Round Table Review
IQ - Resistance
CD 2: The Great Spirit Way (21:44), Fire And Security (5:25), Perfect Space (8:33), Fallout (19:54)
Mark Hughes's Review
Caveat Emptor: Mark Hughes is a long-standing fan and friend of the band and so his contributions to this round table will hopefully help give the new album some historical context as well as offer his opinions on the new music. To prevent any assertions of bias he will not provide a rating on the album.
It seems almost unbelievable that Resistance is only the second album of new material released since Frequency way back in 2009. But with both the latest album and 2014's The Road Of Bones each providing well over 100 minutes of music, (effectively triple albums in vinyl terms) the group has not skimped on rewarding fans for their five-year waits between releases of new material.
Of course, the intervening years have not been barren. What with sundry anniversary editions of early albums, the odd live album, a Blu-ray and a limited but regular schedule of live dates, it is not as if the band are avoiding the public eye.
The Road Of Bones was released as a single CD with a second CD of 'extras', an approach that, according to an initial announcement by guitarist Mike Holmes, was going to be adopted for Resistance. This would have been a travesty, as describing the four tracks on the second CD as a collection of extras, unworthy of consideration as being part and parcel of the album proper, would have been nonsense. Fortunately, good sense has prevailed and so Resistance is 'officially' a double CD (a decision no doubt prompted by the DPRP roundtable review of The Road Of Bones where the designation of the extras disc was bought into question!).
The band line-up of original members Mike Holmes, Peter Nicholls (vocals), Pauly Cook (drums) and Tim Esau (bass), along with keyboardist Neil Durant, remains the same as on the last album, as does the long-standing artistic direction of the wonderful Tony Lythgoe, whose image of a solitary man persisting in digging the earth in spite of an ongoing supernova is perfectly appropriate for these times. He also deserves a credit for coming up with yet another original IQ logo!
For the first time on an IQ CD the collective songwriting credits have been replaced by named writers, from which it is clear that Holmes is the musical driving force behind the band with Nicholls providing the defining and characteristic lyrical and vocal identity of the group. However, that doesn't mean the other members are of less import.
Durant contributes to the writing of three tracks, coincidentally all on the second disc, with Perfect Space largely originating from ideas he brought to the band. Esau delivers a very solid bass presence throughout with some lovely melodic runs, reinforcement of keyboard lines and generally exceeding the typically rhythmic role of the instrument.
But it is the frequently overlooked Cookie that shines across the album. A tremendously inventive drummer, his imaginative fills pop up in the most unexpected places and, like the Duracell Bunnie, he just keeps going! His work rate throughout the nearly 22 minutes of The Great Spirit Way is phenomenal. On every song his contributions are exceptional, dynamic and quite frankly would defeat the energies of many other drummers. Listen closely to his contributions on, for example A Missile, and wonder how he manages to pack so much, in without dominating proceedings. It's skill of the highest order.
Musically, the album is typically atypical. That oxymoronic statement may seem as mysterious as a typical Nicholls lyric, but it is the best way I can think of describing things. The overall sound immediately identifies the music as being firmly within the IQ sphere and yet it is very hard, if not impossible, to state that the album bears strong resemblance to any of their previous albums. Of course there are stylistic fingerprints; the isolated vocal section of Stay Down ending with some furious bass playing, the frequent (possibly too frequent), Mellotron swells, the dynamic interplays, and so on, but all assembled in a unique manner providing originality within a form - surely the very definition of progressive.
Alampandria, a meaningless Holmes neolism, is the closest it gets to an instrumental number, containing just three lines of lyric towards the heavier ending of the song, which starts out with a (quite literally) low key middle eastern vibe. The surprising heaviness, particularly on the opening barrage of A Missile, is balanced by gentler numbers such as the opening section of Rise, the marvellous Shallow Bay and the balladry of If Anything, possibly the only love song to transition from acoustic gentleness to a massive Gothic organ. But it is all part of the flow with, if you will, musical interludes linking the songs.
The three epics share little similarity. For Another Lifetime has a quite quirky, almost spooky beginning maintaining an essence of mystery throughout. The Great Spirit Way is full-on prog heaven, and the piano and keyboard section of album closer Fallout is as wonderful a piece of music as you'll hear this year. Actually, there is one similarity that the three pieces do share; they are all expertly arranged and flow seamlessly.
With so much material, there are an abundance of thought provoking, or impenetrable depending on your point of view/nationality, lyrics to ponder, although that is not strictly necessary, one could just let Nicholls' words seep into your consciousness. The singer gives his usual exemplary performance, with his voice showing no signs of aging and being every bit as good as on previous albums.
It would be true to say that all five members of IQ are at the top of their game, offering great performances, superb song writing and originality. How many bands can say that after 38 years?
Baris Dai's Review
A five-year period is quite a consistent gap between IQ albums in the last 20 years. Five years after The Road Of Bones, these neo-progressive stallwarts have released Resistance. I had high expectations when I received the album but it has gone way beyond them.
As written in the message from Mike Holmes on the IQ website, the band decided to make a second disc for the songs that don't blend well with the rest. Nevertheless, unlike the bonus disc of The Road of Bones, the second disc of Resistance is a part of the official double album. The difference in the content of each disc is noticeable, however, I think IQ made a good decision by not labelling the second disc as a bonus content, as it is too strong to be tagged as an addition to the core.
The artwork is just amazing and in perfect harmony with the musical content of the album. In the front cover, we have a view from a planet whose sun is exploding. Meanwhile a farmer continues his work despite the approaching disaster. Looking at the artwork while listening to the album, I have a feeling that it might a conceptual depiction of the Earth where the exploding sun is symbolising the environmental and/or social problems that humankind has been dealing with. The farmer may be representing the few people who resist and still want to change something for the others. We don't see any other people around, because the majority have already given up or never cared at all. I think the album cover is an excellent illustration of the dark album theme.
The first disc contains seven almost-completely-connected songs. Some are connected to each other without a gap, while some are connected harmonically, which I love to hear in an album. In the first listens, I could not sense all the connections. However, once I got in, the general atmosphere of the first disc reveals itself as the links between the songs become more obvious. The majority of the songs in Disc 1 are not really long for the progressive rock world except For Another Lifetime, which is a brilliant progressive rock epic. Probably this song gives the name to the album, judging by the lyrics: "If there's no resistance, what am I fighting for?".
Compared to the dark and aggressive theme of the first disc, Disc 2 has a different, and maybe a bit more of a classic atmosphere. It comprises four tracks with almost an hour of playing time. Though the band decided to tag the content of the second disc as two long and two short songs, they could have released it as a one-track entity. The songs are excellently connected to each other with a smooth flow. Moreover, the neo-progressive attitude is more prominent in this disc.
Some of the compositions, guitar tone, the usage of synth pads and Mellotron sound like a tribute to Genesis. However, I think the real Genesis-esque moment of the album is in the guitar solo of Shallow Bay in the first disc. The two-minute solo in the outro sounds like an unpublished take from Selling England By The Pound. Of course, I have to add that it never feels like copying. It is just genuine IQ music built upon the roots of neo-progressive rock.
I have two favourite moments in the album and both are great examples of arrangement and production. The first one is when the clock ticking starts in Stay Down. After hearing the clock sound in Stay Down, the first lyrics we hear are: "Time stood so still". I think it is a great detail in the album.
The second one is the moment when The Great Spirit Way is connected to Fire And Security. The link between these two tracks has a punch-in-the-face effect, with their continuous transition from a major key to a minor one. While the songs are individually very good, I think the album is arranged as a suite. Thus, you really need to sit and listen to the album front-to-back for the best experience. If you really need a break, try to make it between Disc 1 and Disc 2.
For Resistance, particularly due to the character of Disc 1, I can say that IQ made a progressive metal album with complex guitar riffs and an aggressive overall sound. Nevertheless, neo-progressive roots and character of the band are still a major part of their music with synth tones and Peter Nicholls' vocals. I think IQ has released one of the best prog albums of 2019. It will definitely stay in my playlist for a long time. Now I look forward to hearing the songs live in a couple of months at the Dutch leg of their tour.
Matt Nevens's Review
Sometime around 2001 I was just getting to know the world of progressive rock, (I know, I'm so young). I'd passed through the exciting universe of many of the world's better known prog bands at the time, and was beginning to delve deeper into some of the more cult bands, bands who were not quite at the forefront of the scene at the time. I was in a record store one day and noticed an interesting looking live album called Subterranea in the rock section. I took a chance and bought it and was consequently blown out of my young mind by the strange sounds found within.
IQ have been one of my favourite bands ever since that day, their material has evolved, yet not only have the band remained consistent, but many would argue that each studio album they have released has been better than the last. Now I don't completely agree with that statement, but I do agree that every IQ album is a brilliant piece of work and has its own place in the history of prog. So how does Resistance stack up?
I'm going to assume, tat if you're reading this, then you don't need to be bored with a history of the band, their line up changes and other less important things. So lets get right into what matters, the music, and there is an awful lot to get through here.
Opening with A Missile, the band are absolutely on fire straight out of the gate. This is the kind of opener I always enjoy hearing, especially from a band like IQ. It's surprisingly heavy, almost raw, but the dark progressive sound we all know and love is stil here in droves. Synths and organs snarl behind Michael Holmes metallic riffing, while the drums sound more aggressive than ever. Peter Nicholls vocals are as recognisable as ever, and as he pours his voice into yet another classic IQ chorus, it's clear we are in for yet another spectacular ride with this album.
The next three tracks, Rise, Stay Down and Alampandria almost seem to flow together like one long song and are the most reminiscent of a cross between the sounds of Subterranea and 2004's superb Dark Matters album. They each build up to dark and dramatic conclusions, sometimes reminding me of some of Steven Wilson's solo material. Unlike the opening track however, these songs took a few listens to really get under my skin, but eventually when you step back and just lose yourself in the soundscapes, it's very difficult not to smile as you listen. These three tracks are utterly beautiful.
A delicate piano opens the next song, Shallow Bay, and things change just a little. This one is more of a ballad, something you could have maybe heard on one of IQ's earlier albums, brought up to date with the wonderful production here. The song moves through its running time very mysteriously. I was never sure quite where it was going to go next until it builds into some great vocal melodies and a great guitar solo. It then ends, like the tracks before it, with a beautiful climax, but in a somewhat more uplifting note than what has come before.
If Anything contains some of the best vocal melodies I've ever heard from Peter Nicholls. He's always had the ability to invoke the deepest emotion with his voice, but here it is simply stunning. Accompanied by some soft synths, dampened drums and some excellent fretless bass and acoustic guitar, this is one of my favourite tracks on the album, maybe one of my favourite IQ songs ever. But as you're getting lost in the beautiful melodies, the songs disintegrates before you, fading into harsh organs. It almost makes you feel uneasy. Not in a bad way at all, it's all about setting the mood for the next song. IQ have always been brilliant at this and this is a perfect example of it.
For Another Lifetime is the first of three epics on this double album and it closes the first disc in a truly magnificent fashion. The first few minutes of the song feature an almost fairground-like melody and some filtered vocals. This section also reminds me of some of Subterranea's more experimental parts. The song soon becomes heavier, marching through the next seven minutes in relative normality until the 10:35 mark, where it hits its (and I know I've used this word a lot in this review) climax. This section just comes out of nowhere and was an absolute goosebump moment for me. The melodies are breathtaking. The musicianship is beautiful. It's just a classic IQ moment and I'm sure this track will become a staple of their future live show. The song closes with another great guitar solo and the first disc draws to a close, leaving me thoroughly impressed.
Had this album been a one disc affair, that would have been it and I would probably still be giving it the same score. But, IQ manage to add an almost extra sixty minutes of brand new material over the space of four very different pieces of music.
The Great Spirit Way is up first and at almost 22 minutes in length, it's the album's longest track. The first thing I noticed is how this song sounds like much earlier IQ material. Even the sounds of the synths and keys are very eighties-inspired here. The melodies also hark back to the early days of the band. This is no bad thing of course, it's a refreshing change from the dark tone of the first disc. The music and melodies here are more uplifting and positive, there is more clean guitar and the vocals are softer.
The track has a wonderful middle section before slowing and grinding to kind of a halt. The band seem to struggle to keep momentum for a little while, thankfully, Nicholls' always interesting vocals carry this rather awkward part of the song through. The ending of the song is slightly more interesting, but for a band who have written so many epics over the years, I feel like this particular song just doesn't quite live up to what these guys are capable of. Despite the first half of the song being very, very good indeed, it just doesn't quite recover and the ending isn't strong enough to save the song as a whole from simply just being too long for it's own good.
Next up is Fire And Security. The old-school sound remains here, but the heavy guitars are back. This is another song that could have been lifted straight from the Dark Matters album and it's pretty good, although there are no surprises here. The song seems to be over quite quickly after the epic that came before it, and it flows almost effortlessly into Perfect Space, the album's penultimate track. This is another dark song. It has a brilliant build up, Nicholls' vocals yet again are especially strong here, his lyrics painting a colourful canvas over the music. There are some interesting time changes and melodies in the middle of the song that remind me of something Threshold might have written. The song ebbs and flows quite wonderfully and I was left feeling relieved to hear yet another fantastic ending section to conclude yet another great track.
And so here we are, almost, at the end of this album and I was rather intrigued to find out whether IQ would close this album with another classic, or fall victim to the dreaded 'double album syndrome' that so many bands seem to slip up on. At just short of 20 minutes, Fallout comes in as the album's second longest song, and like many of IQ's longer tracks, it starts slowly and quietly, playing with the listener as it builds up. This is again, a fairly standard IQ affair for the most part, until the second half of the song where it suddenly explodes into life.
There are more wonderful melodies here. The song gets heavier as the layers of organs and synths build up behind the guitars, almost like a wall of sound at times. This all builds to a stunning, yes you've guessed it, climax. The song then ends with some ambient keys and vocals.
So to summarise; the first disc is absolutely stronger than the second. But, the material on the first disc is so strong, some of IQ's best ever, that I still feel I can give this album such a high score. Had the first disc been released just as it is, perhaps with Perfect Space included, the album would have been a masterpiece. As it stands, I find the two epic's on the second disc are just lacking that touch of genius that I know this band are capable of. There is nothing particularly bad about the second disc, it's just the first is so good that it somewhat overshadows the rest of the album.
There are moments on this album that are among the best I've ever heard from IQ and I have no doubt this album will be held in very high regard by their incredibly loyal fanbase. It's probably going to creep into my top ten of the year, just.
Patrick McAfee's Review
IQ grew out of the progressive rock resurgence of the 1980s and they are considered prog royalty to many fans. Their new album releases are greeted with anticipation, which is well deserved because they have created some great music over the years. In my opinion though, some of their more recent recordings have seen the band fall into a bit of a standard formula.
Their work is always extremely professional and worthy of attention. However, the distinctive nature of earlier albums like Ever and Subterranea has been lacking on their last few releases. At this point, almost fourty years into the band's career, IQ has a well established sound. It is understandable that their work would be similiar at times, and I can think of few long-standing bands where this isn't the case.
Resistance is not completely immune to this issue, but when the album clicks, it is on par with some of their best work. The drive to create some changes in their musical style is apparant, and the album opener, A Missle is one of the heavier rocking moments in the band's history. With its blistering guitar riff and sonic keyboard blasts, the song is a real corker. In fact, the album often dances on the fringes of prog metal and does so effectively. This overall tone, often reflects the darker lyrical content.
That said, it is the quieter tracks, like Shallow Bay and the excellent If Anything that resonate the most. The latter, in some ways represents the greatest risk-taking, with its almost blatant "pop" sound. The song is excellent though and I honestly wish that IQ would go in this type of musical direction more often.
The disc one closer, For Another Lifetime is the type of long-form piece that IQ does better than most. Employing a definite Genesis vibe, the song includes a segment that is reminiscent of Fly on a Windshield from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
The epic nature of the album continues into disc two with the 22-minute, The Great Spirit Way. Though it structurely falls into the traditional IQ style, the song showcases what makes the band great, and succeeds on the very clear strength of its songwriting and performances. The other epic on disc 2, Fallout is equally as effective and also reminiscent of their earlier work. Its closing minutes make for a quietely dramatic and perfectly proggy end to this entertaining release.
Resistance may not offer a ton of surprises, but it is a strong album from one of the best bands in the symphonic prog genre. Filled with fantastic musical performances and compelling material, it is certainly one of the better IQ releases of the last few decades. Their high ranking status in the world of prog remains intact.