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IQ - Dark Matter CD (album) cover





4.03 | 864 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A darker way to Foxtrot

Neo-Prog is likely the most interesting subgenre of progressive music for a number of reasons. By this I don't mean that the music itself is the most 'interesting', that title belongs to the artists in the Zeuhl catagory for being just plain weird, but absolutely listenable. By saying 'interesting' here we're talking about a number of different things here, including the debate about whether the bands who play Neo music should even be considered progressive because of their retro way of writing music. That discussion can be saved for another time, but regardless of if you think that these bands are trying to devolve music or not you can't deny that they play a very close style to the prog greats of old. And that's just a problem for some listeners. Some people really don't want to hear something similar to what came out back in ye olden days - and we really have to give a hand to the neo-bands who still release music in this fashion and get met with harsh criticisms.

IQ's latest album to date (with rumor of one coming in '09) has been met with a great deal of praise in the last 4 years of its existence. One thing that seems to be a growing trend in the Neo-movement is the fact that the bands all seem to be getting darker. Maybe it's the bands giving a big middle finger to the people who give them the shrug for sounding too much like their forefathers, but with releases like Dark Matter and Pendragon's Believe and Pure it would seem that the bands are starting to get a little bit more evil. Aside from the neo fans seemingly warming up to this darker approach, this album is structured just like many of the classic prog albums of old. A mini-epic opens the album fashionably and it goes through a mix of songs until it reaches the climax, which in this case is a (would-be) side long epic which deals with war as its main theme and topic matter. All of this equates to quite a good album.

Not to mention that the whole ordeal sounds rather impressive. The sound is completely clean and clear, and along with the flashy solos played fashionably on organs, guitars and keyboards, Peter Nicholls is a very pleasant singer which comes off as rather surprising because his voice is actually kind of whiny, which is usually pretty nerve grating, but combined with the music he fits in very well. The songs are still quite dominated by the organ sounds as evident right off the bat with Sacred Sound, the 11-minute ambitious mini-epic which opens up the fray. While there are times when the bass will come in to take the lead charge and the guitar will play an emotional solo its still the organ and its Gothic-church tones which make up the majority of the sound and make the large contribution to setting the tone right. This was a very good song to open up with since it is very much the epitome of what the album is ''all about'', while still leaving room for growth within the remaining tracks.

The shorter songs in the middle have personality, but are mainly used to build up to the megalodon in wait at the end of the disc. What's nice is that the songs are all rather creepy, especially with the ambient build in some songs like Red Dust Shadow coupled with the disturbing keyboards and sad guitar parts. Nicholls is right on his game again with the voicing, his lower and more emotional vocals in this track fitting in once more to the tone of the song. The other two songs, You Never Will and Born Brilliant are a little it faster paced and a little bit more angry than what has come before it, especially in lyrical content, ''you, like I were born to be a million times admired/unlike mine, your family line were all born brilliant liars''. There's some juicy gossip story behind those lyrics, that's for sure. You Never Will is led in by a nice bass riff before the organs explode from within and take over the song. A surprisingly upbeat song for how dark it is, but there's some very good melodies and tonal shifts within the song that make for a pleasing listen.

And then we get to the album's centerpiece, the 25-minute long Harvest Of Souls, the song which the album was built around as evident from the cover art and the arrangement of the tracks. The song is rather controversial being that many people feel that is a direct attack on America and their war on terror (''The hand of God protects America!''), and I'm not going to get into that because other reviewers have already done so in more detail than I possibly could have. Regardless, this is a very well composed song with everything in place. For progressive veterans the song may seem a touch unnecessary since the band have seemingly taken Supper's Ready and draped their own music over-top. There may not be a quirky section involving Winston Churchill dressed in drag, but the rest is hard in place from the thoughtful opening to the cataclysmic 9/8 section to the reprisal section in the end. Granted, the solos are nice and so are the instrumental sections, but one can never help but feel like they've been here, done that. Being that the song takes up a good half of the album as well it can lead to a touch of disappointment for people who expect something unique and mind blowing.

In the end this album will very much appeal to the Neo-fans of the world who have already made it one of their crusaders of the subgenre with the ratings it has deservingly received. Skeptics of the subgenre will be no more impressed than they will with any other neo-disc and should likely avoid this one. Still, it's an impressive album with song very good parts which is great for anyone who is willing to stand and fight for the retro style. 3.5 stars out of 5 for an album which makes for a very good listen, even if there's not a lot here that can be called wildly original.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |


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