(06 July 2002) The debut self-titled album (Musea (France) FGBG 4420.AR, 2001) from the French band Skeem is an eight-track collection of well-arranged and accessible neo-progressive rock tracks. Although lead vocals are by Serge Barbaro--who has been compared favourably to George Michael--we were drawn to the album by the band's two female backing singers, Cathy Lully Croux and Sabrina Bendjema, the lush Asia-like progressive rock arrangements and the album cover.
In addition to lead vocals, Serge plays all guitars, keyboards and provides backing vocals as well. The lineup is completed by Emma M (drums), Bertrand Hulin-Bertaud (bass), Barry Barbaro (keyboards) and Fabrice Rives (keyboards). The material is all sung in English; lyrics are by Mark Eaton who also designed the album's artwork.
We asked Mark about the young woman on the album cover. He told us, "The main focus was the reflection in the glasses, and I just cooked the girl up out of thin air because I needed a nose to put the glasses on. Also, I wanted her to look like she was watching something like Gone With The Wind as she has full trust in the people sponsoring World War III and loves to be irradiated whenever possible."
He continued, "Nuclear explosions being rather scarce and the effects on the skin and excess weight so permanent, she just couldn't miss this and certainly would have posed for a picture if I had been there, but the film would've melted and there's been no reliable studies yet as of just how overwelming the side effects of these events are on male participants."
But does she really exist? Mark told us, "The girl only exists in my dreams unfortunately! But I've seen some clones around the chemical plant that exploded last September--that's AZF in Toulouse. Did you hear about that? I live right next door!"
Lush symphonic style keyboard arrangements and sweeping guitar solos grace the album's tracks. Several of the tracks have alternating keyboard and guitar solos which work extremely well playing off each other. The album's tracks are each 7-9 minute mini-epics typified by tempo changes and grand musical themes.
Skeem's music has been favourably compared not only to Asia but also to Saga at times. The rhythm section--percussion and bass--are tight and crisp. The female backing vocals--which occasionally break through into the lead position--perfectly compliment the male lead and add just the right texture to the overall sound. Production quality across the album is superb and is certain to delight listeners.
Outstanding production quality, superb arrangements and evocative vocals characterise the band's debut album. Soundbites are available from the band's website.
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The Skeem album is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is certainly a must listen!