It Bites – An Overview

ItBitesAlbums In My Collection

– The Big Lad In The Windmill
– Eat Me In St. Louis
– It Happened One Night
– Map Of The Past
– Once Around The World
– The Tall Ships

An Overview

Another band, this one wonderfully quirky in its early years, that often straddles the line between Progressive Rock and AOR. Since they seem to fall mostly into the Progressive Rock genre, especially these days, I’ve included them on this list.

The earlier releases, featuring the talented Francis Dunnery on lead vocals and guitar, provided the most “quirky” aspect of this band. The material on the early releases was a mixture of Pop Rock/Hard Rock/AOR Rock and Progressive Rock, a unique-sounding blend to be certain, and these albums grabbed me instantly. They had a unique flavor that no other band has yet to duplicate.

Then the band disappeared for many years…until…

It Bites blasted back onto the scene in the new decade—but when Francis left the band to go solo and John Mitchell joined as his replacement. Since then, the band got rid of the more “quirkier” aspects in favor of more straight-forward Prog-Rock (in the Neo-Prog variety) approach, and the subsequent albums are also terrific, yet completely different from the band’s original releases.

So, for fans of Prog-Rock, be warned of the two different versions of this band. Both are extremely talented and enjoyable, but whichever style you might prefer depends on your personal preference when it comes to “what’s enjoyable” within the Prog-Rock universe.

Personally, I love both versions of the band, and hope that this newest incarnation continues for many years to come!

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IQ – An Overview

IQ2

Albums In My Collection

– Are You Sitting Comfortably?
– Dark Matter
– Ever
– Frequency
– Frequency: Tour
– Nomzamo
– The Road To Bones
– Seven Stories Into 98
– The Seventh House
– Subterranea: The Concert
– Tales From The Lush Attic
– The Wake

An Overview

Easily one of my all-time favorite Prog-Rock bands!

The early 1980s was an exciting time in music, especially in Great Britain. Then, with Punk Rock and Pop/Disco on the wane, both the New Wave Of Heavy Metal and the New Wave Of Progressive Rock eras began, the latter being (for me) the most exciting. Among the many bands to emerge were Marillion, Pallas, Pendragon, Twelfth Night, and IQ.

For many years, I felt that Marillion were the band destined to become the ultimate torch-bearers, the supreme and long-lasting superstars in the Neo-Prog-Rock category, blazing a trail of nearly perfect albums that would never end–and for a while they were the leaders–but then their vocalist Fish left the fold, and things started to go downhill, and fast. Thankfully, nature abhors a vacuum, and at just about the same time as this decline in Marillion’s high quality output arrived, IQ (a band I’d always thought held great promise, who were probably 2nd in line to Marillion in the 80s) really started to blossom, and fast.

And now, 30 years later, they are still releasing 5-Star albums! Indeed, all of their albums from the early 1990s through today I have rated either 4.5 or 5 Stars, with their most recent release, The Road To Bones, being a chilling, jaw-dropping, bloody unrivaled masterpiece in the genre. They have easily become one of my favorite bands of all time, falling within the Top 10 of the Prog-Rock genre, leaving Marillion way behind in the dust. IQ never strayed too far from their Neo-Prog roots, and that’s why I respect them. Or rather, one of the reasons. The other reasons are their consistent high quality in everything from material, musicianship, melodies, and production. Simply Aces!

Any lover of Progressive Rock should do themselves a favor and add each and every studio release by this extraordinary band into their music catalogue. Yes, even the albums Nomzamo and Are You Sitting Comfortably?, featuring the singer Paul Menel and not Peter Nicholls, and considered by many their “lowest point,” which are still endlessly better than albums most bands can produce in a lifetime. So when it comes to IQ overall, there are only two important words—Essential Listening!

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IQ – The Road of Bones (2014)

IQ_RoadBones5 out of 5 Stars!

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for IQ.  Back in the ’80s when I first became aware of all the interesting bands coming out of England during the “New Wave Of Progressive Rock” era, I had placed IQ second in line only to Marillion (Pallas was third, Twelfth Night was fourth, etc., etc., etc.). Most of these ’80’s bands have gone through many changes in style and personnel through the years, or have unfortunately dissolved. Sadly enough, Marillion (after the departure of Fish) quickly turned into a band I no longer recognized, nor do I care to listen to the group much these days, especially the material released since the mid-’90s. Sadly, the excitement I once felt for Marillion is long gone. It disappeared, never to return, when the band turned its back on Progressive Rock in favor of (what I feel is) bland, slow-paced, ambient background music, a form of Alternative Rock I do not embrace.

Thankfully, the same cannot be said when it comes to IQ. I stuck with this band through thick and thin (even enjoyed the Paul Menel years) and my stalwartness paid off in spades when, just as I abandoned the notion that Marillion would ever return to the Progressive Rock fold, IQ amazingly began to flourish beyond my wildest dreams. Indeed, since the Ever album appeared in 1993, more than twenty years ago, I have never once been disappointed by the music these guys have produced. Since Ever, not a single IQ album have I rated lower than 4.5, which is rare. I had my fingers crossed after the 5-Star Dark Matter album, praying it wouldn’t be the band’s high-water mark, especially after I learned of personnel changes within the group. But I need not have feared. Frequency, although not quite the perfect collection of tracks in my eyes, was close, still earning a 4.5-Star rating from me. And then, along came The Road Of Bones, and I found myself gleefully rating it with a full 5 stars!

The eleven tracks on this 2-CD set (many of them lengthy) are crammed with emotion, with ever-changing moods and tempo shifts, terrific musicianship, interesting melodies, and complicated arrangements, just what I have come to expect on every IQ release since Ever. This is Neo-Progressive Rock at its finest, and considering this band has been around for more than thirty years, long after most other groups have called it quits or, like Marillion, Yes, Genesis, and countless others, have become shadows of their former selves, IQ continues producing nearly perfect 4.5- and 5-Star albums loaded with rich ideas, lush production and, darn it, excitement. And with the title track on this album being one of the most atmospheric, most haunting tunes the band has ever recorded, it only proves that IQ’s songwriting chops have not flagged or wavered in the least. Both commendable and awesome!

So with both IQ and Magenta (my favorite female-fronted Prog-Rock band) still riding strong and proudly carrying the torch of classic Neo-Progressive Rock, it’s nothing short of an embarrassment of riches for the Progressive Rock world. May IQ continue on for many, many more releases!

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IOEarth – New World (2015)

IOEarth_NewWorld4.5 out of 5 Stars!

First off, let me say that fans of Lana Lane and her music will probably love this release as much as I do. That’s not to say U.K. band IOEarth is a direct clone of Lane’s exact sound, but the band’s new singer Linda Odinsen has a clear and crisp tone, a wide range, and a style of delivery reminiscent of Lana’s that it’s hard not to acknowledge the similarities between both of these exceptional vocalists.

IOEarth’s music on this two-CD set also falls into realms not unlike Lane’s. You will find lush arrangements throughout, whether it’s on the dreamy ballads or the harder rocking pieces, which wonderfully showcase Odinsen’s passionate vocals. Overall, the instrumentation/orchestration is quite grand, cinematic even, and although the band’s style is typically labeled solely Progressive Rock on many music-related websites, the material is so much more—Neo-Progressive and Symphonic Prog-Rock to be certain, somewhat along the lines of Magenta, while some Folk or Celtic influences bring to mind Leaves’ Eyes, and Symphonic Metal or Gothic Metal, not too far from bands such as Nightwish, also dominates several tracks.

Some songs are mellow, almost hypnotic, piano-driven ballads, whereas others are firmly guided by stellar heavy guitar riffs, and many of the longer songs are a mixture of both. Not to find itself outdone or overshadowed, the rhythm section proves its worth, with driving bass guitar and drums where necessary, with perfect team play when emphasizing the dramatic peaks of each song like blasts of dynamite-laced apostrophe points. Unique percussion instruments make the occasional appearance as well. And finally, the inclusion of sax, flute, cello, violin, and even trumpet on several songs, seemingly inserted in just the right places and used sparingly to full effect, adds to the almost mystical feel of the album.

And through it all, the melodies grip and engage, flow pitch-perfectly over either the celestial or edgier background music.

With such a mixture of moods, 2015’s New World offers more than a few surprises throughout its extensive length, with no mood overstaying its welcome. In short, this is destined to be one of my favorite albums of all time.

 

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Introitus – Anima (2014)

Introitus_Anima4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Introitus is a terrific female-led Progressive Rock band from Sweden, somewhat heavier than my favorite Prog-Rock group Magenta, although similar enough to appeal to the same fan base.

On Anima, the band’s third album, Introitus adds elements of bands such as Uriah Heep (the synth-drenched opening to “Broken Glass” and final sections of the epic “Anima” track, for example) and numerous other groups into its sound. There’s a bit of Yes and Spock’s Beard, a bit of Gentle Giant and Genesis, and a bit of Jethro Tull and even Pink Floyd tossed in for good freaking measure. And yet, through the bricolage of musical influences, Introitus manages to create its own identity.

This band just keeps getting better and better with each new release, with the music being majestic, meticulous, and melodic all the way, getting closer to the magnificent Magenta (yet with its own unique style) with every single release. I’m thrilled another female-led Prog-Rock band is journeying onto this path instead of the hugely OVER-trodden Nightwish/After Forever/Within Temptation path of Symphonic Metal. So thanks to Introitus for happily adding to the genre of “Female-led Neo-Progressive Rock” that always needs more high-quality material…yet again, the band has delivered in spades and the effort is much appreciated!!!

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Introitus – Elements (2011)

Introitus_Elements4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Lots of complicated arrangements, some beautiful melodies, overall excellent musicianship, and solid vocals abound on this disc. Most likely because of the female lead vocals, I’m often reminded of the stellar work of the band Magenta. Indeed, the singer on this album sounds eerily similar to Magenta’s Christina Booth at times (especially during the quieter moments), although the general style of Introitus is somewhat heavier in nature (bordering on Progressive Metal on several tracks) instead of the more tender stability of Magenta. Not a bad thing, though, since this group excels at shifting moods throughout the disc and makes for some exciting and memorable tracks. Still, like Magenta, there are also enough similarities to bands such as Genesis, Yes, and other 70’s icons to keep fans of the old prog-rock satisfied.

Excellent!!! Fans of Magenta and bands of that ilk should snatch this up since they won’t be disappointed.

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