Enter Shikari

The Spark

Written by: LL on 06/12/2017 18:24:39

The eclectic British rock band Enter Shikari with the electronic sound, the dramatic vocals, and the political lyrics have embraced a somewhat softer sound on their newest album "The Spark". It is their fifth full-length and on it, they move partly into indie rock territory and leave most post-hardcore bits behind. However, that doesn't mean that the usual hard electro-beats and fast tempos have been buried completely or that the songwriting is any less relevant. The lyrical themes are both political and personal, with events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump still making ripples and vocalist/lyricist Rou Reynolds revealing in late 2016 that he has been suffering from general anxiety disorder related to those events.

The album plays as a release of force taking place between an intro and an outro track called "The Spark" and "The Embers" respectively. They surround nine very different songs that are nonetheless bound together in a shared kind of dystopic vision of our society ("Black Mirror" anyone?), for instance promoted in the video for the insanely catchy first single "Live Outside" linked below. There's a dark undercurrent but the dominating feeling of the album points to finding ways to act and ways to hope in spite of a seemingly hopeless political environment. This is in large part due to the open sound and very dynamic rhythms that keep the listener on her toes for most of the songs and of course the weight of Reynolds' personal lyrics and expressive singing that cut clearly through the many layers in the music.

After "Live Outside" which sets the bar high early on by including strong guitar riffs as well as heavy but dance-friendly electronics and a super catchy chorus, the fast-paced "Take My Country Back" really pushes the British political perspective to the fore with the progressive lyric of "Don't wanna take my country back / I wanna take my country forward". The menacing "Rabble Rouser" with its oddly grooving beat a little later on is also worth mentioning as the most industrially tinged song of this record and the one most reminiscent of their harder stuff from older albums.

In between those two, something new takes shape however, as the emotional weight shines through in the piano and string-filled track "Airfield" that culminates in a longer uplifting section repeating the words "You're down on your luck but that don't mean you're out". The ballad shape and clean chords of the song make it a little boring in between all the way more busy tracks but it also does provide a little haven of its own and prepares us for the opening up of the latter half of the record. Later on, "Undercover Agents" perfects that same vibe as it opens with echoing marching drums and the decisive "And I said / Park your car and come on up to my house / We'll plan a revolution" before expanding into a genre-blend of break-beats and arena-style huge hooks.

The remaining songs are all cross-genre tracks that succeed to varying degrees, "Shinrin-yoku" for instance mostly working as a good set-up for "Undercover Agents" without ever really hitting the spot itself. Among them, the hard-hitting but also kinda clowny "The Revolt of the Atoms" takes the prize as the weirdest one by far. It does provide a super catchy trance-section towards the end with the threatening repetition of "When truth gets left untouched / It accumulates like dust" and "Everything is crumbling" that fits with the overall storyboard. Due to its theatrical delivery, though, it sounds gimmicky and breaks the emotional seriousness that the record seems to otherwise revolve around.

The rebellious revolution theme that has been used for a whole host of rock and metal albums with varying success can easily become cliché and somewhat empty when applied again and again. The redeeming factor of this Enter Shikari album is that it combines musical variety with a resounding emotion of hope that feels convincingly anchored in something real rather than rising out of a fully fledged fictional character story. At the same time, it is also a kind of confused album, genre-wise, to follow from start to finish. Yet out of the nine full songs on it, five have migrated to my regular playlist this year. To me it qualifies as a good record that varies a bit in consistency but still provides a batch of great songs that should be bangers live.

Download: Live Outside, Rabble Rouser, Undercover Agents
For The Fans Of: Pendulum, I See Stars, Crossfaith
Listen: facebook.com/entershikari

Release date 22.09.2017
Ambush Reality and PIAS Recordings

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