IQ
Dark Matter


4.0
excellent

Review

by ProgressiveTheory USER (9 Reviews)
July 22nd, 2009 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Dark Matter is an intresting release that falls nothing short of what connotations people have with the word 'progressive'

Many progressive rock bands get overshadowed by larger and/or more commercial bands in movements made toward a specific subgenre. Case in point is what has become a listener’s obsession with metalcore, and although admittedly in my opinion not all of it is bad but made for the wrong reason. Music should be made from a musician’s desire to create and express without worrying what people will say or think about it; music shouldn’t be about trying to make the top 20 or anything like that, just being an individual. After gaining an experienced musical palette, I doubt that many would still find the same enjoyment in generic radio music. Regardless of all that, IQ have stuck to being themselves even if that has meant not having everyone recognize their name. Although I have only recently become a fan of IQ’s music, I hear some great musical ideas that make me smile.

…Which brings me to IQ’s 2004 release, Dark Matter. Ironically the album isn’t overly dark, but just has a great atmosphere of prog, color, proper instrument playing, and exciting compositions. In music, less-is-more is something that really can have multiple applications, such as the number of tracks on an album. When I bought Rush’s Hemispheres, I knew that although there were only four tracks on the album, they must be good – and I was right! There are five tracks on Dark Matter, two of them being epic-length prog pieces, and all reveal a unique flavor and mindset when listened to a few times. Dark Matter will be decent on a first run-through, but to truly get your money out of it, listen to it until the light bulb comes on (it will if you like progressive music).
On this album, IQ is:
• Peter Nicholls – lead and back vocals
• Martin Orford – keyboards, backing vocals
• Mike Holmes – guitars
• John Jowitt – bass, backing vocals
• Paul Cook – drums and percussion

IQ overall has a sound that screams influence from other 70’s progressive bands as well as trying to add a new touch to certain things. The compositions display a good amount of theory and ability to move through intricate time signatures. For example “Sacred Sound,” the album’s first epic track, opens with a series of legato chords played by the keyboard’s string section setting. Beginning in F# minor, the same progression gradually ascends through the first four notes of the F# major scale with each scale degree becoming the tonic for that series of chords. It ends in a C suspension just before breaking into the real key of most of the rest song: F. That is seriously some great stuff to listen to, just for the new compositional ideas not to mention the great execution by the band mates.

Keyboards as a whole are a great part of the album and really give the band’s sound a lot of drive and forward motion which, being essential elements of jazz, are essential elements of progressive rock. From the opening of the first track, the listener is bombarded by the many abilities of IQ’s keyboard section. In the third track, “You Never Will,” around 3:10 the keyboard breaks into a synth solo which is one of the keyboard highlights on the album along with the 6/4 solo in “Harvest of Souls.” Martin Orford displays a great choice of tones throughout the album, whether being organ, piano, synth, or other sound effects. Overall, keyboard adds so much to the music that when listening to albums with lighter usage of keys they’re completely put to shame. I sense that possibly some Genesis influence was involved here.

Bass and drums also do a great job of holding their own on this record. Cook has some tasteful fills and a few good set-ups to go with the band’s hits. Auxiliary percussion also is a nice touch and adds some sophistication and some texture to different tracks. Instead of beating his kit to death, the drummer has realized that, once again, less is more and musical is better than technical. John Jowitt shows versatility not in just the different feels and styles that the ensemble goes through, but also different tones which the bass is capable of. Bass is not a trebly, twang-fest anymore but actually an instrument with its own place in the mix. On “Red Dust Shadow” he even pulls out the vocal-esque fretless and digs in. On other songs he also demonstrates classic rock tone for all of you traditionalists out there. Not to mention he experiments with pedal effects – that’s right, pedals are no longer just for guitarists (they never really have been, but…)!

Which brings up guitar; the guitar in IQ is well-used and isn’t overpowering as it is in most ensembles. It is simply enough to deliver added contrast, melody, and the occasional solo, such as the one in “You Never Will.” Vocals for the most part are decent in a prog rock kind of way. Look at The Mars Volta or Mastodon, classically trained vocals are clearly not the emphasis. One comment (mentioned later as well) is that since harmonized vocals add such a nice polish to the band’s music, why not make a little more use of them? With a little extra harmony, they would be less of a back seat feature to the album and maybe would even seem a little less nasal. Maybe I’m just too used to all of the things that Steve Wilson does with vocals, but a little extra pizzazz to spruce up these plain vocal melodies wouldn’t hurt, especially being a progressive band.

Although track-by-track review aren’t so great I have learned, I wanted to take time to dissect the last, epic finale of the record: “Harvest of Souls.” A pretty, major guitar riff opens this track with vocals: a rather effective duo. This combination continues for a while before some light background string effects and brief wind chimes enter. Chorus effects from the keys eventually bring it more into the foreground of the sound. Then at around 4:15 the rest of the band enters and continues in the old-time, laid-back feel of the song stated earlier. After a militant snare drum roll and warped vocal effects, the song starts to get good. A new section of the song beginning around 6:20 reminds me a lot of Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise.” At least this 7/4 section is admittedly pretty sweet even if it does a great job of citing influences. The keyboard adds a lot to this section, as does the bass with great mid-range growl and pedal effects. Near the nine minute mark, the song takes another turn with piano, sweet vocals, and great harmonized guitars. Emotive feel from the bass and drums, just how progressive rock should be. Shortly after the eleven minute mark, the ensemble dives into a great, organ-driven section which alternates between a bar of 5/8 and a bar of 6/8. Asymmetrical time signatures are one of my favorite parts of progressive music and this is no different. Eventually the band is only playing in 5/4 and the end of this section is heralded by some great diminished chords and tritone guitar work. Space effects give way to some quarter note piano chords and a vocal melody. Auxiliary percussive effects here are a nice added touch, as is the counterpoint dotting of the guitar in the background. Arpeggios on the piano and ambient vocal melodies lead the band into a new feel around 15:30. Then a cut time feel settles in and guitar melodies are a powerful introduction to yet another well-done vocal segment with string sounds from the keys in the background. Slightly before the eighteen minute mark the band changes into a great, original 6/4 feel which eventually becomes the underlying ground for a pretty decent synth solo. In the next section I really dig the octave effect on the vocals and the tone of the organ (I think it might be called farfisa but I’m unsure). Angelic, major chords break out at 21:10 and then harmonized vocals enter after a guitar melodic fragment. Harmonized vocals work so well for this group that I wonder why they chose not to make a little more use of them. A guitar solo over the major chord progression fades out and ends this epic track. Great chart in true progressive style!

I recommend this record to fans of any kind of progressive music at all, as it really is quite good after you take time to soak it in. I’m definitely anxious to get my hands on another IQ release, as I only wonder how their other albums compare with this one. Support a lesser known band though, and at least give one song a download; I recommend certain parts of all of them.



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user ratings (38)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
ProgressiveTheory
July 23rd 2009


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm still learning how to do these reviews, so any constructive criticism would be helpful

jrowa001
July 23rd 2009


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

im not a user that helps out on reviews much, but this is an excellent album. my fav IQ album. actually reminded me to rate it haha. their new one is supposed to be pretty good as well.

i recommend you get "Pure" by Pendragon

ProgressiveTheory
July 23rd 2009


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I haven't heard of them but i'll check it out. you seem to be the site's only fan anyway so far. lol.

Poet
July 23rd 2009


5933 Comments


Review's actually really good. The only thing that bugs me in reviews is the whole time signature thing that some people do in their reviews. I know absolutely nothing about this, and it's sometimes boring for me to read. Luckily I started teaching myself keyboard a couple years ago (really need to start doing that again) and I understood the whole chord section of the review. Finally, as one of the few people on the site who appreciates track-by-track reviews if done right, I loved the gigantic paragraph on Harvest of Souls, sans the time signature part.

jrowa001
July 23rd 2009


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

well im one of the few members here that listen to a lot of prog rock other than just Porcupine Tree haha. nice to see a new user who has written some good reviews for us prog rock fans

ProgressiveTheory
July 23rd 2009


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^Thanks. I'm trying to review things. I'm not sure how great i am at it tho, being a noob here. I'm a huge theory nerd tho so this is kinda fun


to poet and pendulum: thanks for advice. i think i actually like the whole bit about time signatures because i think it helps give an outline as to what im talking about so i may continue to do that if i write something about an epic song, but i guess idk. personal opinion. but if you have anything else, its appreciated cuz im new.


Poet
July 23rd 2009


5933 Comments


well im one of the few members here that listen to a lot of prog rock other than just Porcupine Tree haha

You listen to a lot more music than anyone period lol.

Prophet178
July 23rd 2009


6397 Comments


Frequency rules so ill definitely check this out, thanks for the review.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
July 23rd 2009


4950 Comments


i really do understand that prog rock fans probably don't understand the definition of succint (with respect to the music), but you really should aim for this when reviewing... instead of describing the instrumental abilities individually.

try this for your next review: write it in 3 paragraphs or less, in 500 words or less... and refrain from sequential instrument-by-instrument reviewing.

never was a big fan of IQ, but i'll try this out. i used to love neo-prog.

ProgressiveTheory
July 23rd 2009


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hokay. I figured that if prog fans think that way, possibly the review should cater to them? I listen to a lot more than progressive music, it just happens to be a fav. I'm going to try and shorten the next review tho.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
July 23rd 2009


4950 Comments


Definitely cool if you're doing some crowd sourcing, but there aren't many prog fans here. I do the same thing with hip-hop... I could write ginormous reviews about every facet of a record, but I don't; most users won't read a long review for something they're not that interested in.

I'm not trying to be harsh here - just trying to point out that not many people are going to read 1000 word essays on neo prog groups they don't know :-/

heck it makes your job easier.

Piglet
July 23rd 2009


4654 Comments


intriguing indeed.

ProgressiveTheory
July 23rd 2009


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the advice. I'll take that into account when i write my next review

Willie
Moderator
July 23rd 2009


15976 Comments


Music should be made from a musician’s desire to create and express without worrying what people will say or think about it; music shouldn’t be about trying to make the top 20 or anything like that, just being an individual.
I don't really agree with this. There are many reasons for music to be made and simply making something that is easy to listen to that doesn't require any thought or emotional involvement is just as valid as the opposite.

As for advice, stop using "me" "in my opinion" and "I". There are always other ways to express the same sentence that doesn't involve those types of phrases (unless the review is geared that way on purpose, which this one doesn't seem to be). You also don't need to re-post the band's line-up unless it's significant for some reason (usually it's not).

Digging: Necropoli - I

ProgressiveTheory
July 23rd 2009


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

If musicians choose to make music that has no soul or personal relevance at all, why are they making it? Even if your music is mainstream, if you're involved in it, its fine. If a musician is making music they don't like, don't care about it, and aren't having fun, what is the point then? I just don't see how dishonesty in music is just as valid. Not trying to be a jerk, im just saying that's what i think

Willie
Moderator
July 23rd 2009


15976 Comments


Well, now you're taking things further than your original statement. The original statement only said that people shouldn't make music simply to make the top 20 and now you're expanding to include music they don't like, don't care about, and aren't having fun with. Either way, I still disagree with you. If you have to have a job, making music and travelling the world is a great occupation. Plus, the music makes other people happy even if the person creating it doesn't particularly appreciate it and that makes it valid.

ProgressiveTheory
July 23rd 2009


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree that it is important from an occupational standpoint. However sometimes when you can detect a lack of honesty in a group's music, it ruins it for me. Therefore not all music created that is dishonest can be enjoyable. however some is, so i see your points but i stick by mine.

Willie
Moderator
July 23rd 2009


15976 Comments


Of course if music doesn't feel honest a large group will abstain from it (such as Jessica Simpson's country album) but a majority of music listeners are only concerned with catchiness and the level of enjoyment it brings. I'm on both sides. Some genres need to feel honest and not forced for me to like them and other genres just need to be enjoyable and I'll be ok.

TheNotrap
June 5th 2012


8071 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Excellent album.

Digging: Lago - Tyranny

TheNotrap
December 15th 2012


8071 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

^ this.




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