Allan Holdsworth, ©2004 Linda Shulman
Allan Holdsworth, ©2004 Linda Shulman
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Nil Novo Sub Sole NIL
"Nil Novo Sub Sole" (2005)
[Unicorn Records]

In the world of progressive rock there are always some bands that seem to lurk under the surface, waiting for major recognition. One of those bands that appears ready to make the breakthrough is NIL. Formed in 1999 this five piece outfit from France seems to have all the right elements to become the darlings of the prog community.

NIL as mentioned came into existence in 1999 consisting of Benjamin Croizy (keyboards), David Maurin (guitars, flute), Samuel Maurin (bass, Stick) and Frank Niebel (drums). For most of the band’s time together they were primarily performing prog of an instrumental nature with only slight vocal elements. All that changed with the release of their third release a concept piece where vocalist Roselyne Berthert made an appearance. The highly acclaimed CD entitled Forty Days on the Sinai won rave reviews and happily Berthert returns this time more fully incorporated into the group sound.

The music created by NIL is a challenging form of symphonic prog that goes from angular cascading washes of busy musicianship to more gothic pastoral, atmospheric interludes. In amongst all of this is a confident playing style that borrows from a more traditional prog vocabulary incorporating abrupt changes in time and tempo and a wonderful interplay between all of the musicians. One minute the keyboard performs a brief solo accent which is followed by an intricate base line only to be interrupted by a stinging guitar lead. All this is then stopped to make room for a return to the composition’s main theme. Throughout Berthert’s vocals alternate between sharp soprano vocalizations, almost like an additional instrument, before changing into a seductive, breathy lower key delivery. Her voice mixed with the complex, busy musicianship makes for the heady moments, almost like riding a rollercoaster. Nil Novo Sub Sole opens with the breath-taking 20 minute epic “Le Gardien” before seamlessly rolling into the shortest track, “Linceul” a mere four minutes and then proceeds into the fourteen minute “Deregeneration.” And as if that wasn’t enough there are two more eight minute compositions and a six minute closer. Whew.

Trying to describe the music of NIL is nearly impossible; there are so many elements at work simultaneously. It’s like traveling in a maze and around every corner is something new and exciting or mysterious and scary, which is not to say NIL is difficult or unpleasant to listen to, not at all! Nil Novo Sub Sole is one of those symphonic prog releases that hits all the right marks. Here you’ll find plenty of angularity and moments of discord surrounded by more than enough melody and striking musicianship. If you enjoy symphonic prog that’s a little on the challenging side this is definitely a must ad to CD collection. It’s certainly one my favorites of 2005 and gets my highest recommendation.

Review by Jerry Lucky
October 20, 2005