Review Summary: And what a sad reality it is...
As far as first impressions go, Nero's late-out-of-the-gate debut long player Welcome Reality
displays all the hallmarks of a futuristic mish-mash of bang and clatter. Alongside the Bladerunner-esque album cover, recent publicity shots have seen the English duo decked out like a pair of low-rent Daft Punk idolizers: all black amidst a sterile backdrop of sparkly neon, adorned in their cover-all wraparounds. As a pair of refugee sign-ees to More Than Alot records (birthed by the originators of the glad-handing electronic crossover themselves, Chase & Status) Nero's recent turn at jumping ship from the oft-overlooked scene of late night drum & bass conundrums to the bright and flirtatious lights of commercial appeal has been followed with the same controversial back-chat as that of their apparent mentors. The alluring hypnotic and tribal-like pummel of their now vintage material discarded for your standard run-of-the-mill dubstep and electro cliche's; the old school enthusiasts finding themselves with plenty to spit about in light of the duo's apparent recent change of heart. Or lack of heart, as they've obviously done the necessary deals with the devil in exchange for a few more album sales. And truthfully, Welcome Reality
is the perfect kind of candy-coated dross that will surely find itself earmarked by dj's and the underage across the world, as the album in question is the perfect summation of empty bottles and skirt chasing. Which is sadly, all Nero have wound up becoming the arbiters of.
Following on in much the same vein as their idols, Welcome Reality
contains all the necessary frills and tricks to keep crowds satiated; tracks are chock full of dime-a-dozen stereotypes and catchy sing-along anthems that will surely go down a treat with the nocturnal sect. Their beats are loud and distracting, all riddled with the standard amount of basssss and bombast. Synth lines are chocked and dragged down by deep and disturbing rumble; female vocals cry out in siren song and proclaim everything that you need to hear in order to survive on the dancefloor, and general drunken merriment will undoubtedly follow. A sure sign that the group are obviously doing things right, which is of course a nice way of saying that the quotas of reaching the lowest common denominator are in fact, being reached. All signs of their borderline classic ep Requiem
are nowhere to be seen; the drum & bass that marked the beginning of their career discarded in favor of misbehaving electro schlock, with all evidence provided here on album opener 'Doomsday', a track that does its best to stay relevant by detonating its somewhat entertaining maelstrom of big beat house and escalating whistles by opting for the ever popular DUBSTEP BREAKDOWN. This of course, is an expected move, but that one that still rings out with a touch of guilt as you realize how desperately it was needed, as if Nero somehow lacked enough initiative or innovativeness to continue the beat on its own relatively groove-heavy steam.
Aside from these opening remarks and 'Fugue State' (which is actually a genuine attempt at growth with its stop-start paranoia) the rest of the album plays out like a steamroller of used and abused dubstep ideas. For the majority of Welcome Reality
's runtime Nero steadfastly refuse to budge as mid-tempo onslaught after mid-tempo onslaught spews forth, dispersing its earth shattering bass like candy for the masses. Despite 'Guilt' humbly beginning suspiciously similar to Loadstar's recent excellent treatment of Breakage's 'Fighting Fire' it soon falls back on the group's old tricks of rave heavy synth-work and teeth rattling misgivings. Recent single 'Me And You' teases a Daft Punk-like electro beat before dumbing it all down to it becomes a Sonny Moore wet dream, and 'Scorpions' simply fails because it can't help but choke itself to death long before its six minutes are up. In fact it's not until the album's slightly ambitious ending where things really begin to pick up; 'Promises' actually lives up to its name by strangely turning into a rollicking up-tempo outing that almost borders on synth-pop and closer 'Departure' slow boils like a post rave comedown and slowly simmers over a cruising beat that gently eases its way out of the door.
The special edition release of Welcome Reality
also contains unheralded moments that bear some reflections worth mentioning; both 'New Life' and 'Choices' remain the only two true drum & bass songs present, even though both crush on Pendulum's iconic brand of electro-rock like there was no other and the VIP mix of 'Welcome Reality' (a remix of the title track that is strangely absent from the album that gave birth to its name) isn't a complete misstep with its slightly more rougher-round-the-edges wobble. Also present is the complete audio of Nero's recent live performance with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (so all you neo-classical dubsteppers out there won't want to miss out on that one!). Other than that, it's more of the same and business as usual, and just as the world keeps on turning the dancefloors will surely find themselves another album and another group to smother with attention. In the meantime however, enjoy one of the most overblown and downright terrible electronic albums that has emerged in recent years, another testament and triumph to the attention deficit disorder child in all of us. Grow up or go home.