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IQ - The Seventh House
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:G.E.P.
Catalogue #:GEPCD 1028
Year of Release:2000
Time:56:49
Info:The Lush Attic
Tracklist: The Wrong Side Of Weird (12.24), Erosion (5.43), The Seventh House (14.23), Zero Hour (6.57), Shooting Angels (7.24), Guiding Light (9.58)

The Wrong Side Of Weird

JJ: What a great intro to this album! Orford's keys create a nice atmosphere, followed by a very recognisable IQ-rhythm and ditto melody. A lovely instrumental part combines the returning pattern of heavy riffs and high keylines. The following romantic interlude contrasts with these heavier parts in a nice way. A more positive up-beat part brings back the initial, lighter atmosphere, including the reoccurring key-theme. Towards the finale, the song slows down a bit. Very recognisable IQ.

Joakim: The Wrong Side Of Weird starts with some nice keyboard sounds. A guitar slowly enters and then the melody line kicks in. So far into the song and album it sounds good but somewhat anonymous. Nothing really announces that it is IQ and in my ears it could just as well be a new Jadis track (or some other nice neo-prog act). But then the vocals begin and Peter Nicholls's characteristic voice marks it as a pure IQ track (as does, in all honesty, the music as it moves along). The track is more or less a typical long IQ track, bringing to mind tracks like Further Away and The Narrow Margin, mixing heavy bits with softer. What amazes me concerning this track is that it seems longer than it actually is. Before I checked the length of the tracks, I thought this one was the longest track (it is actually the second longest one) and that it clocked in around 15 minutes (it is actually 'only' 12:24). Nice melody and rhythm with a strong IQ sense to it... But hardly innovative.

Ed: Imagine a mixture of The Darkest Hour and Wurensh; The Wrong Side of Weird has the same energetic start and diversity. This 12 and a half minute track basically consists of 3 or 4 segments. First we get an uptempo section with a great Subterranea-like pumping bass-line, a catchy melody and a recurring descending keyboard-line. After a combined guitar & bass riff we move into the second segment, a quiet and atmospheric piano & vocal section. Soon a heavy and bombastic guitar/bass riff kicks in and the song gets more aggressive. The next section is once again more uptempo. The song eventually ends with a full band reprise of the middle section.
The band hasn't played this one live during the recent tour, but I wouldn't be surprised if this turns into a live favourite in the future.

Erosion

JJ: Spooky keyboards and mysterious vocals are interrupted by heavy riffs in this brilliant composition. Being one of my personal favourites of the album, Erosion features a dramatic melody, sung in a great way by Pete Nicholls, in both bombastic and more fragile parts of the song. Jowitt's heavy bass is very up-front in the mix, serving as a solid base for Holmes sweeping solo. A quieter ending is the right finishing touch.

Joakim: The second track on the CD, Erosion, is my absolute favourite. It is the shortest track on the album, but very efficient and also very strong. Opening very gently with melodic keyboards, it reminds me of some earlier IQ track (although the track as such continues to elude me). This gentle beginning breaks into the heavier chorus in magnificent fashion and Nicholls's voice really comes to its full right here. Misters Jowitt and Cook also blow some significant steam into the track in their own personal fashion. I fell in love with this track already when I heard it live in Zoetermeer, Holland, a couple of weeks ago, and it has definitely made its way into my list of favourite IQ tracks ever (among which The Darkest Hour, Widow's Peak, Breathtaker, The Enemy Smacks, It All Stops Here, Wurensh and The Universal Scam could be mentioned). Brilliant!

Ed: Interestingly enough this song lyrically picks up where The Wrong Side of Weird ended; with the question 'Where do I start ?'. The opening with synth plus vocals reminds me of Eye of the Blind, but soon a guitar and bass riff comes in and suddenly you're hit full in the face by this bombastic middle section where the vocals turn from despair to anger. After a screaming guitar solo by Mike Holmes we're back at the opening melody with synth and vocals only.
This will definitely become a fans' favourite, and I wouldn't have minded if it would have been a bit longer because I'm still fully enjoying it by the time it ends. This song proves that a good IQ tracks doesn't necessarily have to be 10 minutes long.

The Seventh House

JJ: The title track of the album starts with a gentle combination of guitar and vocal, leading into a full-band Zeppelin-like riff. Holmes' solo echoes Dream Theater's "this world is spinning around me". The middle part of the song is introduced by a great instrumental part, with great riffs and great breaks. A piano-interlude, a fun Hammond in the background and even a longer key-solo are nicely mixed with vocal-parts. A repeating, bombastic bass-line is the main focus-point for the last part of this song. All in all a song with many lovely ingredients, although takes some time to get into, because of the (maybe too?) many twists and turns.

Joakim: The Seventh House also starts slowly in a very typical IQ manner. It is the title track (even though the album title for a long time was leaning towards that of track five) as well as the longest one on the CD. Once more one or two older tracks linger on the edge of my mind without my being able to put my finger on exactly which tracks the song brings to mind. The sound is very much leaning back towards the era of Ever here, in my opinion. Mixing soft melodies with heavy sounds in a classic IQ fashion. Also a favourite from this CD (though I could have done without the fadeout).

Ed: The melody opening this track reminds me a bit of Unsolid Ground, though the atmosphere is much more ballad-like here. As a matter of fact, the chorus of this section of the track (My life is out of condition ...) is so beautiful, it almost brings tears to my eyes and can be considered one of IQ's best ballad melody lines.
I agree with JJ that this probably is the song that needs repeated listenings before you really get into it, but then it will not let you go. Perhaps the main reason is the complexity of the song. For instance, the second half features a section where the rhythm section is playing in a completely different time signature than vocals and keys.
This song is to this new album what The Narrow Margin is to Subterranea or Further Away to Ever; it consists of multiple sections with different moods, recurring melodies and some heavy interplay sections between Mike and John. A classic IQ song.
Oh ... and see if you can spot the Last Human Gateway flashback; bass pedals and a drawn out agaaaaaain !.

Zero Hour

JJ: Regrettably I find this one of the lesser interesting songs of the album. Although this ballad features a warm bass-sound, in a combination with the romantic saxophone by Tony Wright, it simply doesn't catch me. The emotion doesn't come across, I think.

Joakim: Zero Hour sounds as if it is a hybrid between IQ la Ever and the Paul Menel-era. A slow and gentle pop song which I have really taken to my heart. I do, however, have two complaints. The track would have benefited from being cut down to three to four minutes instead of being 6:57 long. And in doing so we could have been spared both Tony Wright's saxophone solo as well as Holmes' second solo. Do not misunderstand me, I am normally a great fan of saxophone and I love Wright's contribution to Subterranea and Ray Carless' wonderful playing on Still Life, but here it fits poorly and Wright seems to be lacking the emotion in his playing this time around. It gives me a bad Kenny G. vibe, and I know that Wright is much better than that. As regards Holmes' second solo, it is beautiful... but also superfluous in this particular song. To quote Mister Orford himself, "making a song is more about taking stuff away than adding" and here the subtraction of mentioned pieces (+ giving the song a proper ending instead of a fadeout) would make the track much stronger. Still, I like the track a lot; let there be no doubt about that.

Ed: This is a far more straightforward song, but nevertheless it certainly appeals to me. The combination of Pete's gentle vocals and nice melody, the simple but warm bass-line, Tony's sax solo, acoustic and electric guitar solos and the middle section that features snippets of themes from Erosion and Guiding Light (in a Common Ground kind of way) offer enough elements to make this a very nice and enjoyable track, although certainly not an album highlight. It would not have been out of place on an Alan Parsons album.

Shooting Angels

JJ: Although this song starts very promising, once the beat has started I soon lose interest. I find the melody-line not so interesting and not enough happens during the 7 minutes of the song, despite Tony Wright's co-operation, which really doesn't add anything. The repetitive "angels, angels" really is too simple for an IQ-song.

Joakim: Shooting Angels starts with a gentle guitar opening of the ethereal kind which bursts into the sound of angels being shot (at least I presume that is the general idea here). A rhythmical track which is OK, but I still do not think it rates high on the album. The lyrics seem a bit contrived (although some lines are very nice). The saxophone here is much better, however, and bits and pieces are more than OK. Unfortunately it is also the third (but thank God the final) track on the CD which uses a fadeout to end. On the whole, I think this one might be the weakest track on the album.

Ed: It's a good thing the band decided to change the album title from Shooting Angels into The Seventh House, since this really is the weakest track on the album. Whereas Zero Hour still has some beauty in its simplicity, this track is just too straightforward and monotonous for me. The opening section with a synth sounding like a sort of slide guitar is too 'easy-listening' for my taste. When the electronic drum comes in, followed by real drums and the same bass plus guitar rhythmic riff it just goes on too long to stay interesting.
Don't get me wrong; a mediocre IQ song is still quite enjoyable compared to your average radio show, but just isn't good enough for IQ standards. I do like the vocal melody of the intermezzo; a shame that one wasn't used in a better song.

Guiding Light

JJ: After two lesser interesting tracks, Guiding Light finishes the album off in a great way. A quiet piano-vocal part opens the song, with a lovely melody. Although this is very nice first part of the track, I think it's a bit long, especially once you've heard the rest of the track, which is so excellent that you hardly can wait for it.
The heavy and bombastic middle of this song reminds me of Rush or even Dream Theater: dark riffs, breaks, etc. After the return of a guitar-theme from The Seventh House Nicholls joins the rest into a "grand finale", including bass-pedals and a sweeping guitar-solo. The subtle ending puts all bombast in perspective. Great!

Joakim: The final track, Guiding Light, is another classic IQ track, which (just like The Seventh House) reminds me of earlier IQ tracks. It is also based on the principle of starting gently and bursting out into heavier music (a principle which might be considered slightly over-used on this CD). Unfortunately, I do not think the actual break out works very well in this song. The build-up is missing something and when the heavier bit comes in, it comes 'out of nowhere'. I also find it a bit sad that Nicholls is kept aside here and only gets to join in the softer parts. It is a nice track but this makes it less than it could have been, in my opinion. Especially since I think Nicholls vocals are at their best when the shift between gentle and soft is created (probably one of the reasons why Erosion is my favourite on this album).

Ed: A great track, although I fully agree with Joakim that this one suffers from 'cutting and pasting', making it sound too much like separate songs forced together. A good cross-over into the guitar-synth riff is really missing. Fortunately the song has enough good things to offer to make up for this minor flaw; the wonderful emotional Speak My Name-like opening ballad, the heavy bass & guitar riff, a fine Leap of Faith-like keyboard & guitar solo by Martin & Mike and the recurring theme from The Seventh House at the end of the song, to name of few.

Conclusions

JJ: What to do, when you've created a classic album? IQ's answer was simple: create an even more impressive show. But after that? You release a live video and a live album of the aforementioned show. But eventually you'll have to return to the studio to pick up the difficult task of recording a successor.
At this point you have to make a choice: make something quite the same, or something completely different. With The Seventh House, IQ decided to avoid this choice and stay in the middle of these. With a tracklisting of six songs, the 1991 album Ever comes to mind, but the music leans much more towards the heavier side of Subterranea.
The Seventh House obviously is a Holmes/Jowitt album. Recording his solo-album, Martin Orford had little time to contribute to the album. In this, both the strong and the weaker elements of the album originate. Rhythmically, this album is a joy to hear. I love Jowitt's pounding, yet melodic bass, in combination with Cook's great drumming. He combines power with technique, not unlike Rush's Neal Peart. The result is an adventurous rhythm-section. Mike Holmes joins the two with unheard riffs and a heavier sound. This trio shines in songs like Erosion and Guiding Light.
Martin Orford is much more at the background. As ever his piano-work is solid and his solos very enjoyable, but still I think his song-writing skills are lacking here and there. The Seventh House is less melodic and more fragmented than previous albums. Possibly as a result of this, Pete Nicholls sometimes has a difficult position. His vocal-department has the main responsibility for the melody lines. Sometimes this leads to great melody-lines and great inter-play with the rest of the band (The Seventh House), but sometimes his role is limited to the quieter parts of the tracks (Guiding Light) or the vocal melody isn't very interesting at all (Shooting Angels).
Overall, I enjoyed major parts of The Seventh House, with Erosion and Guiding Light as highlights. It's great to have a new IQ album in the basket. However, I think this album is a bit too unbalanced to be another 'classic'. Nevertheless, this album is a worthwhile addition to the IQ-catalogue and a recommendation to prog-fans.

Joakim: So, in conclusion, what could be said about this album as a whole? I think it is a really good album that will be appreciated by many IQ fans, but I would not recommend it as a starting point for anyone. IQ has made much better albums, and musically I find this album to be a step back. The sound seems as if it chronologically belongs between Ever and Subterranea, rather than after the latter. Therefore this CD cannot be considered innovative in any sense... but (just like I think of the latest Iron Maiden album) I really like the music, and it will most definitely end up in my top five 2000.

Ed: I fully agree with my fellow reviewers that this new album sounds like a mixture between the longer tracks from Ever (e.g. Further Away and The Darkest Hour) and the heavy or riff-dominated approach in some of the songs on Subterranea. It therefore doesn't sound completely new and fresh, but conveniently familiar with a slightly heavier variety on the IQ sound we've come to know and love. Perhaps you could say that The Seventh House is to IQ what Immortal? is to Arena, or as Pete himself sings in the title track 'this time it's harder than Ever'.
The compositions are splendid, with the exception of Shooting Angels which sounds rather lame and too straightforward for IQ.
Overall, it doesn not reach the splendour of Subterranea but it has enough quality to stand proudly next to albums like Ever or The Wake.
The booklet contains lyrics and photographic artwork by Tony Lythgoe, comparable to his work for the Subterranea booklet. By the way, weren't there any decent band member pictures available ? These look like they were unexpectedly dragged out of bed by the photographer. ;-)

For 90+ second samples of all songs, please visit the Official IQ Homepage.

Ratings:

JJ: 8+ out of 10.
Joakim: 9.5 out of 10.
Ed: 9 out of 10.