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Nemo - Coma CD (album) cover

COMA

Nemo

 

Eclectic Prog

4.13 | 306 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Le chant du Cygne? (Swansong)

Nemo is allegedly done after this final chapter in their discography, putting an end to one of the finest French prog bands in recent memory. All of their albums have been well-received, praised and appreciated by the progressive community. 'Coma' is a sterling monument to their craft, perhaps even their finest moment yet on record. With a drop-dead beautiful cover and artwork, the seductive package also has a 2 CD option that includes some cover songs, which may be of great interest to fans as well as the uninitiated. Nemo was the purveyor of a distinctive prog style that was unashamed to elevate French language vocals to their rightful place, propelled by the expressive guitar acrobatics of Jean-Pierre Louveton, the innovative keyboard colorations of Guillaume Fontaine and a bass/drum rhythm section that clearly understood the message and laid a thrilling foundation. Olivier Long has replaced long time bassist Lionel B. Guichard but Jean-Baptiste Itier is still the beastly percussion man he has always been. Some have likened their style to such legendary icons as Rush and Dream Theater, I truly fail to fall victim to such easy categorization. Truth be said, they have a Nemo sound that enjoys contrasts, hues, shadows and tones as well as a propensity to display some wizard-like chops in the process. This duality explains why their albums are all highly rated with nary a trace of any dud.

Play on words 'Le Coma des Mortels' (a pun on 'le Commun des Mortels') sets the pace and rage from the first seconds on, with J-P Louveton's staggering axe grind challenging the synths and the ornate piano, showing who is boss and burrowing headfirst forward. This is a circa 12 minute wallop that captures those attributes mentioned earlier, adding attractive melodies, scintillating technique and a complete sense of musical adventure, all intended to snare the unsuspecting listener and dominate their senses into submission. Louveton is a shrewd guitarist, able to dispense brash riffs with uncompromising ardor, as well as caressing his instrument with suave romanticism when needed, coercing the sensorial ooze from his muse. Newcomer Long grumbles with the finest, underpinning the bridge between rhythm and melody with a sizzling display of low end genius. Drummer Itier bashes, slashes and thunders with seasoned skill, driving all this Gallic passion with effortless zeal.

Guillaume Fontaine is a dynamic piano player, a judicious talent that is perhaps more prevalent here than in the past. He maintains that ivory touch on the next piece, the slick 'Train Fantome', a heavy, chugging guitar and synth epic locomotive propelled by the bass and drum combo. The volume pedal infused guitar licks the lower bass rumble as the ubiquitous voice of Louveton adds some classic theatrical that is the hallmark of French symphonic prog, a la Ange, Atoll, Mona Lisa and co' Bravo! The sudden apparition of electric piano caught my attention and I could not help salivating, Bravo encore!

A sitar-like sound introduces 'Comaine', another wordplay on that devilish white powder that ravages the sinuses, the brain and the soul, adding unaccredited flute (did Fontaine do that on a synthesizer?), while the thrashing guitar ravages inhumanly forward, sweeping ahead, unchallenged. A burping bass guides the barking dogs, the caravans that pass in the night and the rising bright sun. JP lops off a few dangling solos, both intense and cataclysmic. Breathtaking material and playing.

Definitely a highlight track, 'St-Guy' refers to the French word for a specific disease and not a dance move called 'La Danse de St-Guy', better translated in English as St-Vitus dance (aka Sydenham's chorea or chorea minor is a disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet). This is the ideal platform for Olivier Long to indulge in a spectacular bass solo that hops, jerks and collapses with imminent grace. The following wah-wah drenched guitar solo is a celestial display of talent and an all-around bold and magnificent testimony to Nemo's talent.

'Tu n'es Pas Seul' translates as 'you are not alone' and showcases a jazzier and more experimental side, led by some echoed-keyboards, droning e-piano, tick-tock beat and JP's suavely murmuring voice which here reminds one of the mercurial Ange maestro Christian Decamps. Off the charts and hypnotic, the pleasure is divine, an oblique ballad that has all kinds of aromas and flavors, juxtaposing a melancholy feeling with a hint of 'chanson francaise', as Long again penetrates his big bad bass deep into the fleshy, feminine core. Clanging, chiming and then suddenly tortured like some rejected lover longing to rejoin the bliss, Louveton exults and orgasms, fast and furious on his fret board. Fantastic experience.

The title track takes a dozen plus minutes to enjoy but within seconds the colossal mood is set, the mellotron kettle blazing, the ornate piano fire burning and the rough guitar boiling, quickly offering room to a nearly medieval expanse, then the arrival of a military beat and a missile-like lead, more rhythmic shuffling and a true sense of overload and confusion. Tres bien, so let's do it again or as they say in French 'encore, cheri!' The main guitar riff is a classic Martin Barre blast, lower register but powerful, slashing drums and impassioned vocalizations that are further sweetened by slick synth bending. Thick, juicy, insane, audacious and deranged, all the symptoms of a comatose musical mind. Mellotron choir, twinkling piano and sheer unadulterated bombast finish off this masterpiece.

The 2 CD set has two interesting covers from Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin as well as a 'La Divine Comedie' a trio of pieces from previously recorded yet unreleased material. Nemo will remain a monument to modern French prog and we can only hope that this is just a rest period and the crew will be back.

5 blackouts

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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