I’ve often said I see myself as a musical ‘Indiana Jones’, searching through the musical waters for little nuggets and gems of deliciousness. Music that can transport you to a different place and make the world seem insignificant in comparison.
Quite often though, it is the music that searches me out, as if I am a magnet, attracting all that is good in this wonderful musical stratosphere.
My good friend Aloys Martens from RockLiveRadio recommended Progradar to Mark Reijven, guitar player with Dutch progressive/metal band Nem-Q and, after a few emails passed back and forth, the promo for their latest EP, ‘Fault Lines – Subduction Zone’, arrived in my inbox.
It only took a couple of listens to draw me into this intriguing piece of music and for me to find out more about this interesting band.
Nem-Q were formed in 2004. The five-piece band from Nederweert (The Netherlands) produced a unique blend of melodic rock/metal, jazz/fusion rhythms and pop rock influences on their first album ‘Opportunities of Tomorrow’ (2007). Comments were very positive. In the five years since that first release, the band mainly focused on their live performances and musical development, thus creating Nem-Q’s own sound.
In 2012 they released a new concept album ‘301.81’ which showcased the development that Nem-Q had gone through. The title of the album refers to the medical term for a personality disorder. ‘301.81’ distinguishes itself from its predecessor by having much more complex melodies and vocal lines, heavier riffs and a much darker tone.
The second EP will carry the subtitle ‘Terranes’: the emerging of new rock formations after a landslide. ‘Terranes’ will be available later this year as a merged digipack with ‘Subduction Zone’.
Nem-Q are Paul Sieben (vocals, guitar), Mark Reijven (guitar), Maarten Meeuws (bass), Dennis Renders (keys, vocals) and Twan Bakker (drums, percussion).
And now, the music…..
Opener Inner Struggle begins with a staccato riff and swirling keyboards while the percussion thunderously provides the backing. The vocals are quite stentorian and precise. It is like a smorgasbord of modern progressive metal mixed with 80’s heavy rock, like the Scorpions having an illegal liaison with Symphony X and it works really well. The gentler sections are punctuated by acoustic guitar and delightful piano and Paul has a great range to his voice mixing the bombastic with the humble and restrained with aplomb. The frenetic progressive metal elements are like a wild ride, epitomised by the brilliantly over the top keyboard solo about four minutes in and the crunching riffs that abound throughout and that lead the track out to a measured and masterful ending.
Shooting Stars has a much more restrained feel to it as it enters the fray with gentle acoustic guitar and reserved keyboards. The vocals are clipped and deliberate adding gravitas to this calm and considered track. It dances along with a gossamer-like step, filling you with an incredible lightness and ease to your soul and a feeling of well being. It has a feel of some of the more composed Marillion tracks of latter years, mature and sensible, yet there is a playfulness lying just under the surface.
Vanity is one of the best progressive metal tracks I’ve heard in a long while, a brooding opening built up by fractious and insistent guitar riffs puts you on edge, the percussion adds a note of apprehension and then the vocals come in with a prophetic tone to complete the dark nature. This feeling is carried on as the guitars take on a more urgent note, driven on by the bass and drums and a heavy riff presages the building of the harmonised vocals into something very like Metallica at their pompous best. It is a gripping song that will not you look away, there a little intricacies, twist and turns that lead you up blind alleyways, it feels very angst ridden in places, especially on the rising chorus that makes the hairs lift on the back of your neck in a spine-tingling fashion. This is one of those tracks where, as soon a sit is finished, you immediately press play again for another dose of its stylish brilliance. It is a suitably impressive canvas of musical intensity that is being painted before your very eyes and the repeated chorus and powerful riffing hold your attention right until the heartfelt ending.
The final track on the EP is a laid back, if a little sinister in places, instrumental. Desaturate has a jangling guitar at its core, one that seems to be taking you on a hushed journey of foreboding and mischievousness. It moves across your psyche in a stealthy fashion leaving little notes of trepidation with every footstep. A deliciously dark and mysterious end to this wonderful record.
Nem-Q have delivered a brilliant twenty minutes of intense progressive rock music with more than a healthy dose of metal. Very impressive musically and with some excellent songwriting, it drew me in from the first note. I am now waiting with extremely bated breath for the next instalment.
Released 19th February 2016.