WONDERboom’s new album Hard Mode is a testament to 28 years of boundless creativity

WONDERboom’s latest album, Hard Mode, feels like seeing an old friend after many years apart — warm familiarity with welcomed change. Hard Mode, the veteran band’s first album in almost a decade, sees their dream collaboration with producer Matthew Fink coming true. The project grappled with questions that many will resonate with, particularly in a post-pandemic world. 

Themed around high-level gameplay, the album’s title reflects the band’s drive to push boundaries. The idea is brilliant because Hard Mode is 42 minutes of the band blending genres and giving listeners a new side of themselves.

The sort of off-beat mixing of genres on Hard Mode is what makes it special and is illustrated on some of the album’s highlights. “My name is freedom” kicks the album off with industrial rock, and synth pop elements meshed together for a catchy and memorable song. The song addresses the frustration of not experiencing any kind of freedom, a feeling we all know too well following the SA’s lockdown  with the lyric, “My name is freedom, you don’t know me” encapsulating a feeling of being trapped in an effective way.  

“Alive” introduces dance-rock to the mix, giving listeners heavy ‘80s nostalgia, and the song plays on artists like New Order, Depeche Mode and Joy Division to pull off its sound. This song adoption is furthered by Cito’s vocal performance on the song, his intensity bolstering its message of never giving up. “Subway Queen” and “Voodoo Doll” are similar in style, while “Avalon” and “Pretty Things” offer a softer alternative sound to the album. 

Much of Hard Mode deals with growing older and “Hip” is a light play on this, using colloquialisms and poking fun at some aspects of social media. Vulnerability shines through Cito’s delivery, especially on “Deadly” and “Prodigal Son”, where the complexity of personal growth is laid bare.

Hard Mode is full of surprises. It showcases WONDERboom’s enduring success while inviting listeners into a new phase of the band’s evolution. Cito and Martin Schofield’s continued writing partnership, alongside experimental elements, culminate in what the band considers some of their best work – a testament to 28 years of creativity.