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TRACK LIST: 1. Sacred Sound 11: 35 2. Red Dust Shadow 5:51 3. You Never Will 5:01 4. Born Brilliant 5:21 5. Harvest of Souls 24:30 All music: by IQ. All lyrics: by Nichols. LINE-UP: Michael Holmes - electric & acoustic guitars Martin Orford - keyboards; backing vocals Peter Nichols - lead & backing vocals John Jowitt - basses; backing vocals Paul Cook - drums & percussion Produced by Holmes. Pre-produced by Orford. Engineered by R. Aubrey.
Prolusion. The wait is over, and the new IQ effort, "Dark Matter", which was in the works for the last couple of years, has finally been released. According to me:-), this is the tenth studio album in their discography (>updated). I keep count of the band's studio outings in a way, which is different from theirs, as they, for some reason, don't consider "Eight Stories Into Eight" and "Lost Attic". There are several more of the IQ-related reviews on Progressor. They can be accessed and read by using the link above.
Synopsis. Although fearing to seem too pretentious and opinionated, I will dare to note that I can easily elicit from my memory the contents of any album by this remarkable English outfit. I have consistently been watching the band's advancement, so my first reviews of their works appeared on the site very promptly after it was created back in 1998. IQ's immediately recognizable style was finally formed on "Ever" from 1993, and, since then, they firmly follow it without doubts and compromises, which positively distinguishes the band's creation from those of most, if not all, of the other performers, who, along with them, initiated the 'second wave' of Symphonic Progressive in the first half of the '80s. The new IQ album is the best confirmation of the fact that they still easily avoid stagnation and continue going their progressive path. So, stylistically, "Dark Matter" has much in common with "Ever", "Subterranea", and "The Seventh House", but many other important aspects of the music here are marked with signs of novelties. Above all, this concerns the instrumental arrangements that are sustained in the state of unceasing intensity almost everywhere on the album, including the parts where they develop alongside the vocals (which is especially significant), the brave and very successful introduction of the sounds of the Mellotron to their music, and the more active and wide use of those of Hammond. Vintage keyboards dominate over traditional synthesizers on each of the tracks. Especially diverse and inventive are the organ solos, tirelessly crossing the length and breath of the basic themes alone or along with those of electric guitar. The charming sounds of Church organ are present on the first and the last tracks, the latter of which is also rich in the piano passages. There is hardly anything really dark or gloomy on "Dark Matter", but the general atmosphere of the album is full of tension and drama. The lyrics are profound and, being philosophically pessimistic in character, sound proper in the context of reflection about the Earthly mankind, kind of the eternally abnormal moral principles of which, that don't change with ages, inevitably form the fool circle around any of its thinking representatives. It would be both tactless and pointless to recall IQ's teachers in absentia, as the band itself has become a benefactor for plenty of contemporary performers many years ago. The music is very picturesque and is mostly an intensive Symphonic Art-Rock where most of the vocal and instrumental parts are amazingly mesmerizing. Among the five tracks, Red Dust Shadow (2) is notable for less dense structures, just contrary to the 24-minute epic Harvest of Souls (5), though these very two are especially rich in the parts of classical guitar, in addition. The continuous use of odd measures and complex stop-to-play movements, provided by both of the bosses of rhythm section, is one of the most striking progressive features of each of the other three songs: Sacred Sound, You Never Will, and Born Brilliant (1, 3, & 4). Of course, all this is typical for the epic, too, though, overall, it is certainly much more diverse than any of its predecessors. Generally, Harvest of Souls is one of the finest and, simultaneously, most complex and intriguing compositions IQ has ever created. It will definitely help the band to reap a really bountiful harvest of Prog-souls, you may be sure!
Conclusion. Along with "Ever" and "Subterranea", "Dark Matter" is one of those albums by the band that is brilliant in every respect. "Tales from the Lush Attic" I also regard as a masterpiece, but it lacks a bit of distinct originality, which is so typical for IQ's music since the beginning of the '90s. I don't have time to review, say, general releases, but I've lately heard Marillion's latest, "Marbles", and although it is better than any of the albums they have released after "Afraid of Sunlight", it is not nearly as good (and progressive) as "Dark Matter", and I believe some of you already had time to make certain of that. (>Top-20)
VM: July 20, 2004
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