Welcome Reality

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The idea of creating a score for a fictional film is nothing new, but London producer Daniel Stephens and Joe Ray, aka Nero, are perhaps the first act from the increasingly dominant dubstep scene to tackle such an ambitious concept with their debut album, Welcome Reality. Right from the ominous proggy opener of "2808," the year their post-apocalyptic "movie" is set in, it appears that they are up for the challenge. Having recently collaborated with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra on an equally adventurous project, the pair are no strangers to epic symphonies, and the likes of the thunderous "Doomsday," a Dizzee Rascal-esque fusion of stinging guitars, filthy basslines, and techno beats, the euphoric arms-in-the-air instrumental closer "Departure," and the atmospheric, echo-laden "Scorpions" are all underpinned by the kind of grandiose orchestral flourishes that made Vangelis a household name. But somewhere along the way, the duo seem to abandon their cinematic ambitions and head straight for the kind of bombastic, speaker-blowing pop-step favored by their label bosses, Chase & Status, such as the swaggering, metal-tinged wall of noise that is "Me and You," the fuzzy synth stabs of chart-topper "Promises," and the spacious early-'90s rave-inspired "Innocence," all of which contain the ethereal and often acrobatic vocals of Stephens' girlfriend Alana Watson. While their stadium-sized anthemic qualities are undeniable, it's a pity that their classical leanings aren't explored more often. When they drift toward the poppier end of the scale -- reworkings of the Jets' 1986 hit, "Crush on You," Carmen's '80s groove classic "Time to Move ("Must Be the Feeling)," and the Hall & Oates-sampling "Reaching Out" -- they run the risk of turning into dubstep's answer to Eric Prydz. Buried beneath the relentless, grinding beats and wobbly bass tremors, Welcome Reality is home to a potentially great but unfinished sci-fi blockbuster soundtrack, but unable to sustain its early momentum, it ends up being merely a solid first offering rather than the trail-blazing spectacular that was anticipated.

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