IQ - The seventh house - 2000

“On a bleak and solitary road they return
To be where once they met
One who comes to lay the past to rest inside
One who can’t forget
Yesterday the heroes of the hour
Who survived those who fought and lost
Standing at the moment of release they pause
To count the dreadful cost”

[Excerpt from “The seventh house”]


Everybody must know of the existence of the English symphonic rock band IQ. After the great second album "The wake" the singer Peter Nicholls left the band. For the fans of that early time, who visited their concerts (including me) it was a big shock. Something with the same impact as when Peter Gabriel left Genesis some years earlier. Also the music changed a little bit then, they tried to be more commercial. The magic was gone, and we all hoped Peter would return sometime. Years and a couple of albums later, the miracle happened. Peter Nicholls joined the band again, and the fans were awaiting the new album with great eager. That album was called "Ever" and the band had that magic again. It was the best or at least one of the best symphonic albums of that year. It was very difficult to make a next album that would be even better. It took the band four years to come up with a successor. And IQ came with a brilliant double album called "Subterranea". After the release of some old material in the form of "Seven stories into 98" and "The lost attic" the live document "Subterranea, the concert" which was in fact the recording of the last "Subterranea" show in Holland, did see the light. And now the band has given birth to their new baby "The seventh house".


The IQ line-up: Paul Cook – drums and percussion, Michael Holmes – guitars, guitar synthesiser and keyboards, John Jowitt – bass guitar and backing vocals, Peter Nicholls – lead voice and backing vocals, Martin Orford – keyboards and backing vocals. Guest: Tony Wright – Saxophone.


It surprised me somehow that IQ came up with a successor to "Subterranea" so quick. It’s not so long ago when the live version of "Subterranea" was released. This in mind I don’t think it is fair to expect another brilliant album like "Subterranea". But I must admit that they managed to compose some great new tracks for this album.

The new studio album of IQ opens IQ worthy with "The wrong side of weird" (12:24). Martin Orford and Mike Holmes are opening this piece with a very tasteful intro on keys and guitar before the rest of the band joins with up-tempo pumping bass and drums. I would describe the piece as a heavy "Ever" song. The song has a more aggressive and heavy character than most of the "Ever" songs. The middle section of the piece is very beautiful with a slow and fragile sung vocal line. Peter Nicholls shows us that he is still one of the best singers in sympho land. The opening track is the first of three very strong compositions that IQ brings on this seventh official studio album. "Erosion" (5:44) starts with a delicious keyboard intro and fragile sang of Peter Nicholls. The tempo becomes faster with each guitar riff. And ultimately results in bombastic sympho with a screaming guitar solo in the end. The piece ends again with the fragile vocal line and keyboard sounds. It is a typical IQ song that will work out fine at their concerts. The title track "The seventh house" (14:23) is absolutely the best track of the album. The story is about a person who returns to the place where he and his mates fought a battle to give others a better future. But he was the only survivor. And he meets again his (guardian) angel. A great piece with all the IQ ingredients we love so much. Acoustic guitar opening with slow vocals, piano and some battle sounds in the distance. We hear again fantastic vocals (and lyrics – see the excerpt at the top of this page) by Peter Nicholls. This track has it all, pumping bass, screaming guitar and bombastic sympho with broad symphonic keyboard layers. The piece is slowly building up to a climax. And has some "Subterranea" and “old Genesis” resemblance. The next song is the ballad "Zero hour" (6:58) which contains again a saxophone solo played by Tony Wright. Martin Orford is playing some very beautiful keyboard strings and the song ends with a guitar solo. "Shooting angels" (7:24) starts again with some nice keyboard work of Martin. But the song is then developing into a more straight rock rhythm with the familiar woodchopper like drums of Paul Cook. The saxophone is again present in this track. But it doesn’t reach the quality of the first three tracks. The album is closing with "Guiding light" (9:58) and this track has again the same structure as some previous tracks. The opening exists of tasteful keyboards and fragile vocal lines. The middle section is very bombastic. The ending is a little familiar but still great and IQ worthy.


My conclusion after listening to this album over an over again (It’s not so bad to be a reviewer of an IQ album these days!); The album has a great start with three fantastic songs but IQ can’t reach the same overall quality level of "Ever" and "Subterranea". That’s the reason for me, to give "Seventh house" four stars and not five. How much I would have liked to do that as an early IQ fan. The album proofs that IQ is still one of the best symphonic bands nowadays. Maybe the band had to wait a little bit longer to collect the best compositions for another brilliant album like "Subterranea". But on the other hand I think it’s the choice of the band not to wait to long and output their songs to their audience. It’s not fair to demand another masterpiece in such a short time. If you like sympho you won’t regret buying this one.

author - date - rating - label

Douwe Fledderus - January 2001 -   - Giant Electric Pea