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IQ - Dark Matter CD (album) cover

DARK MATTER

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

4.04 | 935 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars IQ had learned the hard way that straying from your musical proclivities that emanate the air of genuineness could lead to complete disaster. After the fiasco of their 80s failed ventures into crossover pop which frankly found the band skid out of control and falling into the worst possible crap possible, IQ had redeemed themselves by returning to form with 1993's "Ever" which found the band hitting their stride with a string of stellar neo-prog albums that took a cue from 70s Genesis, 80s Marillion amongst others and continued the tradition in a convincing satisfying way. While hitting a peak of sort with the outlandish double album "Subterranea" it seemed there was nowhere left to go but the band sallied forth with the turn of the millennium release "The Seventh House" which didn't find band reinventing the wheel but nevertheless stuck firmly with their established niche within the neo-prog world.

Four years later the band returned with its eighth studio album DARK MATTER which likewise didn't deviate from the established formula of drawn out atmospheric compositions that alternated soft symphonic prog passages with heavier rock flirting with metal rock and a nebulous overarching concept that i suspect matters less to the fans than the interesting musical backing, at least for yours truly. While "The Seventh House" seemed like a step down from "Subterranea" in that it played things a little too safe and didn't exactly dazzle in the wow factor, DARK MATTER changes all that with a more cleverly designed package that develops catchier melodies, stronger compositions and more varied instrumental workouts to support them. In fact, this album draws heavily from the 70s symphonic greats such as Genesis with tracks like "Supper's Ready" a prime suspect for the inspirational mojo magic and the band remained the exact same lineup which allowed a multi-year chemistry to blossom and it shows.

DARK MATTER displays IQ performing at their very best. Peter Nicholls staying strong with his controlled vocal delivery of emotional lyrical tugs in perfect poetic expressiveness, Mike Holmes alternating between powerful power chords and Hackett inspired soaring solos and Martin Orford's cranking out the masterful keyboard deliveries that put IQ in the big boys club of progressive rock as he ekes out tender grooves and church organ fueled bombast that adds and provides the primary currency of IQ's neo-prog sound properties so gracefully. Likewise the dualistic effect of John Jowitt's bass grooves and Paul Cook's precisely delivered percussive tact all conspire to create a beautifully performed melodic progressive rock album that dishes out five tracks including the 24 and a half closer "Harvest Of Souls" that offers seven developments through the monumental suite.

The tone is set with the atmospheric and ethereal intro of "Sacred Sound" that sounds like the soundtrack to a helium balloon ready to break free from Earth's gravitational pull that slowly introduces the groove oriented 7/8 time signature and allows Orford's organ riffing to slowly gestate into a monstrous rumble of keyboard excellence. Nicholls joins in as the bass and drums individually create a corresponding counterpoint that finds the band blending together in perfect harmony. The next three shorter tracks find a slew of changes including tender acoustic guitar passages, Pink Floyd inspired space rock, mellotron, mellotron and more mellotron as well as a more typical IQ style that honestly doesn't distinguish itself drastically from previous efforts such as "The Seventh House."

The true magnificence of DARK MATTER really results from the longer tracks which take up 2/3 of the real estate but the lengthy closer "Harvest Of Souls" is perhaps IQ's most accomplished track of their career with all the ingredients of IQ's recipe book performing together in the best possible ways. The track commences with tender arpeggiated acoustic guitar, ethereal atmospheric embellishments that find Nicholls perfectly enunciating every lyrical passage with his usual expected grace. This is an exciting track as it meanders from one played out melodic development to the next with all the usual mellow and heavy tradeoffs. The true highlight of the album for me is when Nicholls tenderly shouts "We Will Shoot You Where You Stand" and then an aggressive instrumental simulation of gunfire erupts and begins a killer development of the heaviest aspects within the IQ universe erupt into a series of stellar band interplay.

Another winner for IQ despite not being uniformly perfect. The opener and closer are two of the best tracks in the entire neo-prog world bar none not to mention within the prolific career of the band itself but the middle section while performed in the expected stellar fashion is a bit ordinary as far as the creativity is concerned. Still though, DARK MATTER continues the daunting task of keeping the high quality standards consistent and provides yet another successful chapter in the gloomier realms of 21st century neo-prog finding all the band's efforts at their instrumentally performed best. After DARK MATTER, Peter Cook would take a little hiatus until "The Road Of Bones" which found the band shifting gears a bit. If only the middle tracks had a bit more oomf and this would be a bona fide masterpiece but if find only the lengthiest tracks fit that bill. Another excellent album from one of neo-prog's masters.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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