Enter Shikari have done a phenomenal job over the last decade of making themselves a people’s champion of a band, their supercharged electro mosh minefield style made them an incredible force to be reckoned with live, while lyrically Rou Reynolds and co have consistently stood up against the evils of this world, endearing them even further into the hearts of their fanbase.
Those who were fortunate enough to see the bands headline set of this years Slam Dunk Festival, which celebrated 10 years since the release of their debut studio album Take To The Skies may have noticed that despite the stellar performance there was a feeling in the air that this was subsequently Shikari putting a full stop to their tenure as an aggressive, textually venomous band whose live performances were notorious for being utterly chaotic. As it turns out, the quartets new record The Spark is evidence that this seemingly was, in fact, the case.
Mosh calls and breakdowns – two elements of Enter Shikari’s sound that made them catch on fire in the first place, are in short supply on the record. Instead, a more cognisant and progressive form of techno is the backbone of the album – and while in some areas this gives The Spark levels of hook which we have never seen Shikari pull off, in most segments of the record it’s impossible to not find yourself yearning for something with true bite, or edge.
The one two of ‘The Sights’ and ‘Live Outside’ find the album at its peak in terms of craft and texture, with charming, upbeat verses giving way into arena ready choruses that you can see slotting perfectly into Shikari’s enigmatic live light show. Sadly this level of quality doesn’t spin throughout most of the record though, and tracks like ‘Revolt Of The Atoms’ and ‘Undercover Agents’ seem surprisingly lacking in zest and energy for Enter Shikari songs. This is a concept that relates to the majority of The Spark, and the chances are you’ll spend more time awaiting a burst into familiarity from the album than enjoying the here and now.
As with every Enter Shikari record though, there’s a high level of intelligence glaring you in the face throughout its paces – and the band are still writing songs that tackle important issues. Loneliness, mental health, and politics all make their way into the album but they don’t manage to strike with the same impact as they have done on the bands previous efforts – the high tempo, politically charged ‘Take My Country Back’ pales in comparison to the spit-fire ‘Ghandi Mate, Ghandi’ found on 2012’s A Flash Flood Of Colour.
Placing Shikari into a specific genre has always been an unenviable task, which The Spark doesn’t make a whole lot easier – but there is a tinge more of a pop influence here than there has ever been for the band and at times the climate change can be a difficult adjustment. It should be expected that fans who connect most with Enter Shikari’s earliest work may struggle to get to grips with the direction the record takes.
While there is some truth in the idea that Enter Shikari became a household name via their wholly aggressive attitude and at times pulverising sound – the fact is that this style can only be taken so far, and perhaps there was no better time than the present to branch into something a little different. But while intention, creativity, and courage should always be praised, The Spark doesn’t hold the same level of power that we would have come to expect from Enter Shikari, and this strikes as a disappointing step backwards from one of the UK’s best bands of the last decade.