When someone wrote Skeem is like Clepsydra but then much better (this is however not my opinion!) and after hearing the rhythm section of the also French band Priam was participating in this band, I was very curious to hear their music. The "big man" behind this new French band is Serge Barbaro. And he was so kind to give progVisions a promotional copy. But let me first explain why I wrote the first sentence. Only the mentioning of the Priam's rhythm section indicates the potential and skills of the members of this band (Priam made two fantastic and progressive albums). And the second name Clepsydra tells us we have to do here with a Neo-prog recording. The Clepsydra resemblance comes only from the same standard keyboard presets both keyboard players use.
Emma M. - Drums; Bertrand Hulin-Bertaud - Bass; Berny Barbaro - Keyboards; Fabrice Rives - Keyboards; Cathy Lully Croux - Background Vocals; Sabrina Bendjema - Background Vocals; Serge Barbaro - All Guitars & Vocals, Keyboards & Background Vocals.
The album starts with "Good to one another" (6:05) which has a keyboard opening with exact the same keyboard sound as you can hear on the latest Clepsydra album ("Alone"). In an interview for a Dutch magazine I read that Clepsydra's keyboard player Philip Hubert don't has a problem to use standard keyboard presets if he likes them. So I think it is just a coincidence that both keyboard players are using the same presets. Skeem is playing melodic Neo-prog and Serge Barbaro has a clear voice and sings with a charming French accent. Sometimes he reminds me of Marc King the singer-bass player of Level 42. This track is one of the better songs with melodic guitar and keyboard (Fabrice Rives) solos.
"The last word" (9:08) belongs also to the better tracks of this album. I think the album has two different sides. The first one consist of melodic Neo-prog with delicious keyboards and guitar solos of Serge Barbaro. The second side is the more up-tempo melodic rock side that is simpler and has not so much variation and the same quality as the first. Third track "Trustworthy man" (7:18) has some of both sides. The middle section however is full with delicious melodic solos.
The best track of the album is "Chrysalides" (9:29). The intro is slow with guitar and beautiful keyboard strings. But after just two minutes we hear the first heartbreaking guitar solo. I love this kind of passionate soaring guitar solos played with a lot of emotion. The vocal melodies are very melodic, and the music is drenched with keyboards and on top of that the solo guitar of Serge. I just love this track.
"Eye of the world" (8:59) belongs again to the second side of this CD. After a mysterious keyboard intro, the track develops into a more simple form of Neo-prog with catchy vocal refrains where the background vocals of the two female singers can be heard. It is like the earlier mentioned composition "Trustworthy man". The instrumental parts of the track are great with nice guitar and keyboards, but the other parts are too simple for me. And to be honest it is a bit irritating to me that Skeem tries to mix these two sides of the band in one and the same track. The same story happens with "Statues" (7:19). The first part is simple Neo-prog in which I loose interest. The instrumental middle section is again fantastic with emotional keyboard and guitar solos.
The next composition "What a night" (7:13) has a nice opening in which the tension is slowly building up to the first melodic vocal refrain. The song is more like a ballad and has also a nice acoustic guitar part. Serge plays again a delicious melodic guitar solo with a lot of passion. So this track develops to one of my favourite songs of the album. This first album of Skeem is ending with "Live fast" (8:54). The slow parts I like best, nice keyboard and guitar solos and melodic vocal lines. But the more up-tempo and rockier side of this track with the vocal refrain "Live fast, die young" I don't like. But Serge has a surprise for us; the last guitar solo of this album is not only the longest (but still to short for me!) but also the best. A delicious melodic guitar solo played with a lot of passion and emotion.
Skeem has given us a good debut album with nice Neo-prog. The guitar solos of Serge Barbaro are delicious. Also there are a lot of keyboards in the music of Skeem. I hope the band can make that second album and will develop the melodic Neo-prog side of their music. The music has a lot of melody and could be for a "big" Neo-prog audience. Every time I listen to the album, I enjoy it a lot. But . I have also a feeling that it could have been a better and even fantastic album if the rockier and simple pieces where not on this album. I am very curious how this band will develop and can't wait to hear their next album.