajan los brazos, ahora acompañados nuevamente por Paul Cook (bateria), que no había estado para grabar "Frequency" y luego de muchos años regreso Tim Essau (bajo), que abandono la banda luego de haber grabado “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” a fines de los 80's. El único miembro debutante es Neil Durant (teclados) que reemplaza a Mark Westworth.
La apertura del álbum esta a cargo de "From the Outside In" , el clásico sonido IQ se puede palpar de entrada, pasajes pesados dominados por un riff de guitarra, una base sólida y los teclados que sirven de apoyo junto a la inconfundible voz de P. Nicholls. El siguiente paso es toparnos con la canción que da título al disco, de carácter mas introspectivo y melancólico, donde se pueden percibir ciertas semejanzas con el sonido de un Porcupine Tree. Con "Without Walls" hallamos la canción mas larga, casi 20' y nos pasea por el mejor IQ, una banda capaz de componer una suite como esta y dejarte con ganas seguir escuchándola una y otra vez, por este tipo de composiciones ganaron el corazón del tradicional fanático del rock sinfónico. Las últimas piezas de "The Road Of Bones" pasan por la melódica "Ocean" y el final a cargo de "Until The End", que tiene un comienzo calmo, para luego envolvernos en un rock sinfónico potente que solo IQ puede hacer con elegancia, dándole lugar al debutante Durant para que demuestre que esta a la altura del grupo.
Muchas veces se le reprochan a las bandas la ausencia de nuevo material, pero si hay que volver a esperar cinco años para tener otro álbum de IQ como "The Road Of Bones", ¡bienvenida será la espera!
Diego



Y ahora traigo el comentario de nuestro columnista involuntario de siempre, con ustedes, el siempre presente César Inca, vean lo que dice de este disco:

Una y otra vez vuelve a la carga IQ para regalarnos un nuevo referente importante de la (ya veterana) tradición del rock neo-progresivo… ¿y qué mejor noticia para los amantes y coleccionistas de este género?, ¿verdad? Bueno, yendo al grano, en esta ocasión traemos a colación “The Road Of Bones”, el nuevo disco del quinteto británico originado en Plymouth en 1980 desde las cenizas de THE LENS. 34 años después, tomándose su tiempo para hacer cada nuevo disco de estudio, todavía es IQ capaz de provocar gestos de complacido asombro en los rostros de quienes escuchamos con atención lo que aún tiene que ofrecer el grupo. “The Road Of Bones” marca el segundo debut de estudio para el baterista-percusionista Paul Cook (quien dejó a la banda pocos meses después de la edición del master opus “Dark Matter”, pero volvió poco después de que su propio sucesor Andy Edwards participara en “Frequency” para la gira correspondiente) y el bajista Tim Esau (quien hizo lo propio al finalizar la gira de promoción de “Are You Sitting Comfortably?”, al final de los 80s, pero que también volvió para reemplazar a su sucesor John Jowitt), así como el debut absoluto del teclista Neil Durant (en reemplazo de Mark Westworth, y que dicho sea de paso, también es integrante del excelente grupo SPHERE3). El frontman Peter Nicholls y el guitarrista Mike Holmes siguen luchando en el frente… aunque no debemos olvidar que a inicios de los 90s Nicholls volvió al grupo para reemplazar a su sucesor Paul Menel. En fin… una cronología muy llamativa la de este grupo. Y sobre todo, se trata de un grupo que cuida bien sus tiempos para convocar a las musas y preparara cada lote de nuevo material: este disco llega a nosotros 5 años después del precedente “Frequency”. El arsenal sonoro de la banda incorpora pedales Taurus y Roland a cargo de Esau, un piano de cola Steinway a cargo de Durant, además de mandolina y banjo eléctrico que se añaden a las guitarras eléctricas y acústicas de 6 y 12 cuerdas y clásica de Holmes; este último dirige la producción general de “The Road Of Bones”, y de hecho, desde la partida de Martin Orford, Holmes bien asentado este rol prominente de Holmes, quien parece sentirse muy cómodo en su coalición con Nicholls para brindar un enfoque certero a las nuevas proyecciones musicales de IQ.
Veamos el repertorio central de “The Road Of Bones”. Comenzando con un breve prólogo sintetizado muy sutil, ‘From The Outside’ da inicio al disco con un punche monumental e inapelable que dura 7 ¾ minutos. La ilación de riffs guitarreros y la maciza base rítmica de Esau y Cook establecen el esquema donde se ha de explayar el desarrollo temático. Los teclados oscilan entre colchones orquestales y capas cósmicas, y en algún momento ocupan un rol protagónico cuando emerge un interludio etéreo de base space-rockera. La siguiente pieza es justamente la que da título a la placa, y ciertamente su ingeniería sónica sigue por la misma senda que la del tema precedente, pero su talante es diferente, definitivamente más introspectivo y menos fulguroso, y al dar menos espacio a la luz regala éste a la bruma de la incertidumbre y la inquietud emocional a través de una patente electricidad rockera. Esta bruma espiritual angustiada se muestra a través del inconfundible canto de Nicholls – maestro indiscutible del arte de ser un frontman de rock progresivo – que va hilando el relato de sus misteriosas sensaciones e intuiciones sobre una base flotante de teclados que va preparando el camino para el armado de un swing parsimonioso y una ambientación psicodélica estilizada, cuyo momento cumbre genera orquestaciones atractivamente opresivas. Es casi como volver a los tiempos de “The Wake” bajo el diseño sonoro de “Frequency” y la relativamente fuerte influencia del PORCUPINE TREE de los dos últimos discos… además de algunas confluencias con la labor hecha por otros famosos de la hornada progresiva del nuevo milenio como RPWL y FROST. Para los dos últimos minutos, la garra rockera vuelve al frente con el fuego a flor de piel, capitalizando así el impacto de ‘From The Outside’. ‘Without Walls’ es la primera de las dos piezas maratónicas del disco, ocupando un espacio de 19 ½ minutos. En líneas generales, podemos decir que hay un tenor cósmico especialmente pronunciado en la labor de teclados plasmada en ‘The Road Of Bones’ y ‘Without Walls’: es como una mezcla de THE LENS con el IQ de los dos discos anteriores. La fastuosidad es menos sinfónica y más psicodélica... pero ojo, todavía queda la esencia sinfónica firme en el ideario musical de esta banda, y es justamente ‘Without Walls’ quien refleja mejor la fusión entre el IQ actualmente rejuvenecido y el IQ paradigmático de los últimos 14 años. La ilación de los diversos motivos es compacta mientras que el manejo de los contrastes entre ambientes luminosos y otros más grisáceos funciona con una solidez impecable: en algunos de los primeros hallamos las intervenciones más notables del dúo rítmico, lo cual resulta crucial para que se exploten los despliegues de musculatura en los sucesivos solos de sintetizador y guitarra. Por Dios… ¡cómo dominan estos tipos el arte de componer piezas de largo aliento! Los momentos relajados donde domina una languidez un tanto cósmica se llenan oportunamente con el canto de Nicholls, quien adopta una ceremoniosidad reflexiva como ha hecho en varias canciones de discos anteriores en momentos que ameritaban una espiritualidad sosegada.
Después de las ambiciosas expansiones de ‘Without Walls’ llega la canción más corta del álbum: ‘Ocean’. Su misión es la de transportarnos por los parajes más serenos de la ideología musical de la banda, algo que ya le conocemos de otros álbumes: su plan de trabajo es como una versión simplificada de ‘Closer’, la hermosa semi-balada que cerraba “Frequency”, pero con una languidez melódica más pronunciada, como elevando una plegaria en medio de un clima de sobria tristeza. La otra pieza maratónica del disco es ‘Until The End’, durando un total de 12 minutos y encargándose de cerrar el mismo. Los primeros tres minutos están signados por una calma contemplativa en base la dupla de canto y guitarra acústica; acto seguido, se arma un bloque sonoro grupal llamativo donde el colorido del teclado y el de la guitarra se hermanan de una manera elegante, haciendo que la patente vibración rockera del momento adquiera una aureola de fuerza elegantemente controlada, algo muy útil para dejar que las líneas vocales y el desarrollo melódico se luzcan por sí mismos. Poco antes de llegar a la barrera del sexto minuto y medio, el punche aumenta un poco de velocidad sin desatender a la preservación del sentido del equilibrio. La sección final baja la velocidad del ensamble para brindar una típicamente fastuosa ceremoniosidad al asunto, lo cual a su vez sirve para asentar el terreno para la coda acústica, muy intimista. En conjunto, esta pieza concretiza una estupenda síntesis de los momentos extrovertidos y los introvertidos que se han venido desarrollando a lo largo de los cuatro temas precedentes.
Además de la edición de un solo CD, “The Road Of Bones” también goza de una edición especial con un bonus disc, siendo así que éste no contiene un DVD o leftovers que potencialmente sean de interés para los fans más acérrimos, sino seis temas compuestos y arreglados con la vitalidad e ingenio propios de un disco oficial, ocupando un total de 49 minutos y pico. Vamos, que Nicholls, Holmes, Esau, Durant y Cook se encontraban en un particular estado de gracia mientras se inspiraban para crear nuevo material, el mismo que se grabó entre diciembre de 2013 y marzo de 2014 en los Aubitt Studios. El primer tema del disco 2 se titula ‘Knucklehead’ y apunta a un énfasis penitentemente concienzudo en los elementos modernos que conformaron la mayor parte de los momentos climáticos del repertorio del otro volumen: esto se cumple especialmente para la naturaleza cósmica de las bases y ornamentos de los teclados. La acidez emocional de ‘The Road Of Bones’ y la expresividad muscular de ‘From The Outside In’ se retoman aquí con nervio y oficio. Comenzando con un breve sampleo de la ‘Overtura 1812’ del gran maestro Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, ‘1312 Overture’ es un instrumental poderoso armado sobre alternancias rítmicas de 13/8 y 12/8, y a pesar de la complejidad estructural de este recurso, los instrumentistas mantienen un gancho para el desarrollo melódico, el cual en realidad es muy sencillo. Luego sigue ‘Constellations’, tema que dura casi 12 ½ minutos y que se inicia como un medio tiempo en 7/8 marcado por una cándida estructura melódica y una atmósfera dulcemente reflexiva. En los momentos cuando la banda decide subir la dosis de polenta, lo hace en base al swing cuasi-jazzero que arma la dupla Esau-Cook. Poco antes de llegar a la barrera del sexto minuto, el filo rockero de la pieza aumenta mientras se vira hacia un interludio que, a decir verdades, nos frustra un poco por no ser más extenso. Pero bueno, lo que sigue no es nada desdeñable, pues nos adentramos en un nuevo motivo generado desde la esencia más genuina del rock sinfónico: con una abundante artesanía de teclados y la cándida tonalidad del canto de Nicholls nos retrotraemos a los tiempos del “Ever” como quien no quiere la cosa. Una nueva sección rockera emerge para darle a la espiritualidad reflexiva predominante un fulgor revigorizante, siendo así que persiste el dominio del 7/8 como patrón rítmico. ¿Acaso hacía falta otra definición del sinfonismo moderno? Bueno, por si acaso, IQ creó otra canción paradigmática de ello y usó su buen oficio de siempre para ello.
‘Fall And Rise’ puntualiza y capitaliza la faceta pensativa heredada de la pieza anterior para encuadrarla en un esquema melódico sereno. El bajo sin trastes de Esau apoya de manera fundamental al groove general de la pieza, el cual recurre (una vez más) a un juego de compases inusuales que el grupo maneja con una soltura refrescante. ¡Atención al hermoso solo de Moog sobre el cual se centra el final de la canción! La dupla de ‘Ten Million Demons’ y ‘Hardcore’ ocupa los últimos 17 minutos del segundo volumen. El primero de ellos utiliza una armazón tecnificada en su cadencia básica, la cual sostiene un punche rockero estilizado con algunos ademanes lúgubres; el segundo, por su parte, regresa a la dinámica fastuosa y variada de las dos suites del primer volumen (‘Without Walls’ y ‘Until The End’), aunque dando espacios más prolongados a climas lánguidos y atmósferas misteriosas. El extenso cierre instrumental adquiere una fuerza emotiva con los alternados solos de guitarra acústica y eléctrica. De acuerdo a su diseño y dramatismo melódico, funciona muy bien como cierre para cualquiera de los dos volúmenes.
Tenemos, pues, en “The Road Of Bones” un nuevo ejemplo de la maestría y energía vital que IQ porta en su ADN rockero, un muy digno sucesor de “Frequency” desde el cual la banda impulsa su sensibilidad sinfónica madurada desde los tiempos del doble concept-album “Subterranea” y que se benefició de un impulso especial con la dupla de “The Seventh House” y “Dark Matter”. IQ se desafía razonablemente a sí mismo con este nuevo disco adoptando nuevos matices y una robustez reavivada dentro de una identidad propia que le permite mantenerse como figura líder del prog sinfónico posterior a los 70s. Si su actuación en la edición 2011 del Night Of The Prog Festival fue una reivindicación de la alineación que devolvió a Paul Cook y Tim Esau a las filas de IQ, “The Road Of Bones” es el sello de validación de su aún saludable creatividad. ¡Disco recomendado!, ¡muy pero que muy recomendado!
Nota: 9/10
César Inca


Bueno, ¿con esos comentarios no les alcanzó? ¿Aún están en dudas de llevarse este disco?. Les comento, como información adicional, que en esta etapa este grupo británico emprendió el camino de la autosustentación fuera del circuito comercial de las grandes discográficas, así que estamos hablando de trabajos independientes. Un poroto más que se agregan ya no tanto en el campo musical, aunque el hecho de tener total libertad para componer lo que se les cante deriva directamente en la calidad del disco.

Desde que los británicos IQ entraron al nuevo milenio, con el bien recibido “The Seventh House”, sus trabajos han forjado un lenguaje propio dentro del contexto del neo-progresivo actual. Mientras que Marillion, por ejemplo, ha decantado en un sonido moderno influenciado por agrupaciones como Radiohead y Muse, IQ ha recrudecido su elegante propuesta y ha priorizado secuencias y teclados más arriesgados que los típicos del estilo, lo que a la postre los ha llevado a dar pasos gigantescos en dos aristas fundamentales: la evolución musical del grupo como una meta propia y, de manera inconsciente quizás, la de una corriente que ha quedado algo estancada con el paso de los años.
Estos cambios, no obstante, han significado mucho para IQ en la última década. Tras el excelente “Dark Matter”, de 2004, parecía que la banda seguiría un curso tranquilo. Cinco años después, con “Frequency”, hubo un cambio radical, debido al alejamiento de Martin Orford de los teclados junto con el baterista Paul Cook. Ante esta adversidad, en especial por el aporte de Orford, parecía que IQ marchaba hacia el desfiladero, pero todo se tradujo en un álbum que, siguiendo con el sonido más oscuro presentado en “Dark Matter”, logró darle un cariz distinto, más directo y compacto que el presentado en el registro de 2004.
Nuevamente, el conjunto británico se halla bajo cambios fundamentales para su nueva entrega, “The Road of Bones”. Al regreso de la sección rítmica original de la banda, con Paul Cook y el bajista Tim Esau, se sumó la incorporación del tecladista de Sphere, Neil Durant. Esto ocurre en el marco de las celebraciones por los treinta años del grupo. De esta forma, la alineación más clásica de IQ enfrenta el desafío de lograr un registro que esté a la altura de sus predecesores.
Lo cierto es que “The Road of Bones” sí lo hace. Es más, se podría decir que incluso forma la parte final de una suerte de trilogía iniciada hace una década con “Dark Matter”, en la que el grupo optó por un giro sutil pero necesario en su propio sonido. Y el hecho de que para esta ocasión esté la alineación más clásica de la banda, el lenguaje que se entrega no tiene nada que ver con los primeros registros que hicieran, hace más de tres décadas. Por el contrario, ya de entrada con ‘From the Outside In’, esta nueva-vieja encarnación de IQ aborda incluso de forma más cruda que en trabajos anteriores su propio sonido.
Para los más clásicos, la extensa ‘Without Walls’ muestra a la banda en pleno, utilizando todos sus recursos estilísticos como los grandes teclados, un desarrollo del tema en varias partes y la guitarra de Mike Holmes que va liderando por encima lo que Neil Durant va aportando a la canción. Sin duda, es uno de los mejores momentos del registro, al igual que en ‘Ocean’, donde si bien IQ sigue con este sonido más clásico, los teclados de Durant dan otro cariz, mucho más moderno y actual.
Esto se mantiene en ‘Until the End’, tema que en la introducción deja en claro el lenguaje madurado por IQ a lo largo de una década. La utilización de varias capas de teclados, percusiones y guitarras, sobre todo en la primera parte del tema, hacen que éste tenga varios matices, que se van desarrollando a medida que transcurre el mismo.
La edición especial de este trabajo cuenta con otro disco en el que también se van mostrando estos procesos, este acomodo entre el lenguaje más actual y el clásico de la banda, sin que éste se disocie de lo que acontece en el primer elepé, como suele pasar en ocasiones con este tipo de presentaciones. De hecho, el final en clave de balada que posee ‘Until the End’ tiene como respuesta el moderno inicio, casi salido de alguna sección de Porcupine Tree –por citar un ejemplo más claro– de ‘Knucklehead’. Un acierto por donde se observe es esta contraposición de lenguajes, porque va entregando matices y detalles que permiten notar la evolución constante que ha tenido la banda en esta década.
Asimismo, hay que destacar las aproximaciones más directas que presenta IQ y que se ven reflejadas en la potente ‘1312 Overture’. Este corte instrumental sirve de introducción a ‘Constellations’, otro tema de largo aliento y en el que nuevamente muestran su habilidad al mezclar estos sonidos modernos, con loops y secuencias, con su impronta más clásica. Es de esta forma en que se van desarrollando las composiciones de “The Road of Bones”, incluso con temas que se alejan un poco de esta dinámica como la interesante ‘Fall and Rise’.
Lo más llamativo de este trabajo, es el dialogo que IQ propone entre pasado y presente y cómo este proceso, logra decantar en un lenguaje propio. Un disco más que rescatable, de un grupo de más de treinta años de trayectoria, que es capaz de seguir buscando su propia voz. Lo bueno es que, con este registro, la han confirmado de una forma llena de belleza y calidad.
Orlando Matamoros B.



Bueno, ahora vamos a algunos comentarios en inglés, más que nada para todos nuestros visitantes de no-habla-hispana que cada vez son más...

Although its street date is May 5th, pre-orders of the sumptuous collector's edition of IQ's latest album have begun shipping already in order to get the sets to purchasers in time for the album launch show (tickets to which are included in the collector's edition), so I have been lucky enough to hear this latest release already.
The Road of Bones is the second album in a row from IQ to feature a lineup reconfiguration, following the incredible streak from Ever to Dark Matter where the band lineup had remained extremely solid and stable. In fact, the lineup shake from Frequency to this is the largest between any two consecutive IQ albums, with three of the five band members not appearing on Frequency. Paul Cook and Tim Esau are, of course, old hands in IQ, being the group's original rhythm section (indeed, Frequency was the only IQ album not to feature Cookie on drums), whilst Sphere3 keyboardist Neil Durant makes his first appearance on an IQ album here.
The obvious question, then, is how this shakeup affects the band's sound. Frequency was a refreshing update to the IQ sound; would the return of Paul Cook and Tim Esau reverse that musical progression, or would Neil Durant's inclusion allow the group to continue it? As it transpires, Durant is the surprise star player here, proving equally adept at a bang-up-to-date keyboard style and performances living up to the heritage of IQ's earlier material. (Constellations, one of several tracks on the bonus disc in the special edition of the album, showcases this distinction particularly nicely.)
Tonally, the album finds IQ in a melancholic and reflective mood - one which often serves them well, as it did on albums such as The Wake or Ever - whilst the special edition of the album provides a bonus disc with a brace of songs which to my ears are just as strong as the compositions that made the cut, but which didn't fit the particular vibe they are going for here, and as a result the special edition presents a more diverse sound. Whether you plump for the 1CD or 2CD editions, right here you have IQ incredibly managing to continue their streak of top- quality albums which began with the classic Ever and still shows no signs of slowing down. 5/5!
W. Arthur

The band has developed their sound over the years with a modern symphonic sound that alternate some delicate often melancholic piano and keyboards lines with heavier and faster guitar parts. They know how to build their songs with a dark atmosphere set by the piano, vocals and keyboards that let slowly the spot to the dynamics guitars of Mike Holmes. A nice touch has been added here with the sound of xylophone and techno sounds that can be hear throughout this CD, probably the influence of Mike Holmes vision, who has produced and play in the excellent Regeneration CD with the Lens that contains a lot of techno sound.
Sometimes we recognize some IQ previous passages from their older material, but not to the point to be a copy of it. I am glad to see that the band still got more ideas to create some nice music. Since the departure of Martin Orford, the keyboards sound has changed a bit, more diverse, so that is reflecting on the music. There is more ambient sounds that prepare us to the more energic part of the song were the tempo is getting faster in the typical IQ fashion. After many years, it's always nice to hear the great production in their music. The band has put all the ingredients together to make the perfect progressive rock CD; inspiring songwriting, diverse arrangements that harmonize the acoustic with the electric and a great sense of the melody like not many bands can do. We can say that IQ is the modern version of the old Genesis, because of the voice of Peter Nicholls, some Hackett guitar influence and also some Banks reference that we can find at some places on this release, but they have surpassed this influence long time ago. The bonus CD is also of high of quality with again more spacey and techno sounds, something that was emerging in the first CD, sometimes reminiscent of Vangelis and Depeche Mode. It's a little breather from the first CD, especially for Mike Holmes who takes a break here to comeback in the last song. The pace is slower and more relax on this one, but it complete perfectly this great release.
I have always found difficult to pick a favorite one in IQ discography, but I think that this one could become my favorite. I can't give anything less than 5/5 stars. I am sure that many will share my enthusiasm with this new release.
Louis

IQ, that venerable outfit of 1980's vintage, release this, their 11th studio offering, and, I will say straight away, are sounding as strong, if not stronger, than ever.
This review is of the double cd I pre-ordered, and which is available now from all the usual quality outlets, and I would wholly recommend that potential purchasers get the whole thing. To be very fair to IQ, they have made the entire work available on release at a reasonable price, with no follow up rip-off's to us poor old punters, and support is deserved for that alone.
The first cd, The Road Of Bones itself, is a concept piece that is not just dark, but actually very bleak and positively gothic in places, telling the story of a rather nasty serial killer in the first person. You would think, then, that the music itself would match such a story; you know, an album which would make Pink Floyd's The Wall a veritable ray of sunshine to come down to after listening.
But, no, not a bit of it. This sumptuously produced (and Mike Holmes has really exceeded himself in this department), and gorgeously performed work just about takes us through the entire range of emotions, with passages which are achingly beautiful, and a rock experience which takes us from the hard and crashing opening, thundering, riffs of opener From The Outside In, to the quite gorgeous acoustic interplay on guitar, piano, and vocals at the denouement of closer, Until The End (which itself follows a really beautiful wall of sound in the finest symphonic tradition).
More experienced IQ followers such as myself will, on the first couple of listens, have been surprised at the relative absence of genuine Holmes guitar bursts of days of yore. Indeed, it is, in my opinion, fair to say that this is the most keyboard dominated IQ album in many a year, perhaps ever, and massive credit must go to Neil Durant, who creates such a huge wall of sound and virtuoso performance that really do go up against the best Orford produced for the band, he is that good. However, saying this, this album is a genuine ensemble piece. The joy of hearing our favourite rhythm section of Cook and Esau, who shine especially on the beautiful title track, whilst Holmes, if not understated, is most certainly not at the forefront of all the action as he was during much of Frequency, although his bursts towards the close of epic Without Walls are pure trademark Holmes brilliance, and remind one of the similar beauty of Dark Matter. And, thence, to Peter Nicholls. I have always loved this man's voice, a set of chords capable of belting out a massive piece one minute, with a tear inducing piece of fragility the very next, and so it is on this album. His voice, if anything, is growing and becoming a damned sight better the older he gets, and his is without doubt the only one I can think of capable of telling this theatrical piece properly.
There are five tracks on the first cd, and all of them, without exception, are essential IQ, that is, for those who know my opinion in such matters, right up there with the best progressive rock. Without Walls, just a shade short of twenty minutes long, never once fails to grip your attention and pull your heart strings. It contains all the vital elements that make this band so important, from those well versed symphonic soundscapes, to very dark introspective instrumental passages, massive riffs, some lovely acoustic work, some very clever sound effects, and quieter moments which, rather frighteningly, allow us in the subject's innermost feelings. The manner in which the vocals and music change mood and interpret a story are fantastic.
And so to cd two. There are those who tell you that it is as good as cd one. They are extremely close to the knuckle, because, in Prog Archives parlance, cd one is a masterpiece, whilst the second helping is merely excellent. Which is to say, again, that it is at the top of the prog tree. Highlights for me are the exceptional Constellations, on which this lineup sound as if they have played together all of their career, with Durant, especially, sounding wonderful, helping to create a pomp prog spectacular; the clever instrumental 1312 Overture (so named because of its time signature); and the really rather exceptional opener, Knucklehead, which is perhaps one of the most experimental, and heavy, pieces they have released, although, in all honesty, there is nary a bum note or poor moment present throughout the cd. These are not "throwaway" bonus tracks, but a set of pieces which, whilst they did not fit into the main concept, deserved a release of their own. I for one, am very grateful they were. Six tracks, and 50 minutes of quality progressive rock.
So, how to rate this? I think that IQ are a band who are still improving, which, given the fact that they have released some of the most important and vital neo-prog over the course of 31 years, is a testament to the quality present here. This is the sound of a band still striving to develop, mature, yet staying true to their glorious roots. It is simply a magnificent experience to listen to, and is genuinely the first utterly essential purchase of 2014 for me. Probably 4.5 stars, if we had such a rating, but rounded up to five because it is warranted.
I tell you this. Pendragon, those other venerable survivors of yesteryear, will have to go some to match this when they release their own much anticipated new work later this year.
Steve Lazland

I was looking for some new prog to blow me away, and I did not expect it to come from IQ! I love the band, and they have been quite consistent over years and years, but there was no indication from the casual prog fan that they would be about to release an excellent new album that stays true to what the band does best--especially surprising because Frequency included some departures, indicating further experimentation--and has tightened up nearly every nitpick I might be able to come up with about the group. The fact that IQ has come up with this album, at this point in the band's career, has really elevated my respect for the group. I can't think of any bands off the top of my head who have accomplished this.
Here's just a few of the reasons why I find this to be a fantastic album:
1. Quantity and quality combo. To fill two discs worth of quality music, with really no low or skippable moments, is something that few bands have achieved, at least in my opinion.
2. Interesting subject material. I don't know much about the album theme, but that's the whole point: it's gotten me to do homework outside of my listening experience and educate myself on an important historical topic. Few albums in my experience have done that!
3. True team effort. Each member really shines, which is another compliment that I rarely give. Cook does some excellent fills and dynamics, and I appreciate that he's not just "balls- out" all the time. Holmes continues his Hackett-esque performance as well. He's not as continually present on this album, but he's there when you need it. For example, the Holmes rip at the end of Without Walls is classic: you're waiting the whole song for it, and when it comes, it's not technically amazing, but it's perfect for the moment, gets burned in your brain, and leaves you completely satisfied. Nicholls deserves special recognition as well. It's simply amazing how much better his voice gets over time, and it's a great model of successful aging. Esau brings wonderful variety on bass, which in my mind could come and go in previous IQ efforts. Finally, Durant is probably the standout among standouts. He provides the buzzy, bassy synths, tons of atmospherics, and, most impressively a perfect balance between wiggly synth lines and tasteful melodies.
4. Presentation/lead up. Great cover, and, in hindsight, great choice for the title track. The title track is not an album highlight, in my opinion, but it offered the perfect tease of the alternating ambiance and intensity of the album. It got my attention in a big way, but it also left me wanting more. Imagine how satisfied I am now that I indeed got more, and in hindsight, much more than I had hoped for!
5. Classic IQ song structure. These songs have a nice build of tension and pensive chugging (at least the extended pieces), but then things tend to pick up in fascinating ways, and then they deliver the big, warm reprise of which that IQ has made a clear niche.
6. Production. This album just sounds incredible, and it's a tribute to the talent and attention to detail that went into its creation.
Highlights: From the Outside In, Without Walls, Until the End, Constellations. We have the grinding IQ rocker (Arena, Immortal? era), the epic journey (complete with a wonderful nod the The Gates of Delirium toward the finale), and two extended pieces that remind me of the best of classic Collins-as-frontman Genesis. My only quibble is that I think the 1312 Overture (Rush YYZ influence!) would have made a perfect opener for the album, but that is a quibble in the smallest sense.
Why not a five-star? For me, satisfying is not equivalent to mind-blowing, and this album is not mind-blowing. It's excellent, and that's why I like it so much. The highs are excellent, but they are not incredible, and thus, no masterpiece. Either way, it's my favorite IQ album, and I never saw it coming. These surprises are why it's worth it to keep coming back to prog, even when it seems like it has nothing left to give.
Chris Flucktrot

Prog does not necessary mean 'complex' ...
...and IQ has proved it nicely in this wonderfully crafted album that die hard fans like myself feel that it's worth waiting for an almost five years since its previous "Frequency" album released in 2009. It's been quite a while I have been thinking about writing the review of this long awaited album by the most consistent band on planet Earth in terms of music direction and sub-genre. They dare to stand tall with their direction in what so called neo progressive. I really admire IQ on this. One of major consideration for not taking part in writing my view on this album has been a juggle of complexity and simplicity. The matter is like this: almost at the same time of The Road of Bones by IQ , there is another excellent album by a supergroup Transatlantic who also released "Kaleidoscope" album. The fundamental question is only one: if I consider Kaleidoscope as an excellent album with a four star rating why should I give IQ with a five-star rating? Transatlantic music is more complex and challenging compared to IQ who plays simple prog music. I finally thought that the fundamental difference is on how each album maneuvers deeply into my emotion and it's totally a very personal taste and preference. Music to me is emotion and I have to admit that most of IQ music is very able to stir my emotion regardless its lyrics. the way the music is composed and then combined beautifully with melody line through vocal work as well as how solo works are intertwined sound really fantastic to my ears. That's why I put a full five star rating for this new album by IQ.
As I put emotionally at my FB status:
Np. IQ "the Road of Bones" ...a fabulous album. The opening track sounds like IQ plays metal as the music is in the vein of The Wake with high energy, powerful riffs resulted from tight basslines by the old timer Tim Esau (happy that he returned back to the band he supposed to be). It;s really a killer and it's strategically positioned as an album opener - what a brilliant idea! However, the second track is also another killer even though it starts in an ambient mode and moves slowly until ...again Tim Esau plays wonderfully with his bass guitar (is it a Rickenbaker? probably!). Not only that ... I love the way how the new keyboard player, Neil Durrant, inserts his mellotron-like sound at the background during the peak segments ....oh my God ...!
What a fabulous musical journey I have experienced listening to only the first two damn killing tracks!!! I can not even afford to move to next tracks as my fingers keep pressing backward two times to get back to the opening track again .....!!! Oh no .....!!! This is truly a totally ngguweblak experience man!!! I bet you ....! Marillion Hogarth era must have learned a lot from being consistent ( or they are not capable anymore?) in neo prog music like IQ has demonstrated for years ... Yeah ...more than 30 years of prog nonsense!
That long phrases resonate how this album really hooked me ('nggeblak' is my local expression on how the music has made me temporarily 'paralyzed' !) at first spin by only listening to the first two tracks only!
IQ album has always been like that to me. At first spin I only could enjoy couple of tracks. It's not that I am too lazy to find the full journey and got the deep meaning of the music but ... I have already been "satisfied" by couple of tracks only - not the entire album. But as time went by I started to enjoy other tracks. Take example the Frequency album which at first I could only play regularly the title track, second track "Life Support" and a bit of some from other tracks. And guess what ....at later stage, maybe a year later... I Was totally in love with the "Ryker Skies" track that really make me 'ngguweblak!' to the bone. Yeah ... Ryker Skies is really a kiling track! I like the melody as well as the chorus line. It's really wonderful.
My experience with The Road of Bones album is similar with Frequency as I fell in love at first listen to the first two tracks. Iplayed these two tracks over and over again until I was totally satisfied then I moved to next. The thing was, I mentioned in phrases of FB status, I could not afford to move further as the second track "The Road of Bones" finished I automatically wanted to go back to listen to the first track "From The Outside In". Then the journey continued with the album title track which is basically a simple composition but it's really heavy in nuances. I really love the first two tracks that made me play the two until I got it 'enough' to move to the next one.
Only recently I pay attention to the third track "Without Walls" which indeed I like it very much too. It sounded to me at first reaction that this song somehow reminds me to 'Harvest of Souls' from the Dark Matter album. It starts ambient with a simple piano sounds followed with a drum loop that made me surprised as this is , I think, the first time IQ use the sound of drum loop. It was quite weird at first listen but as it grew on me , I then finally found that the loop has become a nice integral part of the whole song. The first three minutes plus duration this song moves in ambient mode accompanying a dark vocal line by Nicholls. But then the music moves in crescendo with a follow-up riff played in slow tempo. What a wonderful move! ...
...and the war starts at minute 6
...as indicated by the very wonderful keyboard shot by Neil Durant that sounds really cool while accompanying Nicholls' vocal line. But that happens temporary as the music then is slowing down with long sustain keyboard sound at the back plus acoustic guitar rhythm section work by Mike Holmes. It's quite nice and reminds me to the nuance of Pink Floyd's Dogs from Animals album. The war continues again at min 10:22 as the music is heating up into faster tempo. And the peak of nice war happens at minute 12:20 when keyboard really take the lead in a wonderfully crafted solo backed with relatively fast tempo music. Oh man .... it's really coooooool!!!!
The next track "Ocean" is probably the most pop song compared to other tracks but it's really good as a refreshment just before another excellent track Until the End that concludes the album excellently.
Even though my CD package is the limited edition version with two CDs, I only make the review for the CD One as this is the main album. CD Two is nice also even though it's basically left overs. For IQ I always purchase the limited edition package as it has great bonus like the one in Frequency that contains live DVD of IQ - great performance, really! This time I did not preorder because my good friend who is a die hard fan of IQ purchased it for me PLUS the t-shirt (WHOOOAAAA!!!!!! Great one!!!) at IQ performance at Islington Assembly Hall, London, 3 May 2014.
Overall, this is truly a fabulous album by IQ who has consistently produced excellent music from their more than 30 years of prog nonsense! I really love this album and it's still ini my regular playlist that I regularly play while I am working ora cycling or sipping a cup of coffee. The composition is really topnotch with fantastic melody line, great harmonies among instruments being played (even though this time Mr Holmes does not play that much long stunning guitar solo), beautiful transition pieces on changes of tempo, and most importantly ...this album is so cohesive so that the structural integrity has been successfully maintained from start to end. BINGO! It;s a perfect album that deserves a FULL five-star rating. Keep on proggin' ...!
Gatot Widayanto

When this album arrived I didn't put it on the player straight away, but instead looked at the artwork and booklet, and kept thinking about Schr'dinger's cat. I so very much wanted this to be a great album, and until I put it on the player (and I still haven't read single review about this album as I needed to ensure that I wasn't being swayed one way or another) this was both a great album, and a poor one, both at the same time. I first saw IQ in concert some time in the Eighties when they supported Magnum at the Hammersmith Odeon and have seen them quite a few times since, the last being on the 'Dark Matter' tour. During that time I built up a strong relationship with Martin Orford, and saw him play solo a few times as well as with Gary Chandler and of course with Jadis as well, but after I moved to NZ he told me that he had left the band of which he was a co-founder. That shook me, and by the time IQ released 'Frequency' some five years after 'DM', Paul Cook had gone as well. I wasn't a fan of that album (and I totally understand that this could be due to emotions as opposed to quality of music), so what about this one? Great or poor?
Five years on from 'Frequency' and yet again there have been changes in line-up. Paul Cook has returned, but perhaps the biggest surprise is that JJ is no longer on bass, but instead has been replaced by the man he himself replaced in the first place! Tim Esau is back, with his first album with IQ since 1989's 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?' I have always been a real fan of his playing and methods of attack, as he can easily move from fretless bass to many different styles: just check out 'Screaming' from 'Nomzamo' to see what I mean. Then on keyboards we have none other than Neil Durant. Neil may well be an unknown to many of you, but we have been friends for well over twenty years as he sent me the very first Sphere demo back in 1992 (and Neil knows I still have it, potential blackmail is a wonderful thing). A second demo followed in 1994, and they belatedly followed it up with a CD release on Cyclops in 2002, and it always amazed me that Sphere didn't become far more well known as they were/are all great musicians. I even managed to see them gig once in the Nineties, but here at long last Neil is able to put his talents to use on a larger stage.
So, of the five members, four of them played on the first two totally classic IQ albums, so what would the band sound like in 2014, with one brand new member and two who had left (for very different timeframes) only to return? Absolutely brilliant is the way I would describe it.
When opener 'From The Outside In' really gets going it reminded me of the very first time I heard 'Ever', when the band was again returning after a period of unrest: that time with a returning singer and a new bassist, four years after their previous release. Neil has always been a very fine keyboard player indeed, and here he has tempered the jazz influences he normally displays to fit in, and has also incorporated a lot of keyboard sounds that fans of the band will recognise from days gone past. He isn't Widge, and doesn't want to be, but he has made the seat his own by bringing in enough of the old to combine with the new that it doesn't alienate the fans of the old band yet starts to move in a slightly different direction. This is a dark album in many ways, and this comes through in the artwork as well as the album itself. In many ways this feels like a logical follow-on from 'Dark Matter' or 'Subterranea' as opposed to 'Frequency', and that has to be a good thing in my book.
This is an album that I have fallen in love with as everything is right from the musicianship to the songs, from the production to the artwork. This is solid IQ, with everyone firmly gelling and producing more of the incredible music we have learned to expect from them, from rockers through to ballads, simplicity and complexity combining in a way that many have attempted to copy, but few have ever managed to achieve the heights. I have the double disc set, 11 songs at just over 100 minutes long, and it absolutely flies by as one classic leads into another. It would be wonderful to be able to see these guys play live, but I guess that isn't going to happen for me as I live so far away, so I'll just have to keep playing this. Again. And Again.
And as for that cat I mentioned at the beginning. He is purring and stretching, ready to jump out of the box and take on the world. IQ are back where they belong, at the very top.
Kev Rowland

I must have played this album 30 times or more, so I now feel able to review it.
First spins of the main disc were not particularly encouraging. Apart from the title track, which is amazing on first listen, the rest seemed dark and a bit uninspired, I moved on to disc 2 (where the cast offs/second rate tracks usually reside) and actually liked that much more.
However, IQ's material needs time to sink in. This is their first album entirely without Martin Orford (he wrote a lot of the material on Frequency before he retired) and, whilst the influences are similar, the execution is rather less bombastic.
Of course, there have also been personnel changes. Paul Cook is less flashy than Andy Edwards but he fits the band perfectly. Neil Durant shows astonishing skill on keyboards, at times sounding very like the great Mr Orford but not imitating him. He is all over the album in the way Mr Orford was on Dark Matter, but less obtrusively; less "in yer face". But the real revelation is Tim Esau; the intervening years since he last played with the band have seen him develop into a superlative player who is equally at ease on fretted and fretless basses and conjures up some wonderful bass lines.
Peter Nicholls has written some very deep dark lyrics and sings better than ever, but Mike Holmes is rather restrained, contributing far fewer of his trademark solos and much more heavy riffing.
As for the main disc, the title track and Oceans, a beautiful gentle track which is the one light moment on the album, driven by Esau's bass and Durant's keys, stand out. The other tracks grow on you greatly with time and Until the End really excels, with some nice acoustic guitar and hints of some Scottish tune I just can't place. The epic, Without Walls, has some marvellous passages but just doesn't quite gel; it seems like lots of bits of songs joined together. For this reason, the main disc would get a high 4*.
However, the 2CD edition has Constellation and Ten Million Demons, a stunning chunk of 80s style electropop (with a bit of Chicory Tip in the outro), both of which are worthy of inclusion on the main disc. Knucklehead, Hardcore and the 1312 Overture are also exceptional. This lifts the whole package well into 5* territory.
My only real disappointment is the paucity of the great guitar solos for which Mike Holmes is famous, but this shows that IQ are still capable of delivering music that few bands past or present can match.
An utterly essential album which contains easily enough great material to qualify as a masterpiece.
Tony

Since first buying "Frequency" two years ago, I have kept IQ at the forefront of my listening choices. Whether mixing a playlist for my iPhone or burning a playlist to CD, or choosing albums to listen to during the week, IQ have more often than not made the selection cut. I have "Ever", "Subterranea", and "Dark Matter" as well, and "Seventh House" and "The Wake" are also on standby for a intended future purchases. I enjoy the mixture of heavy guitar, moody and dark or solemn music, the keyboards, and Peter Nichols' voice from the 90's onward. So when "Road of Bones" came out it was just a question of how soon I would order it. And I ordered the double disc version because I was sure it would be worth the extra money.
As others have written, disc one is the new album that tells a serial killer's story and disc two is extra material that didn't follow the story of disc one but the band still felt worthy of releasing. I read a detailed review of both discs on a music blog and I had some ideas of what to expect. That reviewer said disc one was very good but some songs carried on a bit long and disc two was better but neither were as good as "Frequency". As "Frequency" remains my favourite IQ album, I approached "Road of Bones" with a little caution.
First, I was impressed by how well the band sounded like IQ. They develop their sound over each album little by little but a few years pass between each release. Yes, some bands sound the same as they did 20 years ago these days but IQ have a slow evolution thing going on. Surely, much of the perceived change is due to the shuffling in the line up with only Nichols and guitarist Mike Holmes remaining from "Frequency", and yet the band is still IQ. In a way, this album is a very natural progression from "Frequency" without any drastic new change.
One of the main changes I noticed is in the keyboard sound. That classic neo-prog synthesizer sound is still there but with some new sounds like vibraphone and a bit of electronica hinted at without taking the plunge like Galahad have done. These sounds have been added to the overall IQ sound without altering the sound of the band.
The guitar in general strikes me as having been simplified. It serves more as a rhythm and mood instrument and less as a lead. I liked that Holmes actually didn't come in with his customary heavy chords in the title track until well into the song. It meant that by track two we were already hearing something different from the usual IQ dark sound. The album's epic track "Without Walls" is a little easier to digest than "Harvest of Souls" from "Dark Matter", in my opinion.
The second disc begins with "Knucklehead" which sounds in every way like part of the "Road of Bones" story. It has the whispered voices from disc one and some of the lyrics sound very much like they belong to the story. "1312 Overture" is a little uneventful for me. I kept expecting some exciting keyboard adventure to begin but this sounds more like a backing track. The other songs on disc two are all enjoyable as is pretty much the whole double disc album. I feel as the other reviewer felt that "Frequency" is more exciting though that may be because the drumming had more flare and intensity at times. There were also songs like "Closer" which are very pretty, and "Road of Bones" doesn't get pretty for as long on either of the discs, though it still has its fair share of beautiful music in between the dark, heavy stuff.
Honestly, though, I have no real criticisms about either disc. This is a very good IQ album and nothing to be disappointed with as far as I can see. It's not a total killer but it's definitely an album worth having. Both discs.
Peter Skov

IQ can do no wrong, in fact when it comes to Neo-Prog they are at the top of the heap in my opinion with Fish-era MARILLION not far behind. That may be clear to me but there's a couple of things about this recording that aren't so obvious. First of all it isn't a concept album as many have thought, in fact the lyrics of the different songs on the first disc make that a no-brainer. The second issue is why put out a bonus disc of material when they could have just made it a double album? Well, the first proper disc does have the same sort of mood and vibe throughout which I do prefer to the mixture of styles like on the bonus disc, but most fans are saying they like the bonus material better than the proper album. This reminds me of when MARILLION released "Marbles" with a bonus disc of material which included "Ocean Cloud" which many feel is one of the best MARILLION songs ever. Since then I believe(perhaps wrongly) that "Marbles" is really considered a double album now by the band and fans alike. So will this eventually happen with "The Road Of Bones" ?
"From The Outside In" opens with some incredible atmosphere and a sample of someone speaking from a movie before this urgent rhythm kicks in with vocals. Love the mellotron swells that come and go. How about the Banks- like organ 6 minutes in. The bass, drums and waves of mellotron are great, in fact these are the highlights of the whole album for me. "The Road Of Bones" is a song about a serial killer spoken in the first person. Again like the first track we start with atmosphere but this time sparse piano joins in followed by almost spoken vocals. It's all laid back here until things pick up 2 1/2 minutes in as the drums and bass kick in. The vocals become more urgent. Check out the vibes or xylophone that comes and goes on this one, they remind me of the eighties for some reason. I like them. It turns quite powerful 6 minutes in. Great section!
"Without Walls" is the epic at over 19 minutes. A pleasant piano melody to start. Very chilled music right here as reserved vocals join in. A change 3 minutes in then it kicks into gear. Nice guitar work here and I like the organ that pulsates. Great section 6 minutes in as Peter sings with passion. A dark and haunting instrumental piece follows 7 1/2 minutes in. Very cool. It kicks back in before 10 1/2 minutes. Catchy stuff. It climaxes 13 1/2 minutes in, then settles back with synths before 15 minutes. Vocals are back. Mellotron and synths join in as it slowly winds down. "Ocean" is mellow with relaxed vocals but things get fuller on the chorus. Themes are repeated as it seems to build. I do love that chorus. "Until The End" takes about 3 minutes before we get a fuller sound. Nasty organ after 5 1/2 minutes. An epic section is followed by a relaxed piece of piano and acoustic guitar. Reserved vocals join in to end it.
I'll touch briefly on the bonus disc. "Knucklehead" is the heaviest tune on here and the mellotron is fantastic! "1312 Overture" begins and ends with orchestral music but for me it's the music in between that satisfies the most. Lots of intensity and mellotron. "Constellations" might be the best track overall. Check out the drumming and mellotron early on. It makes me feel alive. It ends like it began. Just wow! "Fall And Rise" has some interesting sounds like banjo(I think) and other intricate sounds. A beautiful tune. "Ten Million Demons" is one I loved from the start. Heavy with mellotron and quite catchy. This has such a good mid-tempo groove to it. "Hardcore" is my least favourite tune on here but it's still a really good one.
So I would rate this above their previous album "Frequency" but below "Dark Matter". This really is a grower for me and if it continues i'd give it 4.5 stars but for now a very solid 4 stars. Highlights are the bass, drums and mellotron.
John Davie

The Return of the Choir Mellotron
For all its worth, any IQ album is subject to a vast array of opinions, going from "masterpiece" to "I don't get it!", an entirely understandable state of affairs when considering the pioneering legacy this band continues to enjoy. Yup, we all know the story, they were part of the heroic resistance to the impending disappearance of prog in 1977, when 'vanilla' punk ruled the hypocritical waves. Along with Marillion, Pallas, Twelfth Night and Pendragon, IQ forged ahead in the vast darkness. Each subsequent album has made an impact on the expectations from these wily veterans and releases such as Ever, The Seventh House, Dark Matter and Frequency have injected pride and passion into the flourishing scene, giving the lesser known bands a new source of inspiration and drive. Music for music's sake. The departure of the visually delightful master bassist John Jowitt, original keyboard virtuoso Martin Orford and drummer Andy Edwards did not really affect the sound all that much as new faces and old hats are now in the fold (Tim Esau and Paul Cook are back from their sabbatical). It seems that, like it or not, guitarist Mike Holmes remains the man responsible for the overall IQ sound and Peter Nicholls just stamps the lyrics with his theatrical voice. They also seem to take their time in getting new material done in a fashion that will keep old fans happy while seducing a new audience. Neo-pro, for all its opinionated shortcomings, has never produced more gems than in the last 10 years, a sub-genre that has been killing it with superlative new groups (Silhouette, Galahad, Anubis, Sylvan, Comedy of Errors, Magenta, Final Conflict, Shamall, Vienna Circle and a slew of others). Every day seems to announce a new arrival from France, Italy, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Norway and beyond. So, in all fairness to others, IQ are the shining light that keeps the prog road illuminated, intelligent music woven by supreme talents who have a peculiar vision of their sound, yet constantly look to reinvent themselves. That alone warrants the loftiest praise.
Like most avid fans, I have opted for the 2 CD version (the more music, the merrier) and everything expected is reached in spades, with a package that will have fans and critics all caught up in their own personal interpretations, slicing, dicing and otherwise finding whatever they are looking for in a prog album. Yes, the mood reflects the somber cover artwork, a mist of swirling greys with an understood melancholic gloom that may appear out of nowhere, unexpected. Neil Durant is the main architect of creative keyboard work that sees little interest in technical prowess, completely subservient to the crew and their arrangement.
CD 1 - "From the Outside In" intros with a Bela Lugosi accented "Children of the Night" and subsequent steamroller assault on the senses, crisp, heavy and actually closer to recent Galahad. From the opening chords, the mighty Mellotron has opted for the much vaunted choir option, (a personal longtime favorite) and it has not shirked its omnipotent desire to dominate the aural landscape. Paul Cook's marshaling beats show off quasi Led Zeppelin- like propulsion, nasty and lethal explosions of tectonic shock, Esau pulling menacingly on his basso profundo. There is little doubt that this piece has extraordinary 'live in concert' credentials, not just for its manifest bombast but also for its explicit winks at "the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" cinematographic soundtrack. There is a gleaming metallic sheen here as well as elsewhere on the 2CD collection that should be obvious to any cursory listener.
If there ever was a perfect IQ song (and there are many in the back catalog), the glorious title track would certainly fit the billing. It has a modern sheen, in that the keyboards have a most definite electro-glitter with a weighty beat and a grandiloquent presence, driving a metallic spike into the Neo-prog formula, a particular attention to forging stunning melodies adorned with twinkling orchestrations. The main theme is typical of the IQ veneration for colossal memorability, with a cute nod at Peter Murphy's classic "Indigo Eyes" there is a repetitive marimba/calypso keyboard tone that will corrupt any indifference and induce immediate 'kneeling at the shrine' hypnosis. The massed guitar onslaught, engined forward by that titanic Mellotron orchestration is a thing of beauty. This is progressive rock hit material. I could listen to these 8 and a half minutes on endless loop and repeat.
IQ have crafted a loyal companion to their colossal epic "Harvest of Souls" off the Dark Matter album, though this 19 minute+ "Without Walls" may offer up more excitation than one could hope for, cool breeze drumming, sounding almost like a beat box combine with dense Led Zeppelin "Kashmir"-like atmospherics and majestic squalls of contrasts, a universe of salivating organ and a snarling Rottweiler guitar tirade. Nicholls howls with unabashed despondence, floating redolence and total confidence. Obviously, there needs to be many returns here to fully grasp the density and despair but that's what makes epics so gratifying, they keep revealing new details, such as the short "The Knife"-like take-off that winked at me and the sudden jangly guitar arpeggios a few seconds later, the rambling Hammond urging on explosion and the delirium inducing outro, thinking that the piece is over. Durant then flips on his switches and toys with his synths, giving another round to the microphone man. Beautiful, by any prog standard! Teacher, please don't leave us kids alone!
"Ocean" took a long time for me to appreciate, as this and the following piece seemed to get caught in some invisible net. Fragile, puerile, bucolic, pastoral, it's actually a song in its purest form. In fact, I find myself comparing this to a Howard Jones/Naked Eyes/Thompson Twins electro-pop ballad. Truth is I am starting to really enjoy this track but it has been a slow-burner.
We end the first installment with the underwhelming "Until the End", a cosmetic hodgepodge of altering nuances, a dozen minutes of intransigent drama laced with booming bass in overt Rutherfordian upper cut, tortured synthesizer punching and careening guitar jabs. The gritty song is initially a struggle in its performance and therefore in its acceptance but again, repeated returns have peeled off layers of tear-inducing onion, only to discover the underlying quality of the musicianship and the singing.
CD 2 - As correctly stated by numerous previous observers, this second CD is as tasty, if not more so than the glittering first one, a real double whammy treat for the fan, the band was obviously inspired by all the "remue-ménage" going on between members leaving and old vets returning to the fold. I guess the term 'musical chairs' has never been more appropriate. The brash "Knucklehead" blasts with serpent-like conviction, massive dollops of buttery choir and violin Mellotron cater to the sonic buffet, with enough twists and turns to keep us proggers on our tippy-toes.
"1312 Overture" is studiously more orchestral than anything remotely neo-prog, a perfect example of how rock music can be 'classicalized' and satisfy the most irascible fan. It is a humorous and clever wink at Piotr Tchaikovsky's classic "1812 Overture", a piece depicting Russia's defiant defense from Napoleon's conquering Grande Armee. It has an obvious military tone to it, complete with cannonade fireworks, howling winter-like Choir Mellotron and gentle yet abject surrender.
The cinematographic splendor of "Constellations" is perhaps the most terrifyingly accurate IQ song ever, as if the lads were all born brilliant and decide to harvest their souls for added inspiration. Peter Nichols has never sounded more accomplished, compelled towards excellence by the grandiose keyboard avalanche which in turn is propelled muscularly by both Tim Esau's burly bass and Paul Cook's driving rhythmic pulse. Guitarist Holmes does finally step out into the spotlight and he glitters with fluid streams of electricity, as well as arranging a sure fire IQ classic in the process, including the overt Genesis influences that we all know and love. Here, it's at its zenith in terms of successful seduction.
The lovely "Fall and Rise" showcases Esau's exceptional fretless bass prowess (another valued prog idiosyncrasy), deft acoustic guitar from master Holmes who is a darn good player, as well as Nicholls vocalizing with his usual maitrise. A pleasurable ballad that will get many more repeats from my devices.
When I first heard "Ten Million Demons" somewhat absent mindedly, I was taken slightly aback as I thought that Depeche Mode had suddenly gone progressive and bullied themselves onto this record! Just like their friends Galahad (who have been crafting quality neo-prog for 29 years now), IQ has been unafraid of infusing little hints of synth electronica, a trait that has kept their respective recent releases fresh and enticing. The track again showcases Neil Durant's keyboard command, capable to do his Tony Banks thingy as well as a mean Thomas Dolby!
While we are at it, the lugubrious "Hardcore" does just that, incorporating tenser tendencies that swerve near neo-gothic horizons, something wholly Wagnerian but in a more prog context, injecting brooding rhythms and somber motifs , and need I to repeat myself , more of that unctuous Mellotron! This hazy piece seeks out some eerie spectral environments, daubing greyish halos on the grave and funereal accompaniment. Another brief Esau bass roulade introduces a shattering Holmes solo, very Hacketty and Ant Phillipsy, all emotion and restraint, finishing off with a long acoustic foray. Sublime!
I have always hoped for an album smothered in unending waves of my favorite progressive sound, the Choir Mellotron and truth be said, "Road to Bones" has enough to keep my bumps goose-ing! Incredibly orgasmic, the music presented here will undoubtedly provide many hours of future relaxation and high fidelity leisure. The production, the sound, the artwork and booklet are all of first rate quality, making this a necessary icon in the prog pantheon, 2014 has been now officially blessed with even more golden status.
Prog is in good hands as long as IQ provides the Guiding Light.
5/5 shadowy constituents
Thomas Szirmay

In My Not So Humble Opinion:
"Frequency" by IQ was disappointing at best. I'm sorry IQ, I'm sorry friends of IQ, but this was not one of their best efforts.
That was the beginning of my last IQ review, a three star effort wrought with disappointment from one of my favorite bands laying a dud. As such, I was less than enthusiastic about "The Road of Bones", it took me a while to finally give it a spin. I had pre-judged the album, it's another IQ album similar to the last three, how can it have such a high rating. I was prepared to come in and bash the album.
I was wrong, I was horribly wrong!
Ok, so there are similarities and differences between Frequency and The Road of Bones. For starters, both albums have the harder edge that's been going through the ranks of Neo as of late, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The difference is that the engineering has taken a leap, the mix sounds so much better. Peter Nichols voice shines through as always, but Neil Durant's keyboard is some of the best that IQ has seen in years, including some of the later albums with Martin Orford. Another huge improvement is the rhythm section of Tim Esau and Paul Cook. It's both the new and old rhythm section, but they sound fantastic together and again, the mix makes them sound even better. Certainly not forgotten, Mike Holmes continues to rip out fantastic solo after solo. The occasional influence of a Spanish acoustic here and there is greatly appreciated.
"From the Outside In" is a typical IQ song and honestly, when I first heard it, I was convinced that this was just a continuation of the latest trend. After multiple listening's it still leaves me underwhelmed,
The title track is one of the first tunes that really hit me as something different. I love the distinctive sound of the vibraphone line standing out amongst the ambience of the rest of the synths. Neil Durant paints a beautiful soundscape here. Towards the middle of the song we get a glimpse of Tim Easu's tasty fretless bass (mmm, tasty bass. . . ). This is a great departure, something fresh and new.
"Without Walls" is a full on nineteen minutes of hit and miss. Ok, that's an exaggeration, the first three minutes is a forgettable, Genesis-esque ballad that could have been tucked away on "We Can't Dance". Luckily, this is quickly discarded for a nod to Frequency with the heavy triple chunk of the guitar over the Kashmir style drums. This is the IQ that we're used to, and I'm not saying this as a bad thing, I like change, but there still needs to be a common point of reference.
Neil Durant wears his Tony Banks influence on his sleeves, particularly for the keyboard lines in "Ocean". I kind of like Ocean as a ballad, though it is nonetheless, a ballad, a relatively underappreciated vessel in the prog sphere. Peter Nichols' voice stands out as more emotional and vulnerable than usual, a pleasant departure.
"Until the End" has some bright spots as well, the part at the five minute mark is a wonderful study in tastiness and space. Paul Cook in particular sounds great here. The end of the song is typical of IQ in that it's a slow reflection back on the past few songs, but unlike the previous albums, this one is slightly less predictable in that it's slower and quieter. Rather than making the big statement ala "Guiding Light" or "The Narrow Margin" this one tapers off nicely.
So, at this point we're at the end of the first CD and I'm waffling between a high three or a low four, it's good but I'm not convinced it's the next masterpiece. On to disc two.
"Knucklehead" has an exotic, almost Indian feel to it, the rhythm section shines throughout the first few minutes with a flurry of accent hits. Some of Mike Holmes best guitar work can be heard throughout this song, first there's the acoustic part that ends the Indian section, followed by a case of the heavies and then a nice arpeggio. The rhythm section again shines throughout this entire song. This song is a nice improvement over the first disc and really got my attention.
"1312 Overture" just plain kicks butt the whole way throughout the song, we start with a nice reference to the 1812 overture then there's four minutes of instrumental bliss featuring Neil Durant showcasing his talents over a sick rhythm. This is another great song.
"Constellations" is a Genesis themed song with similar themes to the last two songs, Tony Banks sounding keyboard patches with Mike Holmes doubling at times, or soloing over them at other times. This is the third fantastic song in a row and I'm starting to feel this album.
"Fall and Rise" is another beautiful song and Tim Esau shines here, the warbling of his fretless intertwining with Paul Cook's meandering drumming is sublime. Just when it's all well and good, Mike Holmes rips out a Spanish sounding acoustic guitar solo that meshes beautifully with Peter Nichols voice. This is another song about musical space and something that's been sorely missed on the last couple of IQ albums. In case that isn't enough, Neil Durant takes us out with his own beautiful solo. This band is firing on all cylinders in this song.
I can't say enough about "Ten Million Demons". It starts out with a Dr. Who nod for the bass and just builds to an intense rocker. I can't say enough about Neil Durant, his patch choice throughout this song was the final kicker that pushed the cd to masterpiece status, at times he pulls a patch from 'Mama', other times just a wonderfully tasty chord progression with a soft pad behind the pounding groove. The important thing though, is that this song is fantastic thanks to Mr. Durant. I can't play this song loud enough. Yes, this is the moment that pushes this album to a full five star rating. Best line of the album, Peter Nichols growling 'Get yourself unwrecked, time to resurrect'.
Hardcore is a great ending to the whole CD, we get five minutes of nod to the first CD, nice, more Neil Durant keys in the vein of ' . . . And Then There Were Three" but then something amazing happens. We get into a soft, outro with just soft keys and ambience. This slowly grows into a full out outro similar to "Fall and Rise" in that the instrumentalists of the band are shining and locking in together. Mike Holmes adds first a Hacket sounding solo then another acoustic solo over the groove as the song slowly fades out. This was such a beautiful ending.
I am so happy to give this cd a full on five star rating and so glad to see something this good from IQ. This is the best album that they've ever released. Good job to you all, this is a masterpiece and I'm so glad you guys kept working at this band. It would have been easy for Mike Holmes to have called it quits multiple times. This is fantastic and I'm so glad you kept at it.
Tom Wright

Bueno, hay muchos otros comentarios más pero me cansé de copiar siempre lo mismo. No jodan más ni den más vueltas porque esto es jamón del medio para los oidos, disfrútenlo, ya deben saber dónde encontrarlo, sino pregunten :)



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