IQ - Dark Matter,
IQ are back with their new studio album, and it has been met with universal acclaim. IQ have been at the top of the UK prog tree for over twenty years and this release very much cements the position. This is class music produced by a class act. John and Paul revel in playing in complex time signatures and provide a solid backdrop for Martin and Mike to play against. Martin seems to have had a bigger than usual influence on the sound of this album, due partly to using different keyboards which has given the band a sound that seems to have rooted firmly in the Seventies while being stretched very firmly into the 21st century. IQ’s music is always distinctively their own, there is no-one else in the scene who sounds like them, music that shifts and moves and can be short and sharp and long and complex. The closing number “Harvest Of Souls” is one of the longest pieces they have ever attempted at 25 minutes (not including ‘Subterranea’ of course), and opener “Sacred Sound” is also over 11 minutes long, yet in the middle there are three much shorter numbers which complement these.
As well as the music, there are the lyrics and distinctive vocals of Peter Nicholls. His lyrics can still be obscure, yet they are fascinating to read and listen to. There is no break between the songs, so that the music sweeps from one theme to another. The bombastic and complex opener gives way to the restrained “Red Dust Shadow” while “You Never Will” is full of menace and edge. “Born Brilliant” is almost ‘Welcome To The Machine’ style Floyd, but that soon gives way to something that is ethereal and simple, yet also with a promise of much more to come. The way it breaks into bass and guitar syncopated rhythm is almost a trademark, only IQ could carry this off. Of course, all of this is leading to the title cut which starts as a gentle number with Peter singing gently and clearly, with delicate guitar and keyboards behind. A couple of minutes in and it is acoustic guitar, and all is pleasant. Of course, it was never going to stay that way for too long…. Gradually the music builds, moving away from the tranquillity but so carefully that the listener is not sure where the journey is going to end. As the music moves on, the simple complexity and grandeur is almost breath-taking, yet this is also very much a rock number that drives and twists.
Yet another masterpiece from IQ, one that will hopefully find them many new fans as well as more than pleasing the faithful.