Trueskool - Z-NEO (Album Review)

Published 18th September 2022

If you've ever needed convincing of the old mantra "hardcore will never die" you simply have to listen to Trueskool - the phenomenal new twelve track album from German producer Z-NEO.

This fresh release from Brighton-based hardcore label Rave Radio Records spans three 12" discs (plus free digital version with each purchase) and as usual doesn't fail to deliver.

The daring creativity of Trueskool coupled with Z-NEO's usual on-point production delivers an absolute masterclass in what it takes to push the genre forward.

Trueskool is an album that simultaneously pays affectionate homage to Z-NEO's influences (none more so explicitly than opening tracks Dope Enuff and The Next Generation) while also being unafraid to make bold creative choices.

In terms of listening experience Trueskool transcends the usual EP format. Trueskool is not a disparate collection of tunes but an album in its truest sense. With regards narrative, whether unconscious or by design, the album seems to almost have a prologue in the first two tracks that appears to acknowledge its roots before quickly transitioning into a force all of its own.

The familiar hoovers, powerful 'Frequency'-style stabs and "old skool in the house" vocals of opening track Dope Enuff have a distinct old-skool vibe while second track The Next Generation (with its "passing to the next generation" vocal) quite literally serving as a mission statement for what's to follow. And what follows is an intensely satisfying mix of both the familiar and the unexpected...

For example, take What's on Your Mind - what seemingly starts as an uplifting hardcore piano track is subverted with its melancholic vocals giving way to dark synths and Prodigy-esque stabs. While if you'd previously told me that an early Elton John vocal would make for a great hardcore track I would have been highly dubious - however that is exactly what the storming High as a Kite does with incredible aplomb.

Head-nodding rollers such as So Easy and Reese You continue to take the listener on a journey; the latter with an expansive string section in the final minutes adding a sweeping grandiosity rarely heard in hardcore.

Dancefloor destroyer Turn the Heat Up plays with a familiar riff from an old skool classic (which also happens to share a heat-inspired title!) while penultimate track The Sound brings the jungle tekno vibes.

Album closer Cherished Moments is hardcore on a grand scale that delivers a fittingly emotional ending for the listener that's been carried along for the previous hour.

While this is undoubtedly a collection of hardcore tracks that will smash the dancefloor on an individual basis the true strength of Trueskool lies in it's home listening experience in which the end product is greater than the sum of its parts. There were several times where I forgot I was supposed to be writing a review and simply got lost in the music!

Z-NEO has achieved that rare goal of producing a hardcore album that is multi-layered and has depth and cohesion - Trueskool is a true work of art.

Trueskool by Z-NEO is available now for pre-order from Rave Radio Records and is shipped in mid October.

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