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IQ - Dark Matter CD (album) cover





4.03 | 864 ratings

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5 stars Whilst looking forward to getting Frequency when it is out on general release (I don't normally pre order), I thought it was about time that I reviewed its predecessor, and a fine work it is too.

IQ are one of the leading lights of what I call the second wave of British Prog, or Neo-Prog as it is categorised on the site. I still regard Marillion as being at the forefront of this wave, but, by Heaven, IQ can't be that far behind.

The album starts with Sacred Sound, a track that comes in at over 11 minutes, and features huge organ playing by Martin Orford, combined with stunning Nicholls vocals and Holmes textured guitars. Grandiose in conception and execution, it is a fine way to start any LP.

Red Dust Shadow commences in a thoughtful manner. Nicholls is on fine form throughout the whole LP, but I especially enjoy the quiet keyboard and acoustic guitar led backdrop to his story regarding an absent father, which is very touching, whilst the track then explodes in a huge symphonic noise of all band members expressing the outrage of the leaving. This is a sad song, but with the best of sad songs, leaves the listener emotionally charged. Some great mellotron work at the end, too.

You Never Will starts off in what I regard as a Floydian vein, with the clock ticking and pulsating bass, before Nicholls and the band explode again in a huge soundscape that tells another downbeat story. Orford's organ playing dominates, and I am really interested in seeing and hearing how the band manage without his huge influence. This track is actually one for our times. Listen to "I keep hoping that you'll do something real" - it is almost a eulogy to the disillusion felt in the UK with the crooks that run our country. Holmes' guitar solo also brings home how talented he is. This track is absolutely not a filler - it is essential as a running part of the LP.

Born Brilliant follows, which, again, has a dark, almost Floydian, sense to it, reminding me of Wish You Were Here in the bass and keyboard background. Jowitt's bass absolutely thunders in his backdrop to the riff and keyboard main lead. Again, not a filler, but a continuation of the dark and brooding theme of the album.

Harvest Of Souls is the epic track on this album. Starting with a quite exquisite vocal to an acoustic guitar backdrop, this leads into one of the finest neo prog tracks ever written and performed. I have never been a supporter of the neo liberal politics of American Republican leaders in recent times, and this track absolutely encapsulates the despair that many like me feel how a great and brave nation can descend into such imperialistic egocentric tendencies. It is a great protest song, but also a great song in its own right for those (many) who have no political leanings at all. Because, some four minutes in, Nicholls blasts out his America "chorus", accompanied by quite the most exceptional keyboard and guitar leads you will ever hear. And Who Would Not Defend America, indeed. Progressive rock and protest fused at its finest.

We Will Shoot You Where You Stand leads into the epic riff and passage very reminiscent of early Crimson. It is very atmospheric, and, again, the band play together very tightly, with especially Holmes shining in his guitar work.

At times thoughtful, at times blistering, at times mixing originality with a huge nod to prog's founding father's, this is an immense track, and one I have had a great deal of pleasure listening to. A great way to end an album, the pace never relents, even in its quieter moments.

For those reading this who are looking forward to Frequency, you are not alone, and revisiting this LP is well worth the time. For those of you who have never heard IQ's work, by God you are missing a huge treat. I am still listening in amazement to Holmes, Orford, Jowitt, and Cook producing such a huge sound to accompany one of the finest vocalists the UK has ever produced. Epic in thought, epic in production, and epic in execution, this is an essential piece of modern progressive rock. 4.5 stars, rounded up to the ultimate five simply because it is worth it.

lazland | 5/5 |


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