It took no less than seven years before the British progressive rock band Cairo launched a new album after their debut album Say (see review), which was released in 2016. Not that the band was in hibernation. Not at all. A lot of things happened with the band since they released their debut. An album which was recorded by Rob Cottingham (vocals, keyboards), Rachel Hill (vocals), James Hards (guitars), Paul Stocker (bass) and Graham Brown (drums). Unfortunately, the singer's health problems caused her to leave the band shortly after the album's release. On the tour promoting the album, she was replaced by Lisa Driscoll, who briefly became a full member of the group. The year 2020 brought the live album Alive In Holland which was recorded at the Parkvilla theatre in the Netherlands in 2019. A concert which we reviewed on this site (see review). The live album contains the same line-up as on their debut, except for the female vocals which were sung by Sara Bayley. After that we all know that the pandemic came in 2020. I guess during the period of the lockdown a lot of songs were written and recorded before the next studio album could be presented to the progressive rock audience. So finally Nemesis is here to enjoy!
The album was made under the supervision of John Mitchell who made it sound fabulous. Paul Tippett was responsible for the great graphics. Those who see the cover the first time might be shocked. It can certainly be astonishing and shocking with its message stimulated by the content of the album. The human head (which is Cottingham himself on the picture) symbolizes planet Earth. The blood flowing down the temples are continents flooded with war, anger and all the difficulties that representatives of homo sapiens encounter in their lives. The lyrics raise global human problems and dilemmas seen through the eyes of an individual.
Music wise on Nemesis Cairo picks up where they left off on their debut Say. Meaning melodic catchy progressive rock tunes throughout the entire album. With the only differences being that the band is presenting some tracks in a more powerful metal/ hard rock style. This already applies to the opener Asleep At The Wheel but also on tracks such as Trip Wire and Rogue. Songs which I already heard when they played in the Netherlands. They were at the time two of the three new songs. The other new one was Déjà Vu. A song which also can be found on this album. Trip Wire and Rogue are catchy tunes and feature strong heavy guitar parts done by Hards. Well he is the musician who can show off all of his musical talents on this new album. During the concert in my country he couldn't completely show how capable he is on his electric guitar. Only occasionally playing a solo on his instrument as on Nothing To Prove. Most of the time he was accompanying Rob and Sarah while they were singing the songs. After the show I told Rob that James should have been more in the spotlights on the new compositions. I guess he took my advice whole hearted because he shines on the album all the way. Listen for example to his excellent solos on songs such as Déjà Vu, New Beauty, Glow and The Love. The album is of course not all about heavy rock songs. The album has a fine balance between up tempo pieces and more mellow tunes. The earlier mentioned Glow, The Love and Déjà Vu are good examples of a great mellow tunes. Female lead singer Bayley did a great job on the entire album vocal wise. Sometimes reminding me of Olivia Sparnenn-Josh of Mostly Autumn as you can hear on New Beauty, Glow and The Love. Also the songs on which she shares the lead vocals with Cottingham work out in a perfect way. Just listen to Déjà Vu, Jumping On The Moon and New Beauty and you know what I mean.
The instrumental Save The Earth and two relatively long songs New Beauty and closing track Nemesis are for me probably the musical highlights on the album. They contain more than enough beautiful musical moments which makes your heart beat faster. The first title is very much a Vangelis inspired tune with Cottingham in the leading role. The other two titles feature strong instrumental parts on which both Cottingham and Hards shine.
The outside world had to wait a long time for Nemesis but it was worth the wait all the way!
Because Nemesis is a rather modern and very varied sounding album that will appeal to most lovers of progressive rock. An album with great symphonic, compelling and accessible songs which feature strong melodies and have a fine balance between up tempo pieces and more mellow tunes. Therefore highly recommended.
To end this review I'll have to mention that Sarah Bayley has left Cairo in the meantime due to other commitments. Too bad because she certainly lifted the songs on this album to an even higher level. The good news is however that the band have already found a replacement. Kat has joined the band and is already the fourth female vocalist in the band. She can already be heard on their brand new single Salvation which will feature on the next album - details of which will be published in due course. With this new addition the future of the band will look bright again, that's for sure!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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