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IQ - Nomzamo CD (album) cover

NOMZAMO

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

2.79 | 305 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars NOMZAMO marks the period where IQ entered the crisis zone even if they didn't realize it at the time. After two albums lead singer Peter Nicholls left the band (due to touring pressures and band tensions) so he could form his own alternative rock band Niadem's Ghost and possibly hoping to jump on board a more popular and more profitable form of music as the late 80s weren't exactly progger's paradise still being forced to the extreme outskirt niches of the musical world. Remember this was before ┼nglagard and Anekdoten came around in the 90s and gave progressive rock a much needed kick in the arse. After the loss of Nicholls the band recruited Paul Menel to report for vocal duty and he would stick around for two albums before Nicholls rejoined the band.

Due to the fact that neo-prog was steadily gaining followers in the 80s is what caught the attention of record companies especially after the success of Marillion's "Misplaced Childhood." And because of the fact that IQ had been around for a few years and had begun to follow in their footsteps towards some kind of success, they got scouted out by Vertigo Records and headed into the chipper sounding Chipping Norton Recording Studios. What should have been a reason to celebrate soon turned into a prog band's worst nightmare as the record company demanded a more commercial product than the band were planning and the result was NOMZAMO which together with the next release "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" has become one of the most hated albums in their discography and it's easy to understand why once you put this one for a spin. But does it really deserve the vitriol heaped upon it? I don't think it's as bad as many make it out to be although i concede that this period was indubitably the weakest part of the band's career.

The title NOMZAMO comes from the name of a small township in the Western Cape of South Africa and the the title track is even about apartheid. The album isn't exactly a concept album but there are the common neo-prog themes of love and sadness and the usual emotional tugs that we can expect so the lyrical content or emotional connections aren't what make this a weak album by any means. It's not like the band were pushed into the world of mindless water-downed synth pop for heavy MTV rotation. While the musicianship is still as good as it always was the weak part of this album lies in the simple songwriting itself. While i find many of these tracks are excellent if taken as a pop rock album of the era, it is obvious that the sound is just a tad too esoteric to please the pop prog Asia fans and way too tame for progheads. Tracks like "Passing Strangers" are particularly cringe worthy as the canned electronic drums, insipid pop hooks and nary-a-care gleefulness of Menel's vocals represent the bottom of the creativity well. There is also time where the album has too much of an AOR sound especially with the Kenny G sax solos!

After all is said and done, i find NOMZAMO to have many very good tracks such as the catchy Zeppelin-esque opener "No Love Lost," the excellent title track and well crafted neo-pop-prog canzonets like "Human Nature." The closer "Common Ground" is pretty cool as well. So true that this is hardly the best the band has dished out in their thirty plus year career and truth be told this is one that i've avoided based on bad reputation alone but as i come to this after hearing all their ones before and most after, i have to also admit that i don't find this to be the horror of all horrors it's made out to be. There are still plenty of lush keyboard sweeps, melodic guitar hooks and good neo-prog energy lurking about with only a few duds. This very well could have undergone a more rigorous progification process and become a more decent album. Certainly not the album to begin with IQ but i could hardly own their complete collection with this missing on the shelf! And to top it off there are actually decent tracks on here! And yes, Menel does the neo-prog vocal thang quite well.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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