I liked Frequency (2009, see review). Didn't blow me away but I liked it. This album blew me away from the start and just kept on blowing. Don't mess around with the single album. Get the double disc set. This has got to be one of the best “bonus discs” ever. It could stand alone as an IQ album. My guess is that these songs didn't fit in with the Road Of Bones concept and so found themselves on a separate disc.
Lets start with the bonus disc first. The first two tracks are progressive rock at its very best. Knuclehead starts like its going to be a track on a Peter Gabriel album then gets heavier and heavier. 1312 Overture is very clever. It starts with the end of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, then goes into a tight prog rhythm. Do you like to count beats to songs? I can spend many a happy minute counting along to Apocalypse in 9/8. This one had me confused for a while until I looked at the title. 1312 Overture. Why 1312. Start counting. One bar of 13 beats followed by another of 12 beats. Very clever. Constellations starts with a nice electronic beat before a rush of toms bring in heavy Mellotron voices. It then goes all Genesis. A Trick Of The Tail (1976)/ Wind And Wuthering (1976) era. Lush keyboards and great breaks make this another great song. Fall And Rise has some great fretless bass playing behind more lush keyboards. Ten Million Demons is the long lost brother of Pink Floyds One of These Days with driving bass before vocals take over. This is possible the most commercial sounding track on the album. Play it in a club and people would dance to it. We finish the bonus album with a track called Hardcore. This drives along with a rhythm not unsimilar to Steve Hacketts A Tower Struck Down. Its a great track with powerful vocals and majestic keyboards and guitar. The guitar solo at the end is superb. Simple and unflashy. Eventually it all just fades away to nothing and you realise that you have been under the spell of great musicianship and wonderful production. The sound quality is crisp and clear.
Lets be fair here. This is no bonus disc I have ever come across. If IQ had released this as a single album on its own it would have gotten rave reviews. The fact that the band have released it as part of the Road Of Bones shows their integrity to their fanbase. They could have left it six months and released it and coined our money again.
The Road Of Bones album itself has to be a contender for 2014 top 5. Peters vocals are controlled and sound more mature. He is sweet when he needs to be and downright ugly when the song calls for it. On this album IQ get very angry indeed. Throughout, the synths lay down a template for the bass and guitars to layer on top. There never seems to be a dominant instrument but there are some fine moments of soloing. From The Outside In is a great opener. Full of power. Everyone will have a different favourite track but I think mine is the title track. This starts quiet and really builds to a climax. The line “I almost hate myself....almost...but not quite“ sets the tone for a haunting song that is one of IQ's finest. Without Walls is the first long track clocking it at 19 minutes. It starts simple with piano and drum machine, and again builds and builds. There are some nice sections and some good soloing. Ocean is a pleasant song with a nice chorus. Which leaves us with Until The End. Starting with a haunting theme that could have come from a horror film, the song takes us on a musical journey to the east before bringing us back with syncopated drums and driving bass. As the song fades with yet another great guitar solo and dramatic vocals and you think its all over, a piano takes over with a nice little melody followed by an acoustic guitar. One more vocal refrain and then gone. A truly unexpected way to end the album.
IQ have lost nothing with the personnel changes. In fact I think they are a more tighter unit, both musically and as a band. As I said before, the sound quality is excellent and the playing is some of the best IQ have produced. I have no hesitation in giving this top marks, If you haven't got it yet , do yourself a favour and get it....but the get the double with the bonus disc.
***** Dave Smith
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