Review: “Distorted Reality” by Neon Empire

Originally starting out life as a solo project of guitarist and clean-vocalist Hassan Ali, Neon Empire evolved into a four piece Electronic Metalcore band with the addition of unclean vocalist John Collard, bassist Tom Ambrose and the rarest of things in drummer Veronika Švecová. August 2019 saw the line up complete and the Dublin based quartet unveiled a pair of singles before their debut EP “Distorted Reality“, recorded at JSRAudio Belfast and mixed and mastered by Josh Sid Robinson.

From the very start of “Closer to the Light” the genre shifting within Neon Empire makes for an interesting prospect; Nu-Metal introspective lyrics without overdoing the angst levels, some solid Metalcore riffs and a vibrant lead into solo in the final third while also having the electronics of early Palisades but in a more buried fashion. It’s pretty clear that the band have ideas that transcend the genre as a whole and when “This Clarity” hits with the distinctive icy synths and Melodic Death Metal overtones of In Flames and unclean vocal prowess from Collard they seem to have found their creative space and the right balance. The clean vocals make them commercial enough to gain mainstream success, the Dublin accents being masked by Americanisms, while some purists will find fault in anything that they hear and point to those cleans as being an issue. The truth is that they’re not as the music isn’t slowed down to allow for them, instead they lend that sing-a-long factor and a melancholic ache, especially on “The Fallen” while giving the band a broader, more rounded sound.

When it comes to “Crave” the electronics are bolder in the mix and give that video game quality which bands like The Browning have in their sound; you can picture some of this material accompanying a Japanese RPG title, such is the quality on show. One thing that Neon Empire have avoided is using any programmed drums which gives Švecová the opportunity to show off her skills before the almost pop-punk ending plays out. Title track “Distorted Reality” has the benefit of a longer introduction that builds atmosphere and tension while also giving build up to some of the heavier moments rather than diving right into them; there are some Meshuggah grade riffs in here that are partially masked by the electronics and bleed out over multiple listens. The question here is will they mellow out, get heavier or maintain the knife edged balance between the two going forward? [7.5/10]

Track listing

  1. Closer to the Light
  2. This Clarity (ft. Jimmie Strimell & Pontus Hjelm of Dead by April)
  3. The Fallen
  4. Crave
  5. Distorted Reality

Distorted Reality” by Neon Empire is out now

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