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Top 5: Albums of my grade nine year, #4 – Nero’s “Welcome Reality”

A dubstep concept album? It's better than it sounds

Over five installments of this Top 5, our music writer breaks down their top five albums of their grade nine year.

Welcome Reality was probably the first concept album I ever willingly listened to. Unfortunately, I listened to all the songs on shuffle and totally missed out on the epic narrative about a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk universe.

At this point I had just started consuming the likes of Skrillex and deadmau5 (we’ll get to them later), eager to find more angry robot sounds and thumping beats. A friend came up to me right before class started and asked me if I had listened to Nero at all, proffering an earbud. Still very ignorant as to the wide variety of sounds EDM encompassed, I took the earbud and began to listen.

Damn. Wow. Right there in that hallway, my life was once again changed.  

The production on this thing is lush. The excellent use of reverb and delays create an epic sense of space and scale. Main melodies are sometimes carried by stadium electric guitars backed by huge drums. Song structures often alternate between huge string sections and massive, wobbling basses, bringing a stadium rock vibe to the world of dubstep.

This album also stands out from its 2011 dubstep contemporaries for its excellent use of Alana Watson’s vocals, which adds a human heart to the core of the project. These two things combined have helped this album age incredibly well in comparison to a lot of the other music I listened to at age 15. Hell, it’s aged well in comparison to a lot of other dubstep.

Let’s begin with the standout bangers. “Promises” remains one of my favourite melodic dubstep tracks to this day, eschewing standard EDM song structure for a more pop-style verse-chorus-verse format. “Me and You” is another standout, making use of anthemic guitars, wild synths, and call and response chords that induce headbanging within 10 seconds of hearing them.

There aren’t really any bad songs on this album; just some painfully mediocre ones. “Fugue State” is so repetitive in its structure and monophonic in its melodies that it damn near puts me in a fugue state. Is this for effect? Probably. Does it still bop? Sure. But it sure gets old after 30 seconds.

I still love this album dearly, probably even more than 15-year-old me. It’s one of the few dubstep projects I’m not ashamed to admit I listen to at 21.

Andrew McWhinney

Andrew McWhinney is a fifth-year English and political science combined honors student, as well as The Gateway's 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief. He was previously The Gateway's 2018-19 Opinion Editor. An aspiring journalist with too many opinions, he's a big fan of political theory, hip-hop, and being alive.

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