“Frequency” is the latest album by old-school prog veterans IQ. While they’ve never been very prolific, this being only their ninth album in a career that stretches back more than a quarter of century, everything they’ve released in recent years has been consistently good.
From the opening Mellotron chords of the title track onwards, the sound is still quintessential IQ; pure 80s neo-prog, ten-minute songs in strange time signatures featuring swirling keyboards, lengthy solos, melodramatic vocals and often impenetrable lyrics. While their fusion of Gabriel-era Genesis with bits of Pink Floyd, Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson has never been spectacularly original, over the course of 25 years and nine albums they’ve honed their big near-symphonic sound to perfection, and this album is at least as good as anything they’ve ever done.
One thing you can’t accuse them of is a lack of tunes; even though the lengthy songs often lack conventional hooks or choruses Peter Nicholls has a great gift for hauntingly memorable melodies. And this being prog, the instrumentalists are just as important as the singer – new keyboard player Mark Westworth proves himself more than capable of filling the shoes of the recently-departed Martin Orford, and guitarist Mike Holmes contributes some superbly fluid solos.
As with most prog albums, this is a complex work that takes many listens to fully appreciate. The title track and the poverfully intense “Ryker Skies” make the most immediate impact, but after repeated plays the lengthy “The Province” emerges as the album highlight.
“Frequency” doesn’t break any new ground, but I don’t think anybody really expects or wants them to at this stage in their career. And if they’re not very original, they do what they do so well that it doesn’t matter.