Well, as they say, better late than never. A mere 17 years since its 2000 release, IQ have finally been able to release their seventh album on double-disc gatefold vinyl. Back then, for a small label like GEP, it surely made sense to stick to the dominant format of CD. Now though, vinyl is back as an increasingly desirable, luxury format. And the result doesn’t half look good. The bright red cover art makes it one of those records that’s always going to stand out on the shelf, but more satisfying still are the gatefold sleeve, the two weighty discs the and poly-lined inner sleeves.
Does it sound better? That probably depends largely on your personal preference. Audio buffs would point out that CD superseded vinyl for good reason, and in some ways, CD’s ability to present an album like this 56-minute affair without the need to touch your stereo does lend itself to works designed as an artistic whole, to be digested in one sitting. But the music sounds anything but dated.
If you’re a newcomer to this album, it may not be as conceptually stirring, or as long as its celebrated predecessor, 1997’s double album Subterranea, but musically, it’s a worthy successor, on which each of the band deliver powerful performances. Ebullient opening statement The Wrong Side Of Weird bursts into life via John Jowitt’s revving bassline and Peter Nicholls’ vocal ability to flit between the lost and lonely and menacingly malevolent. A searing guitar solo from Mike Holmes closes out Zero Hour and some beautifully Gilmourian reveries open the next track Shooting Angels. Meanwhile, there are some majestic piano breaks from Martin Orford on the title track. But, as ever, captivating melodies are IQ’s strongest suit, as showcased on the descending figures of Erosion and the anthemic piano balladry of Guiding Light to end the album. So you can debate at your leisure which format you’d rather listen to, but the content stands up as well as it ever has.