Rising from the ashes of the progressive rock band Ulysses from the nineties, the German band Neronia made a fresh start in 2002. However, after a few years the band split up again and all band members went their own separate ways. 2006 saw the beginning of a new line-up that started to work on new material with the album Blue Circles (2008) as the outcome. Due to several setbacks, like a breaking in into their studio, the follow-up Limnotapes (see review) was released in 2014. During the sessions for this album, it became clear that their keyboard player Michael Stein would leave the band for personal reasons. He left Neronia behind as the quartet they are today consisting of vocalist and keyboard player Falk Ullmann, guitarist Rüdiger Zaczyk, bass player Lutz Beberweil and drummer Dirk Hartel.
The album Limnotapes contained a progressive blend of music dominated by guitar and keyboards, but the new album Nero is more guitar orientated. The departure of the keyboard player also means that the emphasis on the music has changed from instrumental to vocal parts. I'm not stating that Falk Ullmann is a bad singer, but his attempt to create a nasty metal voice during the opening track Shadowland fails. His voice sounds too thin to really impress; it takes you back to the neo-progressive rock of the nineties. If you listen to Raindrops you'll probably agree with me. The only element you'll miss is a flashy keyboard solo. Nevertheless Neronia emphasized on their harder, more modern sound on Nero.
However, I still think Neronia are firmly grounded in the nineties, but with The Real Thing they persistently try to move towards a new sound. Although the bass sound on the album is great and guitarist Zaczyk shows some nice licks and solos, a real keyboard player would have lifted the music to a higher level. After several listens, I also noticed that it's not just the vocals that take me back in time, but also the drums sound like prog rock instead of the prog metal style they want so badly.
So, eventually Nero ends up being a neo-progressive rock album without noticeable keyboards, a nineties sound and a ditto production, a great bass and a guitar sound that adds power, but fails to change the music to prog metal. I guess this is not what they had in mind when they recorded the album.
*** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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