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IQ - Dark Matter CD (album) cover





4.03 | 859 ratings

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4 stars I've never been a fan of the neo-prog sound. While Marillion made some great music, there at least 50 classic progressive rock bands whose sound I prefer to the tones of Marillion and I certainly have had very little time for the "lesser lights" of neo-prog like Pendragon, Pallas, Galahad and Violet District. Until now, that is.

I must say that while I'd heard a smattering of IQ music over the years, Dark Matter was the first album I sat through properly (for the record I've owned and sold Pendragon and Galahad albums). I really enjoyed this album which I thought to be a clever blend of synth-driven pop and creative rock music. In fact, as time has gone on, I've come to rank this work as a contender alongside Marillion's Script For A Jester's Tear and Misplaced Childhood as the best neo-prog album ever.

The opener Sacred Sound took me a while to get into, and in fact for a long time was my least favourite of the 5 pieces here, but I now really enjoy the bass-work, the church organ interludes and Martin Orford's synth leads towards the end. Red Dust Shadow starts off life as a murky acoustic guitar piece before Peter Nicholls kicks in with a lovely vocal melody that will appeal to most fans of melodic rock. A swell of strings and psychedelic keyboard fills lead to a build-up and an epic-sounding riff which only confirms that IQ were listening to a lot of Pink Floyd at the time they made this (I also kept thinking of Suede's Dog Man Star album incidentally).

You Never Will is a different beast althogether. After a ticking-clock intro, the main song kicks in. Powered by a rumbling bass, it boasts an intriguing verse and an absolutely glorious (and somehow rather massive) chorus. After this fun goes on for a couple of rounds, a stunning but all too-brief synth solo bursts in. It turns out to be a teaser for a lovely outro that sees more solo-ing before the chorus returns to wrap proceedings up. It is a fantastic song that finally confirmed my affection for this band. The snide Born Brilliant is a vocally dominated cut, that bursts (after a couple of minutes) into one of those stop-start rhythms that modern prog bands are oh-so-fond-of. It's far from "conventional" symphonic prog, but I really like this song.

Harvest Of Souls is the 25 minute epic that defines the album. It opens with layered guitars and a pop melody, but around the 4 minute mark band joins in with the "America" sub-section and things really take off. At the 6 minute mark a drum roll heralds a juicy, dark and very fast interlude of virtuositic playing. Yes fans will definitely hear echoes of Heart Of The Sunrise at one point. I love the synth melody that comes in at 9 minute before the songs returns to its intro melody. Then at the 11 minute mark there is a nice organ led section with some horror movie effects that are added to by massed vocals, at the 16 minute mark Nicholls comes in with another biting vocal section. At the 18 minute mark another off-beat moment comes in that's a dead ringer for a segment of Genesis' Supper's Ready. When I first got into this album, I used to think that the outro was dragged on a little too long and actually felt a sense of relief when it all finally ended, but I'm now totally into the great melodies and epic feel of Harvest of Souls.

Surely one of the greatest prog albums of the decade, I find that I enjoy Dark Matter a little more every time I return to it, which is surprisingly often ... 70% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |


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