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IQ - Dark Matter CD (album) cover





4.04 | 935 ratings

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5 stars (9/10)

It's very encouraging to see that more than 20 years after their first album, IQ are still capable of a progressive masterpieces like "Dark Matter". There are very few bands who have developed so well with time, and IQ show no sign of letting up even today. Of course, a 24 minute epic like "Harvest of Souls" was always going to catch people's attention, and drive the original hype of this album, but I think with time people have come to realise how good the other songs are too.

The album starts with the bright sounds and great dynamics of "Sacred Sound". On any other album, this would be a dominating composition, but as you may be aware there is a greater song coming up. "Sacred Sound" is an updated version of the IQ classic, and contains pretty much everything that makes IQ great in just under 12 minutes. The melodic guitar, Peter Nicholl's thoroughly assured vocals. In particular, all the different uses Martin Orford makes of his keyboard are really impressive, both in a leading and supporting capacity. He is making more use of various organ sounds than on previous albums, and making it work well.

On "Red Dust Shadow" things take a softer more melancholy turn, with mellow vocals over strummed acoustic guitar, and understated keyboard. The whole thing is basically carried by Peter Nicholl's assured vocal performance, and it's good to see a singer confident enough to be able to pull something like this off.

"You Never Will" is a song made very exciting by the combination of John Jowitt's excellent bass playing and Marting Orford's Keyboards. The bassline is even better in "Born Brilliant", the 6/8 riff from this song that it drives is revisited in the next track, and is unstoppably catchy. The sounds of this song build to a climax over the rhythms before fading away. Lyrically both songs paint negative pictures of an unnamed person, from the 3rd and then 1st person perspective (receptively), though the lyrics are kept general enough to be widely applicable, as with a lot of IQ songs.

And so we do come to the next, and final track, the epic "Harvest Of Souls", IQ's longest song to date. Structurally, the song is referencing "Supper's Ready", as others have noted, but it is also easily it's own epic. The sound is completely IQ's, this is not another case of "Grendel" by Marillion (I do like that song though). I think most people are in agreement about how great this song is. I would have to agree also, and say that it is fantastic, and probably going to be one of the leading shouted out requests at IQ gigs for the rest of the band's career. Each section is an absolute winner, with large melodies, and attractive rhythms, all tied expertly to the anti-war lyrical content (eg the guitar made gun-like noises). Each band member makes invaluable contributions, but in particular Mike Holmes shows off just what a capable and versatile guitarist he is. Along with Martin Orford and Peter Nicholls the emotional core of this song is really driven home effectively, moving through soaring melodic sections and complex heavier instrumental sections to reach its finale. You must hear this song.

So, as I said, a triumph. The band is truly unified, and the compositions themselves are fantastic, ambitious, and highly memorable. Dynamically and production-wise, this was IQ's best album at the time ("Frequency" would further push this envelope). In recent times, there have been quite a few years between IQ releases, and I would say that in this case the approach of the band taking their time to craft and perfect an album in this manner really pays off. For anyone interested in IQ, "Dark Matter" is an essential release. Do not miss out on it.

ScorchedFirth | 5/5 |


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