Album Review: Enter Shikari – The Spark

By Marvin Dotiyal, Staff Writer
[Ambush Reality; 2017]
Rating: 6/10

Key Tracks: “The Sights”, “Take My Country Back”, “Undercover Agents”

The lads from Enter Shikari have come a long way from their original roots, but their creative vision remains resilient. As an experimental band emphasizing on the interplay between electronic elements and heavy genres, every Shikari release is like no other. The band returns with The Spark, a poppier release for the band that sheds light on vocalist Rou Reynolds’ anxiety disorder, as well as his take on our recent political climate.

Starting off with an instrumental intro, “The Spark” resembles an ethereal orchestra of synths, which creates a galactic landscape to ease you into the album and the following track, “The Sights”. This synth-driven, upbeat track is accompanied with Reynolds’ metaphorical lyrics about liberating oneself for self-discovery and the pursuit of happiness. This song also gives off an 80s dance-rock feel, which is pretty much maintained throughout the album, but especially prominent in “Live Outside”. This song addresses Reynolds’ anxiety disorder: “I can’t stand this attack / This neuron buzz is on another level / I’m on thin ice, I’m dancing with the devil,” hence the title of the track, suggesting his desire to escape from the suffering that is all in his head. The use of Queen-like vocal harmonies in the chorus also play a role in creating an 80s-inspired sound.

For the fans back in the Take it to the Skies or Common Dreads era, “Take My Country Back” might be up your alley. It is one of the heaviest tracks from The Spark, with a fast skank beat on the drums and aggressive vocals. Reynolds’ expresses his patriotism and the issues of political echo chambers, which was inspired by the events of Brexit. The bridge calms down with heavily-reverberated vocals and instruments, creating an actual “echo chamber” effect.

Things slow down a bit in “Airfield”, but they quickly pick it up in “Rabble Rouser”. This is another heavy track, but it focuses more on electronic elements. The song starts off with a menacing guitar riff and builds up with Reynolds’ signature rapping. The bass drop is quite mediocre; however, it is the main feature of the song. Although this album heavily relies on electronics, the band’s musical talents are still the foundation of their music; drummer Rob Rolfe shows off breakbeats in “Shirin-Yoku”, guitarist Liam Clewlow plays a melodic lead in “Undercover Agents” and bassist Chris Batten holds the whole structure intact.

Before the album ends with its closing instrumental, Reynolds gets personal with “An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces”, contemplating about losing loved ones and coping a mid-life crisis. This song brings in orchestral instruments to the table and merges them with electronic synths and Reynolds’ screams, which is the first and only time it is used in this album, unlike their previous material.

Enter Shikari has said their goodbyes to their heavier roots, but The Spark gives a fresh, innovative look at the band’s direction and character. They have proved their intrepidity as musicians by stepping into unfamiliar grounds, but The Spark falls short in keeping the listener on their toes. Enter Shikari’s eccentric world of music is definitely not for everyone.

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