At the end of the 70’s the progressive rock genre almost died. Peter Gabriel left Genesis, Yes wrote songs like Owner of a lonely heart and King Crimson seemed to be abandoned by the great Robert Fripp himself. Punk music and 80’s metal kicked in and prog became “uncool”. Fortunately there were bands like Marillion, and Asia. These neo-prog bands saved prog from its own grave!
Another name that comes to mind if you talk about neo-prog is IQ. This band is very inspired by Genesis. The big difference is that IQ is a lot darker and less influenced by classical music.
Their third album “The Wake” is considered as their “magnum opus”. If you’ve seen the list with all the albums that Steven Wilson has in his playlist you’ll find this album in it along with their second album “Tales from Lush Attic”.
The album starts with the song “Outer Limits”. Immediately you can hear the signature sound of the band: Darkness, followed by some lighter parts and then back to the darkness. One of the first things you’ll think when you start listening is: “My god, the vocals are terrible! It sounds like a very cheap Peter Gabriel imitation”. I have only one thing to say to that: “You are totaly right”. Their vocalist Peter Nicholls couldn’t sing at all back in those days. After this album the other band members kicked him out. They hired another singer who was even worse than Peter. So after two albums Peter came back after he took some singing lessons.
Back to the album again. The second song is the title track. The sound of the keyboard may remind you of some classic Genesis songs. But still you can tell that it is IQ that you’re hearing. How? Well just listen to the patern that is used. Dark followed by light and back to the darkness.
The outro of “The Wake” is also the intro to the next song “The Magic Roundabout”. This song is one of the lighter songs on the album. No darkness noncence. Just a song to cool down. After almost 2 minutes the song suddenly changes and the band kicks in with an awesome upbeat part. The keyboard and guitar harmonize a melody that perfectly fits. Very cool! The only thing that I really HATE about this song is that they fade out. I personally hate songs that fade out because for me it sounds like they couldn’t come up with a good ending part….
Song number 4 is “Corners”. Personally my least favorite song on the album. The main reason for that are the drums. They sound like a backing track from a keyboard. But thats about it. The rest of the song is cool. And also quite special. Guitarist Michael Holmes used some very cool effects that changed his guitar sound so much that it sounds like a sitar!
Alright, now my personal favorite track of the album. It may even be one of my favorite songs of all time! “Widows Peak”. Everytime I hear this song I get goosebumps…
The song starts with a guitar part thats supported by the keyboard. Then suddenly the part changes from minor to major, followed by very happy part. The vocals also kick in amazing here! They sound horrible, but still….
I’ve always wondered what the lyrics are about. If you read them you’ll realise that the lines do not make sense at all. And thats quite a normal thing if you read other lyrics from IQ. Even guitarist Michael Holmes, who is the only constant member of the band, admitted that he has no clue where the lyrics are about. “I just let Peter do his thing” he once said in an interview.
Garden over me, the secret I love most,
God and Man agree to giving up the ghost,
High above the moon, the sun has left the sky,
I would love to know if you’re the reason why.
Garden under me, the naked and the dead,
I can still remember everything we said.
The reason why this might be my favorite song of all time? Because it has so many amazing parts that sound so differently! There is even a part where you can headbang! Its not that it sounds metal, no not at all. It sounds more prog then ever! But it has this vibe that makes you want to move your head. Also notice the use of reverb and delay in the part before! Amazing! The song ends how it began, without a fade out. Perfect for me.
The sixth track on the album is “Thousand Days”. Of all the songs on the album this track has the worst vocals. But still its a guilty pleasure. Musically the song is just amazing and has this feeling that makes you hit the repeat button.
The last song on the album: Headlong. A song that starts with more horrible vocals. But in a good way. They sound like someone is weeping. Very sad. Ofcourse its time for a mood change then. The drums and bass kick in, followed by a nice keyboard and guitar part. But the weeping is not over. The best part of the song is the last part. For those who love technical parts this is very interesting. The bass and drum play a straight 3/4 beat. The guitar and keyboard also play 3/4 but slightly different. This makes the sound quite weird. Then the vocalist starts singing in 4/4, which fuck up everything, in a good way ofcourse. Amazing! I have only one question to the band: Why does the music fade away? When you play the song live it has a perfect end! Ohh well, maybe they couldn’t come up with something better back in those days.
“The Wake” by IQ is a fantastic album! Its hard to stop talking about it. I could go on forever! This album changed so much for me when I was 10 years old. It was one of the first entire albums I liked! If I had to rate it on a scale from 1 to 5 I would say 4.8! Everybody who likes the typical progressive rock sound should have this album and listen to it at least once a month!
Post originally published on the Prog Talk FB page on 25/05/2016 by ~Lennart.