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IQ - Subterranea CD (album) cover





3.96 | 609 ratings

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5 stars There is a reason sometimes when a wallow in sheer nostalgia is something more than wallowing in glory days of yore. There are certain times when you listen to a certain slab of music, and remember just how damned good it was. No, change that. Just how damned good it IS!

I had not listened to this wonderful concept album in a fair while until this evening, when, looking forward to the latest IQ opus I have pre-ordered, I thought, let's go back. Let's remind myself of just why I am taking a punt on music I have not even heard yet, and won't receive until at least two months after shelling out hard earned money.

This album, perhaps more than most, is why. I loved IQ from the very beginning, and followed them alongside the other exponents of the new wave of British prog. This one, released in 1997, demonstrated to me that IQ, perhaps better than any other "neo" act, were capable of staying true to their roots and influences, but also taking them forward with the lush, almost orchestral, modern digital era sound. For this is an album not rooted in 1974, but the late nineties.

It is a "deep" concept, for sure, and certainly one that many classic original prog bands would have been proud of. The story revolves around a man tortured and imprisoned in solitary confinement experimentation, who is released into the wider world with unpleasant consequences and, tortured internally, returns to his lone self and world.

Just how, then, such a tome can give rise to such a brilliantly uplifting track such as Speak My Name is a bit of a mystery, and, in reality, speaks genius. The title track, following a Who-esque Overture, sets the scene perfectly for what follows, a perfect blend of symphonic musical story telling and precise, clinical, but also heartwarming in places, and never anything less than captivating vocally and musically. It also contains a marvellous guest sax piece - note to naysayers.....Genesis never had this!

Peter Nicholls is absolutely at the top of his game, more so than on Ever in my opinion, his voice gorgeously fragile in its strength (yes, much like Gabriel in that manner), but the real star and driving force behind all that is so Progressive on this album is Martin Orford, whose soundscapes dominate and provide such a lush musical storyline in themselves. Just listen to his burst on State of Mine especially, which lead a gloriously heavy symphonic passage of music, which, itself, leads to a beautiful , expansive, duo on piano and electric guitar with Mike Holmes on Laid Low. When these segue into the dark and hard Breathtaker, you realise that this album is rather more than a carbon copy of days gone by, but something utterly unique and new.

The end epic, The Narrow Margin, clocking in at 20 minutes brings proceedings to a suitably grandiose end. In fact, it would not be until the ridiculously brilliant Harvest of Souls that the band would outdo themselves in how to bring expansive, epic, loud, and proud prog rock to life in such a warm way. This is a track of a band at the top of their game, a collective bringing complex fantasy to expansive life.

In a couple of months time, I, and other collaborators on this site who have followed IQ for over 30 years now, will, no doubt, wax lyrical about the maturity of the new album. There will be more than a few reading those reviews who were either babes in arms, or, God forbid, not even born, when Subterranea was released. You will, no doubt, wonder just what all the fuss is about in the 21st century.

This album is what the fuss is all about. This album is more than just a paeon to 1970's glory, it is the sound of a band who produced a work of such beauty and wondrous sounds in 1997 that made many of us just know that, seventeen years later, we would still be listening to classy progressive rock, because such gorgeous sounds and thoughts simply could never die. To summarise, you are still listening to prog because of albums such as this.

Five stars. Essential. Wondrous. Beautiful. Grandiose. Nicholls, Orford, Holmes, Jowitt, and Cook. IQ. No further explanation is necessary.

lazland | 5/5 |


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