Dark Matter


InsideOut Music, 2004


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


CDs like this are why I keep listening to progressive rock. Despite the genre's tendency towards bombast and excess, every so often something comes along that utterly blows me away with its complexity, musicality, and sheer genius. I can count the CDs on one hand; Spock's Beard's Snow, Marillion's Clutching At Straws, Alan Parsons' Try Anything Once -- and now you can add the latest CD from British prog-rock icons IQ to the mix. Simply put, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Dark Matter is brilliant.

Dark Matter is, at least in my humble opinion, a concept CD about the dark places of the human mind and soul; what Carl Jung called the Shadow. Heavy and heady stuff, perhaps, but it's executed flawlessly by the quintet of Paul Cook (drums), Michael Holmes (guitar), John Jowitt (bass), Peter Nicholls (vocals), and Martin Orford (keyboards). Holmes' production and Rob Aubrey's engineering is chill-inducing, a magnificent counterpoint of light touch and scattered effects (the vocal processing when Nicholls sings "Hide where you can / we will shoot you where you stand" on "Harvest Of Souls" makes me shudder).

Unlike a lot of prog bands, the emphasis in IQ is on guitar and percussion; the progressive portion of their sound is more a matter of complex melodies, lyrics, time signatures, and harmonies rather than drowning everything in a thick, choking, glutinous layer of Hammond organ. In that, Michael Holmes' guitar playing is astonishing -- this is my first exposure to IQ, and his artistry alone has made me want more. Whether it's the blistering solo that closes "Harvest of Souls/Nocturne" or the heartbreaking acoustic work on "Red Dust Shadow," it's simply great. Orford's keyboards are more likely to be a simple melodic piano ("Harvest Of Souls/Frame And Form") or muted synthesizer underpinning ("Born Brilliant," which incidentally has some of the most sardonic and ironic lyrics I've ever heard -- hey, look kids, it's a prog band with a sense of humour!) than the typical overblown prog arrangements. Paul Cook can lay down a serious beat ("Born Brilliant," again). This is progressive rock outside the box, and it's damn fine.

I can't recommend this CD enough. IQ's Dark Matter should be in your CD collection, and one of the veterans of British progressive rock should finally get their due.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of InsideOut Music, and is used for informational purposes only.