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Nero - Welcome Reality

Nero, Welcome To Reality

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

NERO – aka Joe Ray and Dan Stephens – are a hard act to classify. A UK dubstep act signed to Chase & Status’ MTA Records, their sound not only adheres to that genre, but also widescreen futuristic cinema and kitsch ’80s dance.

Their debut album Welcome Reality is therefore a continually evolving affair that only intermittently satisfies.

Opening instrumental 2808 belongs in the cinematic camp and plays like Nero’s own homage to the future synth sound of Blade Runner-era Vangelis.

It’s a film nod backed up by the album’s artwork, which looks like a movie poster, and which contains the type of skyscape in the background that Ridley Scott may have created once upon a time.

Thereafter, it enters dubstep territory by way of warped synths and stop-start, fractured beats. Doomsday is as foreboding as its title suggests and, if we’re honest, a little overbearing. And still there is no hint of a vocal.

The Blade Runner vibe returns on My Eyes, which opens in tender fashion, before finally dropping in some female vocals that actually enhance the sound. It’s sensual and seductive and an example of Nero at their best.

Likewise, former single Guilt, a monster club smash by virtue of the way it mixes low basslines with warped sounding synths and euphoric vocals – or, as the PR puts it, ‘dubstep for the big time’. It’s one that looks certain to keep them on the Ibiza playlists.

Thereafter, Nero indulge some epic tendencies, with the synth sounds emerging as a wall of sound higher than the skyscapes on that cover. But there is a sense of their own importance, too… a penchant for the theatrical that threatens to become overblown.

Quite often, the album needs to get where it’s going faster, especially during the middle section where dubstep, trance and electro all jostle for position.

There is the odd moment of respite… another former single Me And You indulges some mainstream tendencies and is more pop than most tracks. As is Innocence, with its moody build-up and evocative vocals.

But Scorpions takes an age to get going and returns to Blade Runner territory for almost a minute before doing anything notable – and then still teases the listener for another minute.

Just when you think you have the measure of proceedings, though, Nero change tempo completely and hit you with the kitsch ’80s dance of Crush On You, which has a cheesy, guilty pleasure vibe that’s only enhanced further by the Darryl Hall and John Oates co-penned Reaching Out.

It’s during these moments that Nero really feel like they’re cutting loose and really indulging their passions and influences… albeit with a little dubstep and a few warped synths thrown in.

The final third of the album is arguably the sound of Nero at their best, when their remix backdrop really kicks in and the fun factor soars. But it’s sometimes a long trek to get there, which makes the album as a whole a mixed bag of varying success.

Download picks: Innocence, Crush on You, Guilt, Reaching Out

Track listing:

  1. 2808
  2. Doomsday
  3. My Eyes
  4. Guilt
  5. Fugue State
  6. Me And You
  7. Innocence
  8. In The Way
  9. Scorpions
  10. Crush
  11. Must Be The Feeling
  12. Reaching Out
  13. Promises
  14. Departure