IQ – Dark Matter

IQ - Dark Matter


Giant Electric Pea
Release date: June 29, 2004

User Review
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Picture yourself in a vast field of grass, colored green by the light of the warm and generous sun. A light breeze sweeps across the fields and the grass moves like waves on the sea. Suddenly you stumble and fall. Turning back you find the cause of your fall, a rock lying slightly buried in the soil. It’s smooth and clean on top, but your foot kicking into it has nearly turned it over. It’s dirty and wet underneath. The place where it used to be is a black pool of worms and insects crawling. This black patch is a peephole into the underworld.

IQ’s Dark Matter is somewhat like this picture. Songs and melodies are clean and solid on top, but the words and the arrangements reveal a world of turmoil and disintegration. Dark Matter is the underworld of somebody’s twisted mind, an abyss of despair and loss. There is also a sense of deceit and little or no control over what’s real and what’s not.

When the album clocks in on little over 53 minutes, you have been served 5 tracks, all with individual contributions to the conceptual anti-joyride. First one out, “Sacred Sound,” sets the mood with angular sounds and lines like “Surface gone from under me, no more security, the future lies erased, these are the last remaining days.” As the song grows larger, it reveals a beautiful melody and musical arrangements from skilled hands. And the ending is simply amazing. Martin Orford’s organs are so organic and so real you can smell the dust whirling out of the organ pipes. Worth mentioning is also the rich and flawless voice of Peter Nicholls.

“Red Dust Shadow” is quite soft at first, with an acoustic guitar carrying forward the words of a soul in torment. Later, the song turns powerful and it is a delight to hear how elegantly Peter Nicholls transforms his voice down from the power of the first track via the sore and mellow first half of “Red Dust Shadow” and all the way up in the blasting end of it. “You Never Will” hooks up right at the end of track two. Yes, we’ve heard ticking clocks opening songs before, but it works well with the nearly manic theme of the song. Another nice detail is a very effective change between major and minor keys. It leads naturally to the psychotic guitar solo in the middle.

Next one out, “Born Brilliant,” is surely the catchiest track of the album. The machine noises, the groove, the haunting guitar solo: all are elements familiar to those fond of classic British progressive rock … but there is still something to it that makes it unique. Just listen to the words: “My good contributions are counted on the fingers of one hand, no New Year’s Resolution, nothing ever goes the way I planned.” It fits in neatly with the conceptual stories of the other tracks.

The final track deserves a paragraph on it’s own. “Harvest of Souls” is a 24-minute epic, divided into six chapters, or movements, if you like. Held to be the longest composition ever by IQ, it is expected to become a classic among fans. It has all the potential, indeed, to make it. It serves well as the end of the story and the transitions between the movements are done with such elegance, I found myself shaking my head in sheer astonishment. But 24 minutes is a long time. And when it nearly makes up one half of the entire album, it seems even longer. At least it does take some attention away from the other tracks. Still, it’s hard to not appreciate what a monumental piece of music this is. Especially the three last movements are of such a character, that they bring you to a level where time and place seem to fade out.

To wrap it all up, Dark Matter is a good contribution to the progressive rock genre, however not the most innovative one. The music and the all over score, along with the understated cover art work, shows a band possibly at it’s peak after 23 years of devotion to a genre abandoned by many and not appreciated by others. The sound and the musical image, so to speak, are focused around the organic keyboards and the dynamic voice. This sometimes leads to a sound, which is slightly nasal or mid-range boosted. Otherwise, the sound is rich and dynamic. The bass and drums really hit you in the face when they’re supposed to, and the guitar is omnipresent, like a chameleon. So, with all of this packed up with mind-boggling lyrics and melodic music, Dark Matter is an album worth buying, whether you’re a fan of or a novice to the band.


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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