The first time I listened to the songs on this ninth studio album of IQ was on April 25th when I attended an outstanding, very inspired IQ-gig at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer (see review). This concert was part of their promotional tour of the Frequency-album. The gig included the celebration of guitarist Mike Holmes’s birthday and a partly return of the first line-up with drummer Paul Cook. I was delighted about the new compositions, reminding me of The Wake (1985), my favourite IQ studio album.
Back at home, I got even more excited after a few listening sessions of Frequency. Sometimes goose bumps appeared on my arms, for me the usual sign that I’m in a perfect prog rock mood! The album opens with the title track and after the sound effects we can enjoy IQ in its full splendour during the slow rhythms with a bombastic atmosphere featuring fiery and howling electric guitar runs and moving Mellotron-violin and Mellotron-choir eruptions by Mark Westworth, who replaced founding member Martin Orford in 2007. For me, this is the trademark of IQ. Very compelling and exciting! Then the moods change: from dreamy with warm piano and somewhat melancholic vocals to mid-tempo with tight drums and sensitive electric guitar. What a tension and dynamics and what a very promising first composition! In the other six tracks, IQ also finds a perfect balance between dreamy atmospheres, propulsive mid-tempo rhythms and bombastic outbursts embellished with great work on guitar and keyboards. We frequently hear mid-Genesis undertones: wonderful guitar play with the volume pedal, majestic Mellotron-choirs and sensational synthesizer flights in Life Support. The varied Stronger Than Friction has a strong vocal performance and a spectacular break, acoustic rhythm guitar, soaring strings and warm vocals, ending with Tony Banks -sounding Mellotron-choir drops. In the short and dreamy One Fatal Mistake, we hear mouth-watering vintage keyboard sounds of the Hammond, Mellotron and MiniMoog. In Ryker Skies we can enjoy propulsive bass play and the beautiful ballad Closer delivers strong vocals with tasteful guitar and keyboard colouring.
However, my absolute highlight is the epic composition The Province, a constant ‘eargasm’ that continues for almost fourteen minutes! We can enjoy wonderful twanging twelve-string acoustic guitar, lush Hammond, impressive Mellotron-choirs and flashy MiniMoog-runs next to exciting and propulsive guitar riffs. New band member Andy Edwards delivers fine drum work accompanied by powerful Hammond-waves, a moving electric guitar solo with Mellotron-violin support and a warm ending with intense vocals and tender piano. The Province will certainly become a ‘future classic’. This is IQ at their best!
It’s incredible how IQ have matured since Martin Orford and Mike Holmes founded the band in 1981. The band became an experienced unit: John Jowitt’s powerful and creative bass work is omnipresent and Peter Nicholls sings as never before. Over the years, IQ turned into one of the leading prog rock bands nowadays. With this new album, the band has delivered an excellent new album on which new keyboardist Mark Westworth shines. In my opinion, Frequency sounds even better than Dark Matter (2004) and the overall atmospheres come close to the magic of The Wake. Highly recommended and a big hand for these sympathic prog rock veterans!
***** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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