Following up on such an auspicious debut as 2018’s Sleepy Skeletor could not have been an easy task for this U.K. sextet, but Seething Akira proves that the band is up to the task. Signing on with the FiXT Radium imprint, Dysfunctional Wonderland is everything the first album was – a raucous blend of modern metal and electronic styles with energy levels virtually overflowing musical plutonium, and now sharpened by lyrical themes of a world that has proverbially lost the plot.
Betrayal by corrupt systems as well as the more personal aspects of a failed relationship adorn tracks like the opening “Knock Off God,” “Ded,” “Kenneth Dopeland,” and “Smile Thief,” all delivered through the contrast of anthemic shouts and tuneful harmonies with an almost hip-hop cadence. This is especially true of Stu Sarre’s guest vocal on “Lucid Dream” as he brings an intensely emotive screaming style that is sure to remind many of the late Chester Bennington, while the darkly layered melodies and roars of “We will not surrender” in the title track, strengthened by ascending guitar leads and kicking drum & bass rhythms, make for the album’s apex. Seething Akira’s musical idiosyncrasies go beyond a simple merging of alt. metal and electronica; oh, Oz Craggs’ production is for sure excellent, but the songwriting must be given special mention as the band eschews the standard repetitions of verse and chorus to present more complex and multifaceted arrangements. The organic flow follows divergent sections building upon variations that may seem random at first listen, but reveal themselves to be quite sophisticated in spite of the band’s overall punky attitude. For instance, a song like “The Fallen,” which is as close as Dysfunctional Wonderland comes to having a ballad, things begin with a melancholy juxtaposition of soft synths and ambient guitar… until the beats and the djent-style riffs kick in. Another example of this is “Ded,” its poppy melodies giving rise to a boisterous head-banging track whose screams of “Do you believe in their lies” and “subliminal messages force fed” are all too resonant in the modern era.
The record even ends with “Dear Hazel,” a clean and chiming guitar atop lush pads sounding like a lost Pink Floyd track, underscoring a letter of lament and gratitude that is actually very touching and uplifting; the tempo picks up with a steady dance beat and chugs of guitar, and the vocal melody of “This is an ode to you” is sure to tug at the heartstrings. Throw in some excellent guitar solos like those in “Gravity” and “Superluminal,” and you have an album that delivers a sonic sensory overload appropriate to its subject matter. Put simply, Dysfunctional Wonderland is no sophomore slump, and Seething Akira is perhaps one of the more exciting groups to emerge in this particular hybrid since their creative brethren in bands like The Qemists and The Browning, as well as progenitors like The Prodigy and Linkin Park.