Marillion are into brit pop (or so they say), Pendragon and Arena have dried their creative source, and Pallas aren’t enjoying a great cult following. So, at this point, the last and most remarkable neoprog representatives are IQ. Yes, you might accuse them of making the same album again and again, which is certainly undeniable, but their formula works perfectly. The last decade in the band’s career has been particularly brilliant, with true masterpieces like “Ever” (1993) or “Subterranea” (1997), and highly recommendable albums like “The Seventh House” (2000) on their credit. “Dark Matter” follows the path of their last studio effort but, as its title says, accentuating the dark and brooding side of their music.
CD starts with “Sacred Sound” (11.40), a great song (just listen the instrumental section; it’s simply spectacular) in the wake of “The Wrong Side Of Weird”; Martin Orford stands out with his wide range of keyboards and variety of sounds, most of them from the golden age of prog rock, with mellotron and church organ on the lead. The production work is also excellent, with crystal clear sound and a very strong feel from the performance.
“Red Dust Shadow” (5.53) is a good ballad with a pleasingly acoustic atmosphere which evolves into a very Pink Floyd section (Mike Holmes sounds 100% David Gilmour). Follows “You Never Will” (4.54), and it’s prog rock concentrated in less than five minutes; a ticking clock and Jowitt’s mechanical bass get us into this potential single if bands like IQ enjoyed the airplay they deserve. Well…
Pink Floyd references are again evident on “Born Brilliant” (5.20), a song with dark lyrics (which benefit from Peter Nicholls’ proverbial expressiveness) and an industrial feeling that almost are a “Welcome To The Machine” remake. Even if sounding quite predictable, the song is powerful and majestic. We must mention the musicians’ brilliant work; the whole band is in top form, specially Paul Cook, who does the best job of his career.
To close the album, the longest composition in IQ’s history, a new epic that inherits the greatness of “The Last Human Gateway” or “The Narrow Margin”. “Harvest Of Souls” (24.29) is an instant classic in the band’s repertoire, a true masterpiece in the classic tradition of symphonic rock. The suite opens with “First Of The Last”, in a very Genesis acoustic-pastoral feeling, very much like “Supper’s Ready”; after the mellow vocal break in “The Wrong Host”, the song takes a very strong momentum with a shattering electric section, where John Jowitt shines with his pumping Squiresque bass line. “Nocturne” slows down this frantic pace retaking the balladistic tone with a nice guitar melody before the storm comes back with “Frame And Form”; Orford squeezes his organ in this segment which is a strong reminder of Yes’ “war section” on “The Gates Of Delirium”, a sonic battle full of sound effects and roaring guitars.
After “Frame And Form”, “Mortal Procession” enters again the Genesis land, this time the “Trick Of The Tail” (1976) / “Wind And Wuthering” (1977) period, with Orford emulating the most baroque Tony Banks. The end of the epic sounds again like “Supper’s Ready”, closing in a majestic and grandiose mood. The only thing that impedes “Harvest Of Souls” from being an absolute masterpiece is its excess of references. In spite of that, it’s a true gift for prog lovers.
“Dark Matter”, a great album that would be a reference classic if it had been recorded 30 years ago.