Somewhere around the middle of the nineties, rock and metal bands started cajoling their friends in the fledgling EDM bedroom scene to drag their synths and turntables into rehearsal rooms for some crossover action. Early adopters like Senser, Pop Will Eat Itself and Pitchshifter overcame the technological limitations of the era with eminently danceable results, but the concept rather fell out of favour in the generalised backlash against all things “nu” during the noughties. The fire never went out completely, and with computing power more closely matching the power of imagination, it has begun to burn more brightly again. Enter Seething Akira.
From their Portsmouth, UK, base, the five-piece have been bringing their bleeps and riffs to stages around the country for the last five years, building a formidable reputation for putting on an energetic show, but recordings of their songs have been noticeably thin on the ground. Just a couple of stand-alone singles and the 2014 EP Aggro Vito have surfaced to date, but after what feels like an inordinate wait, we finally have their debut full-length, Sleepy Skeletor, to digest.
With this flavour of dance-rock crossover, there can be a risk that once you strip away the energy of the live performance, and the sheer weight of air being moved by the venue PA’s bass bins, what is left can feel a little flimsy and insubstantial. Seething Akira have neatly sidestepped this issue, as production duties on Sleepy Skeletor have been split between Jim Davies (who was both a member of Pitchshifter, and contributed guitars to some of The Prodigy‘s weightier tracks) and Rhys Fulber (a prolific remixer best known for his work with Front Line Assembly and a long-running association with Fear Factory). These two guys clearly know their way around a desk, and the songs all sound thick and juicy as a result.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference here from Seething Akira’s live sound is that the guitars sit further back in the mix, making Sleepy Skeletor feel like more of an EDM album with bonus guitars and shouting than a metal album with a layer of bleeps and wubs. Elements of grime, dubstep, drum and bass, dub and industrial are all evident in their brash and high-octane sonic cocktail. As a general rule, Sleepy Skeletor‘s tracklisting follows a faster one/slower one pattern, which results in a well balanced listen, albeit at the cost of building momentum through a run of stompers. It’s in full flight that Seething Akira are at their absolute best. Lead single “I Am The Devil” and “Pack Animals” are full-bore drum and bass party ragers practically leaking the infectious energy that is so evident when they’re tearing around a stage, with dual MCs Kit and Charlie trading shouty lines with each other. Expect inopportune head bobbing and toe tapping if you happen to be listening on public transport.
Of the slower numbers, “Half Empty” is a particularly pleasant surprise. Coming as close as Seething Akira get to a lighters-in-the-air ballad, it packs a spacey and hooky chorus with some ominous undertones. “Even Angels Break Hearts” carries a similarly lush chorus, topped off with some feminine guest vocals from Dani Uziel. Olly Simmonds, now of The Qemists and previously a member of the late and lamented Collisions alongside Seething Akira’s bassist Rich Speight, also pops up on the heavy dubstep of “Backlash”.
Seething Akira’s sound is unashamedly British, particularly in Kit and Charlie’s vocal delivery. International listeners would be forgiven for thinking that Sleepy Skeletor might sound a bit like Oliver Twist attempting to ingratiate himself with Fagin’s gang by loading them up with mandy and driving them to an illegal warehouse party. Or perhaps what The Prodigy’s Keith Flint would sound like if he could remember more than a couple of lines of lyrics for each song. Whether it is endearing or irritating will be down to the individual listener.
Seething Akira are still probably more at home on a stage than in a studio, but they handle the transition better than might have been expected. The diversity of the tracks have helped to produce a well-rounded listening experience, and the quality remains high throughout. Only “Disconnect” becomes quickly skippable, due to a rather overbearing chorus synth line, and the dubby album closer “The Islander” could have benefited from a somewhat fatter bassline. But nevertheless, Seething Akira have delivered a solid album of electro-rock fusion that will serve as an excellent summer soundtrack for workouts or simply dancing around your living room like a loon.
Sleepy Skeletor is out June 29th and is available for pre-order here.