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(108:37; Giant Electric Pea)
TRACK LIST: 1. A Missile 6:40 2. Rise 6:49 3. Stay Down 7:55 4. Alampandria 3:48 5. Shallow Bay 6:21 6. If Anything 6:03 7. For Another Lifetime 15:22 8. The Great Spirit Way 21:45 9. Fire and Security 5:26 10. Perfect Space 8:33 11. Fallout 19:55 LINEUP: Peter Nicholls -vocals Michael Holmes - guitars Neil Durant - keyboards Tim Esau - bass, pedals Paul Cook - drums, percussion
Prolusion. Resistance is a double CD, the twelfth studio release by the British prog veterans IQ. Released in 2019, the album features the same line-up, as its predecessor The Road of Bones of 2014.
Analysis. Like an experienced long-distance runner, IQ have found an ideal pace of issuing one album in five years – a period, probably, enough for them to detract somewhat from old discoveries, find new inspiration, develop new ideas and bring them into being. Or maybe a little more than enough, given the two recent albums consist of two CDs. But a good tempo is only a small part of what is necessary to succeed in a race. To remain, with the 40 years of career behind, at the very top of the prog rock society, be a living example for younger generations, and constantly progress, you need far more than that. Talent, diligence, nice team, strong desire to improve… And, most importantly perhaps, a high intelligence quotient. ‘As you name a boat, so it’s gonna float’… While on the face of it Resistance continues the line taken on the Road of Bones – heavy parts alternating with pensively cold and dark moments, the 2019 album is, probably, the broadest step aside (and forward) from a previous album in the band’s history. The accent on CD 1 is not on the structure and development, but on the dark and meditatively cold atmosphere and soundscape. It is not so much about solving rhythmic and melodic puzzles, as about calmly relishing sounds and chord combinations, which is not generally usual for IQ. Perhaps, that very unusualness was the reason for the somewhat cautious reception of the work by critics and the audience, although it was generally valued quite high. Except for the heavy opener and the closing epic, the other songs, generally 6-8 min long, sound like one: although each has its own musical theme and development, they retain a common mood throughout and, with almost no pauses between, naturally flow into each other, and yet it has nothing to do with monotony or boredom – one should just relax and enjoy the process. Each IQ member made a big contribution to this. Most of the responsibility lies on the shoulders of Neil Durant, a relatively new member. After a warm-up on The Road of Bones and some of the band’s side albums, he showed his abilities in full on Resistance. The diverse and many-layered keyboards certainly define the atmosphere and soundscapes of CD 1. On disk 2 his role is no less decisive, but with Mike Holmes and, to some extent, Tim Esau coming more to the foreground, it is not so obvious. Arguably (one of) the best keyboardist(s) of the past decade. I’ve always liked Paul Cook, how he’s often managed to use quite simple things to create unusual rhythmic patterns, but by Resistance he has grown into a real big drummer. Just listen to his playing e.g. on Shallow Bay. Mike Holmes remains largely in the shade throughout disk 1, but as usual does exactly what is needed for the music. In the second part of the album the amount of guitars increases, and here we can again enjoy numerous impros and riffs by this gentleman. Tim Esau together with Paul Cook makes up a great rhythmic support. Peter Nichols is one of two aspects of the album that left mixed feelings in me. While his expressive voice perfectly fits the stuff on CD2 (as well as the rest of IQ’s albums – indeed, it is hard today to imagine the band without him), on disk 1 his vocals seem too prevalent in places. Disc 2 seems to bring us back to the customary IQ style, at least structurally. We have two 20-minute long epics in the beginning and end and two much shorter tracks between them. Again we are offered complex evolving compositions, intricate rhythmic patterns, the same musical theme in the beginning and end of the CD and familiar melodic allusions to other songs from the album (this time from CD1). However, all this comes hand in hand with new harmonies and unfamiliar ways of development, which again makes the music sound quite different from what we heard before. The only moment that leaves some doubts is overt associations with Yes’s Awaken, particularly since this refers to one of the main themes that opens and closes CD2.
Conclusion. Despite some minor disputable moments, this is a great work recognized by many as the best prog album of 2019 and is definitely a must-have. Complex, profound and well-produced, it would require many listens to discover and study its numerous hidden gems and, perhaps, some change of the way of thinking from old-time IQ fans.
Proguessor: December 2021
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