I think there's no need to give an extensive introduction of the French progressive rock band Nemo as this band already exist for thirteen years. Since their acclaimed second album Présages (2003) they have a steady line-up. Vocalist-guitarist Jean Pierre Louveton, the leader of the band, still can dispose of keyboardist Guillaume Fontaine as his melodic counterpart and the rhythm section still consists of drummer Jean Baptiste Itier and bass player Lionel B. Guichard. Their latest release Le Ver Dans Le Fruit marks a fresh start since Nemo have signed a deal with Progressive Promotion Records. This record company could give the band the well-deserved recognition around the globe. This double album deals with manipulation, influential religious organizations, commercial companies and TV networks.
During the opening piece Stipant Luporum the listener will be treated to a soft a cappella opening part that already highlights the vocal capacities of Nemo. Next is Trojan on which the distinguished sound of Nemo can be heard. Louveton's guitars are always in the forefront of the mix, sometimes doubled, but always sounding great. Perhaps he's not a typical prog rock guitarist, but his playing skills covering styles like blues, metal and a touch of jazz, provide a typical sound of his own. The long instrumental parts are always tasteful especially the combination of keyboards and guitar. Migram 1960 is for the greater part a vocal track sung in French, which is rather unusual in the world of prog rock where English is more or less the official language. However, it sounds very accessible and natural to my ears.
Sometimes it seems as if some influences of Frank Zappa and Steve Vai can be heard during the vocal parts, but always slightly hidden underneath the guitar layers. Verset XV contains soft and Lazuli related vocals with the same intensity as their compatriots are known for. When the slightly distorted guitar starts a solo, the resemblance has gone, but the melancholic feel remains which is strengthen by the sound of a kind of Theremin. During Un Pied Dans La Tombe the keyboards sound like a complete string ensemble; then the song gently becomes more powerful creating a nice kind of heaviness. When the guitar is accompanied by soft piano playing it provides a perfect atmosphere.
Neuro Market is a progressive and challenging piece. The instrumental part already demands attention, but when the two voices appear together with an odd piano rhythm, you can hear all the band's qualities. I hear influences of early Rush, but also the sound of Steve Vai returns while Fontaine plays a typical Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) keyboard solo. Towards the end the sound of bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and King Crimson put in a word as well. The final song of the first CD is Le Fruit De La Peur with a dominating piano accompanied by mellow guitar play, while the bass of Guichard is more prominent in the mix adding his impressive skills to the overall sound. The keyboards are used in a typical prog rock manner.
The second CD kicks off with A La Une containing a fine guitar riff in combination with keyboards which gave me a feeling of recognition. Next is Triste Fable in which the keyboard strings are combined with King Crimson-like guitars and a prominent bass. This mostly instrumental piece gently flows through soft and emotional vocals. Allah Deus is a real energetic instrumental composition with outstanding keyboards in different styles while a guitar plays cool riffs and melodies in the vein of Mörglbl. Opium is an acoustically based song which underlines the adventurous drumming of Itier and the impressive and intense vocals of Louveton. This time the piano perfectly plays unisono with the bass resulting in a great sound.
With a playing time of seventeen minutes Arma Diania, the final track, is also the longest. The acoustic piano gradually makes way for nice and powerful twin guitar riffs. This piece also contains folky passages showing how close the folk music of Ireland is related to that of the French region of Bretagne. As far as I'm concerned this piece is the absolute highlight of the album! Both keyboards and guitar get a reasonable amount of attention and the solo spots sometimes push each other to the limit.
Over the years I listened to Nemo regularly and I never felt disappointed about the quality of the songs. Their ability to write catchy melodies and songs is flawless. With the release of Le Ver Dans Le Fruit, they have moved the bar a few notches higher and the outcome is an outstanding progressive album that deserves the attention of all prog heads out there. I think it's a shame if you skip this one.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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