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IQ: Dark Matter

IQ's first release on InsideOut Music America is perhaps the bands best recording since the steller Ever, which many fans consider one of the best efforts from this seminal prog rock outfit. After gazing upon the gorgeous yet spooky CD cover artwork, the sounds contained within the grooves of Dark Matter are still classic IQ-no surprises here, no change in direction, but pure symphonic progressive rock, dark and moody, with more than a hint to vintage Genesis. While IQ often gets tagged with the dreaded "neo-prog" label, to these ears this band plays music that is a direct homage to the greats of the 70's, as opposed to other pop flavored acts that also get lumped into that category. Rich keyboard textures (synths, Hammond, Mellotron) and melodic guitar passages meet up with the yearning vocals of Peter Nicholls to create five memorable songs, helping to lift Dark Matter into the upper echelon of IQ recordings alongside Ever, The Wake, Tales From the Lush Attic, The Seventh House, and Subterranea.

Songs like the powerful opener "Sacred Ground" , with its searing guitar work from Michael Holmes and massive amounts of vintage keyboard from Martin Orford, or the dark and foreboding "Red Dust Shadow", which contains a fantastic vocal performance from Nicholls, are simply wonderful progressive rock songs. The same can be said for "You Never Will", a moody piece that sees Nicholls spewing these lyrics with dramatic flair; "Now as the shadows fall in Allhallows Eve, We spin our tangled web, learn to deceive, I keep on hoping that you'll do something real, Give in to influence but you never will."

Orford lays down some spooky keyboard textures on "Born Brilliant", a tune that is also highlighted by the tight rhythm section of John Jowitt (bass) & Paul Cook (drums), as well as the angular guitar leads of Holmes. Perhaps the gem of the set though, is the massive, 24-minute epic "Harvest of Souls", a major undertaking for IQ, and a compelling success. Layers of keyboards, gentle acoustic guitars, and Nicholls' pensive vocal passages lead this track into an eventually very formidable symphonic roller coaster ride of mood, textures, and musical virtuosity. Orford's Hammond & Mellotron tones are quite tasty, and hearing his super-charged duel with Holmes brings to mind vintage Deep Purple, Yes, and Genesis. A great song, and while no "Supper's Ready", a major triumph for IQ nontheless.

While certainly nothing new or groundbreaking, Dark Matter is a wonderful 70's styled progressive rock release, and will certainly be on many Best of 2004 lists, this writer's included. Longtime IQ fans will revel in the vintage sounds, the deep & dark lyrics, and the epic nature of this CD. Bravo!

Track Listing
1) Sacred Ground (11:10)
2) Red Dust Shadow (5:53)
3) You Never Will (4:54)
4) Born Brilliant (5:20)
5) Harvest of Souls (24:29)

Added: August 20th 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: The Official IQ Website
Hits: 8976
Language: english

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IQ: Dark Matter
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-08-20 10:52:05
My Score:

After living with this album in constant rotation for many weeks now, here's the most noticeable thing about it: You can't get it out of your head! You'll be sitting at work, and the bitter lines of "Born Brilliant" are playing on your internal CD player. You're doing your grocery shopping on the way home from work, and the strains of "You Never Will" accompany you in the bread and milk aisles and through the checkout. You get home to the wife and kids and … well, you get the picture. But there's an important ryder to that observation: it is usually the usually, cheap pop songs that hook themselves into your mind, and not sophisticated music. Make no mistake – Dark Matter is sophisticated symphonic progressive rock with all the complexities, epic song lengths, meaningful subject matter and rich instrumentation that you would expect from the very best in that genre.

Over their twenty three years of recording progressive music IQ has developed a depth and finesse that is very evident in this record, most notably in the songwriting. There are just five tracks on Dark Matter – they don't describe a concept nor do they follow a theme, but you'd never say so after listening to it. The 5 songs share a similar ambience, there are musical themes that recur across the album, and it hangs together beautifully as a single body of work.

"Harvest Of Souls" is one of the best 25-minute epics in a long time. It meanders through a series of changes and styles, the mood is constantly developing, and the melodies are almost never repeated – yet you'll remember them all. There are mellow acoustic passages, huge walls of sound, militaristic machine-gun staccato sections, and hard rock and soft ballads and more tempo changes and layered textures than you can count.

Mike Holmes's guitar work has always been excellent, and is reminiscent of the Hackett / Latimer style where every note counts and you can feel the emotion vibrating in the strings. Martin Orford's keyboards are more evident than on recent I.Q. albums, and the sound achieved is rich and beautifully textured.

Without question, this is one of the best albums of 2004.

IQ: Dark Matter
Posted by Jedd Beaudoin, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-07-19 20:42:36
My Score:

A very fine effort from a longtime favorite that delivers a quintet of tunes that demonstrate exactly why this band has come to be beloved among neophiles. The opening "Sacred Sound" demonstrates through example IQ's impact on younger prog bands as well as this outfit's uncanny ability to craft quality melodies. While the tunes themselves envelop the listener in a cloak of paradisiacal musical opiate the individual performances––particularly from keyboardist Martin Oxford and drummer Paul Cook––do more of the same. And yet the outing never loses its sense of cohesion. In a perfect world "Red Dust Shadow" would become an AOR fave but in this less-than-perfect on "Harvest Of Souls" already has.

While it's easy to get caught up in the immediacy of certain records, to embrace them too soon as the best of this or that, Dark Matter richly deserves any accolade piled upon it. A little dark, highly mysterious, this will likely emerge as one of the greats of the decade.

IQ: Dark Matter
Posted by Steve Pettengill, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-07-15 12:19:56
My Score:

One of the best loved neo-prog acts returns with Dark Matter, which is also one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the year. Consisting of just five tracks, IQ once again offer up a solid selection of Genesis inspired progressive rock. As the band have spent the better part of the last decade successfully shedding their image as just another Genesis clone, it is somewhat ironic that Dark Matter sounds more like Genesis than anything the band have done since The Wake in 1985. But most fans won't mind the tentative step backward. What IQ do, they do very well and Dark Matter is arguably the band's best produced album yet.

"Sacred Sound" gets things off in proper IQ fashion. Peter Nicholls delivers his typically morbid lyrics over an exciting arrangement and the song climaxes with a great instrumental battle between guitarist Mike Holmes and keyboardist Martin Orford. The three short pieces, "Red Dust Shadow", "You Never Will" and "Born Brilliant" contain plenty of doom laden atmosphere. Listen to Orford's synthesizer lead on "You Never Will" and you might think someone slipped Genesis' "Wot Gorilla?" into the player. His mellotron samples likewise bear more than a little resemblance to that of Tony Banks'.

The album concludes with "Harvest of Souls" and at twenty four minutes, it is the band's longest composition ever. Unfortunately, it isn't as successful as the rest of the album. The song just isn't cohesive at all. After a lengthy introduction the song picks up a bit with "The Wrong Host". But it simply doesn't deliver what it promises. The band isn't given a chance to breathe and instead we get a sea of lyrics over a bunch of short songs strung together by instrumental flourishes geared to remind us that we're listening to progressive rock. It is probably the most forced composition of IQ's career and brings the album down dramatically.

Ultimately, Dark Matter is a good album and a slight step up in quality from The Seventh House but it isn't even close to the heights the band scaled on Subterranea, Ever or The Wake. However, IQ have an ardent following and many fans might be pleased with the holding pattern established by Dark Matter.

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