Review: The Spark - Enter Shikari
The Spark is the fifth record from the ambitious UK post-hardcore / electronic rock group Enter Shikari. Over the course of their career, Enter Shikari's sound has changed drastically since their 2007 debut Take to the Skies, while still being able to maintain many of the core aspects of what makes them unique. On their most recent effort, the band finds themselves focusing more heavily on songwriting, melody, and tight composition while slightly dialing back the chaotic post-hardcore elements of their previous releases.
The album begins with the lush, warm synth track "The Spark." Containing a musical motif that later is worked into the second track "The Sights", as well the being reprised as the album's closer "The Embers", the song gives the album a very cyclical and complete feeling while showcasing the band's emphasis on cohesive composition. The band's overall use of synths and electronic music on this record is much more atmospheric and melodic than their previous releases; often used to create rich textures. There is notably less dubstep/grime esque drops and heavier sections on this release with Shikari's signature electronic-rock sound streamlined into more straightforward rock songs. However, tracks such as the groovy/dark-tinged "Rabble Rousers" and the upbeat "The Revolt of the Atoms" harken to the wacky, dance infused post-hardcore of their earlier releases, with the latter sounding reminiscent of a cut off their second record Common Dreads.
The Spark proves to be one of the most musically diverse offerings from Enter Shikari as the band pushes the boundaries of their sound and defies any expectations or preconceived notions about them. The album ranges from catchy, hooken laden electronic-rock jams like the lead single "Live Outside", to beautiful, somber yet hopeful ballads such as "Airfield." They make it clear that they aim to become a timeless British Rock band with their distinct sound paired with their strong songwriting efforts. Vocalist Rou Reynolds boasts some of his most memorable vocal melodies; the hooks of "Live Outside" and "Take My Country Back" will be in your head forever after delving into this record. These melodies are brilliantly paired with strong and biting lyrical efforts; some of the best in the band's catalogue. Rou continues to explore various crucial social and political issues plaguing the globe with the signature Shikari wit. The lyrics to "Take My Country Back" perfectly illustrate this sharp wit regarding the world's hectic political climate, with Rou exclaiming "Don't wanna take my country back, I wanna take my country forward." The lyrics are quite possibly responding to the prevalence of racism and xenophobia, as well as the negative connotations of widespread nationalist movements. This track is one of the powerful highlights of the record and cleverly discusses the ramifications of the echo chambers our society has created in terms of political discourse.
While countless artists struggle with the delicate balance of evolving their sound while retaining their initial lovable qualities, Enter Shikari strike the ultimate sweet spot in this regard. This record will attract new listeners and bring the band to another level of accessibility without alienating fans who have followed them since Take To The Skies. The Spark does an excellent job of blending massive hooks and strong melodies with the quirky, adventurous, and limitless sound that has been attached Shikari's brand since their inception.
Favorite Tracks: "Airfield", "Take My Country Back"
The Spark is out today!
Review by Michael DiGiulio