Zedonk – Nero
The opening guitar chord on Zedonk, Canadian power trio Nero’s third full CD, is charged with all the volatility of an atomic bomb in a fireworks factory, but as the album progresses, it quickly becomes clear that the menacing countdown is on a loop, recycling the same numbers and formulas until the monotonous sound becomes so mechanical that it loses any power it ever had. The album is packed full of dexterous riffing from guitarist Dave Lauzon, and infectious melodies abound, but there just aren’t enough guts here to carry Zedonk through to an ending worthy of its explosive but sputtering beginning.
The album changes abruptly and often from heavily distorted guitar crunch to soft, trance-like grooves, with the occasional wah-wah-ed funk vamp thrown in to ease the transitions, and if it weren't for their haphazard, schizophrenic randomness, some of the changes might add some flavor to what is otherwise a droning, tedious series of predictable changes in rhythm and tone. The title track starts with a syrupy sweet melody interwoven with Lauzon's remarkable guitar agility before fading back into a whisper of the original tune, breaking into a catchy, half-stepping breakdown, kicking up a notch, swinging into a reggae groove and eventually going through at least three more abrupt changes before finally fading into a spacey ambience, back into one of the many previously visited sections and finally closing with a choppy, sharp thud. It's all too forced, too deliberate, too much.
Most of the album moves along the same vein, focusing on grooves that aren't really groovy and melodies that scream for lyrics. Guest musicians add some flavor to select tunes: the opener, "Breakline," sounds great as long as the horn section is in on the action, and keyboardist Bob Wiseman's tinkling on "Elvezz" is, if nothing else, a nice break from Lauzon's non-stop musical masturbation, but for the most part, the entire album consists of endless guitar solos over drummer Jay McConnery's unflinching 4/4 beat and bassist Chris Buote, who is all but inaudible until "Crabwalk," the fifth track on the disc.
If nothing else, one can say that Nero does have a cohesive sound, best compared to the sweeping soundscapes of Steve Kimock, with whom the trio also shares the occasional African reggae stutter and generic funk wank. There is a great deal of talent showcased here, especially by Lauzon, but Zedonk is as stiff and soulless as the aforementioned atomic bomb, which also has its fair share of raw power. Power without the heart to guide it, however, is at best a wasted resource, and the musicians in Nero would do well to listen a little more to their hearts and a little less to their all too analytical heads.