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IQ - Dark Matter CD (album) cover





4.04 | 923 ratings

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1 stars This was my first foray into the category known as neo-progressive. I wanted to explore a bit and, encouraged by some favorable reviews, I decided to give IQ a try. Let me say up front that I imagine the members of this group do the very best they can and most likely work very hard at their craft. However, I have listened to this CD five or six times now and I've given it every fair chance to grow on me but I always come away thinking that these guys are just never going to be anything more than the "B" team. The junior varsity. The runners-up. In other words, no matter how hard he tries, the singer will never be as good as Gabriel, the drummer will never be as proficient as Bruford, the keyboard man will never be the equal of Emerson. Well, you get the picture. And there's nothing wrong with that. We all can't be virtuosos. And perhaps that wouldn't matter if they weren't such obvious and inferior copycats of the great progressive rock groups of the 1970s.

The album starts out promisingly enough with swelling synthesized strings leading into an organ-based pattern in 7/8 time. I'm thinking that this is the kind of stuff I like. I'm anticipating great things. Then Peter Nichols starts singing "Sacred Sound." He has a nasally voice. He sounds sorta like David Bowie during his "Space Oddity" phase but not nearly that gifted. Meanwhile, the band seems to be playing the song (and most of the album) completely devoid of any feel. There's no depth to the sound and it's extremely sterile. They then transition into a sequence that is weakly imitative of late 70s Genesis before introducing a sappy melodramatic melody that sounds like something Styx would have done on one of their early albums. Lyrically we get lines like "Night falling gathers at my heels, lines the contours of the cold parade." which take us nowhere. They segue into a direct aping of Rick Wakeman's cathedral organ bit from "Close to the Edge" before returning to the fast-paced Genesis-like riff and ending the whole thing abruptly. "Red Dust Shadow" starts off with a nice acoustic guitar and a decent melody but once again words such as "No, no, why did my Daddy go away? None will say, when I wake up I'll know" make me cringe. Then the electric guitar and organ come in sounding somewhat like CSN on "Wooden Ships." But kudos to John Jowitt for his fretless bass work towards the end of this song. It's pretty good stuff. Next up is "You Never Will" that starts with the sound of a watch ticking much like you'd expect to hear on a Pink Floyd classic. Unfortunately, this may be the worst song on the CD. It's just amateur writing and composing all the way through, never challenging the listener. And you'd think that someone would have told Paul Cook (the drummer) that the odd spasms he's incorporating aren't working in the context of this song. Moving on to "Born Brilliant" we actually find some interesting lyrics for a change with some clever sarcastic overtones but the attempt to musically mimic the riff from the "Apocalypse in 9/8" section of Genesis' "Suppers Ready" is unforgivably embarrassing. Lastly we have the band's longest cut, "Harvest of Souls." It starts with a 12-string acoustic with Nichols singing about lost love over a melody that isn't half bad called "First of the Last." Then we move on to the second part entitled "The Wrong Host" which lyrically has nothing whatsoever to do with the first part and only serves as a platform for the group to bash America. (Which part of America? North? South? Central? Both continents combined?) It's certainly their right to do so but musicians who live in the glass house formerly known as the British EMPIRE really shouldn't throw stones. And, furthermore, the "With God On Our Side" theme was explored by Bob Dylan over four decades ago and much more intelligently. As if the pompous vocal wasn't enough we get a military march from the snare drum so we morons will get the point. Then they tear into a thinly disguised rip-off of Yes' "Heart of the Sunrise!" (Have you no shame?) What follows is a "war" sequence that is so corny it sounds like something from a bad psychedelic garage combo. Once we get over that hurdle we are actually treated to (musically speaking) the best part of the album though the words are still juvenile in nature and the subject matter is scattered all over the place. It's hard to believe but they actually go into yet another "Apocalypse in 9/8" mime complete with a poor imitation of Tony Banks' signature organ solo from Martin Orford on the keyboards. The ending is a reprise of the "America" theme I spoke of earlier and the song fades out after more than 24 long minutes.

It was not my intention to attack this album or its creators but there is a large chasm separating being influenced positively by other groups and unabashed imitation and near-plagiarism. My thinking was, since this is their eighth studio album, they would be much better than this. And I don't really mind inferior work as long as it is creative. But maybe this is the best they can possibly do. So be it. I don't plan to delve into their earlier work to find out. Maybe what they need is an outside producer to come in and give them a fresh view from outside of their inclusive box. Michael Holmes, the guitarist, is credited as the man at the helm and perhaps he's too far inside the circle to be objective. Whatever. At least the art direction and packaging is superb. But it's the only thing original about "Dark Matter" that I was able to find.

Chicapah | 1/5 |


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