May 18, 2023

After a wait of six and a half years since the band’s debut album, Say, Cairo have finally released their much anticipated follow-up album. For a new band, containing musicians who at the time, with the exception of keyboard man and joint vocalist Rob Cottingham, had little experience of playing prog rock, Say was an impressively mature record, produced by prog’s very own ‘army of one,’ John Mitchell, whose influence can be felt right through the album, and who again takes production duties on the new disc. The music on their debut didn’t attempt to blind the listener with musical complexity, but neither was it a lightweight effort. Cairo established themselves as a very capable band who were able to project their music in a compelling and accessible manner … prog rock but with a focus on harmony and melody, and with a contemporary veneer.

And they’ve continued along the same lines with Nemesis, which is a somewhat heavier album, with a few tracks of full-on rock plus some quieter, more reflective pieces, and there are no lengthy epics like the ten minute Nothing To Prove on Say. The album opens with Asleep At The Wheel, an aggressive and very powerful prog metal opener, sounding as heavy as Cairo have ever done so on disc, and likely to become a stage favourite. Everything good about melodic power prog can be heard on this track. The guitar work of James Hards is prominent on this song, as is his work right the way through the album, especially on tracks like Tripwire, released as a single, and the powerfully performed title track Nemesis, with Hards producing some blistering runs up and down the fretboard.

But they’re not only about power. The delightful Glow, also a single, features divine vocals from Rachel Bayley which really pull at the heartstrings. Her vocals are also to the fore on The Love, a slow emotional ballad with a melancholic backing which takes on a heavier hue midway through. Having two vocalists helps with the band’s sound, giving the band harmonies and different leads, which can be heard on New Beauty, where Rachel’s voice alongside Cottingham’s gel together beautifully. The upbeat Jumping On The Moon could have been a single and has an intro bringing Van Halen’s Jump to mind.  They perform a very emotive instrumental, Save The Earth, with keys well upfront. It’s a slow evocative piece evoking the work of Vangelis. It’s a gorgeous piece of music, with its message of ‘what are we doing to the planet ?’ and is an album highlight, as is the atmospheric Déjà Vu ( no, not David Crosby’s song ), though it’s a slightly shorter version than the one which appears on Cairo’s 2020 ‘live’ album, Alive In Holland.  

Nemesis is an album which deserves to see Cairo increasing its profile and having their name really put out there. Their debut album contained several moments of pure prog magic and, with Nemesis, they’ve added to and exceeded it. This is an enthralling album indeed, one for those who like well-played and accessible modern prog, and it deserves to do well.