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On the Run: Neon Nox’s Syndicate Shadow - Music Review

 Original Synth

Neon Nox - Syndicate Shadow

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"Welcome to the Daytona 500, the Superbowl of motor racing,” the announcer’s voice booms onto the track.

Pace Yourself,” Jon “Neon” Nox says as a reminder.  He tightens his grip on the steering wheel and notices for the first time that afternoon the sweat on his brow.  There’ll be no stopping it, though.

There is too much to do today.  This is a race he will not lose.  They have pushed him too far with their demands.  Purposefully lose a race? 

“No chance,” he says to himself as he revs the engine.

What he doesn’t know is that winning here will cost him everything he has.

And turn him into a killing machine who is always on the run.


 

Neon Nox

Syndicate Shadow is an album for anyone who just wants to drive and chase the night to its eventual sunrise.  The opening “Prelude” is proof enough of that.  The story – about a driver who wins a race he was supposed to lose and paid the ultimate price for with the death of his family – is introduced in the first few bars of the song.  We are soon riding alongside this driver as he searches for the faceless killer that took out his family. 

Nice.  The Miami night feels crisp and threatening thanks to the tunes included here.  That electric city is showcased throughout this release.  From nostalgic to future funkish, there is a grip here that isn’t relinquishing its grasp until the final note of this release. And that opening song, rolling from soft to loud structures, is a percolating concoction of heavy mood.  The synth structure is hypnotizing as the intensity of the ride along moment builds, setting the stage for the rest of the album’s future revenge.

"Syndicate Shadow is an album for anyone who just wants to drive and chase the night to its eventual sunrise."


The soundscape of synth lines gets heavy with “Fahrenheit”, the second song on this thematic album. It is here where Nox grinds the greasy wheels on us and the danger – no matter how faceless it is – starts to speak. Listen closely, the threat is a real one that our driver faces. You can hear it in the modern bass notes. Just under the sparkling synthlines is a leather gloved hand. And it’s not out for justice as the heat keeps rising. The pressure is alleviated only by the soaring synthlines that break into 16-bit-like expressions of jabs and stabs. 

Following that is “Payback”, a spellbinding expression of revenge that Jan Hammer could easily nod agreeably to.  Big thumbs up here.  Then the knockout punch in Jon’s arc is delivered with “Assassination”, a song that, with whirling electronic humming and steady strokes, sounds worthy of the neon-soaked club life and a round or two of really stiff drinks. Neon Nox brings us closer to “The Target” with the next song.  Here, all the hypnotic suspicion breaks open and spills out on the street.  Dealing in matters of life and death sound a lot like this. 

Pay close attention to what happens next.  In the final cycle of songs, Neon Nox simply explodes with a righteous fury of outrun funk.  From “Nightrider” to “Street Hawk”, the commercial free sound of 1980’s televised revenge couldn’t be clearer OR cleaner.  This group of songs simply bubbles with retro-fitted swagger that would steamroll any Reagan-era fascist.

And then, thanks to the vocals of RBKA, we come to the other side of revenge.  Here, Neon Nox flexes his mixing abilities and wipes nostalgia off the map with a song that is more tender than it is Goblin-like. Still, he pulls no punches with its expressions.  This final round of songs might be a bit calmer with its synthsation stylings, but the electronic fury is still there just under the surface of what appears to be a cleansing. 

The next song, inspired in part by Risky Business, is a masterpiece of the genre.  No doubt about it.  We get the nostalgia.  We hear the yearning.  We understand.  The allure of “Risky Fulfillment” is a no-brainer.  Drive fast.  Drive hard.  This is for all those who wish to make love on a real train. 

Inspired and full of electronic depths that only John Carpenter explored, Neon Nox partners up with Powernerd for “Rise of the Hero” and delivers another feverish song of electronic pulses and deep neon nights.    Which brings us to “The Final Showdown”, a song that practically melts with chest-thumping moments of steely might.  It is the place where colorful tees and double-breasted jackets collide.

Released through NewRetroWave, Syndicate Shadow is a focused release of revenge anthems.  Paired alongside the producer’s other releases, it solidifies Neon Nox’s place in the synthwave community as a leader on the track.

0 to 60 in 2.85 seconds?  That’s no problem for Neon Nox.

Neon Nox

 


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