Saturday, 14 January 2012

Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour [8/10]

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that the influx in the last few years of rock bands utilising electronic elements in their music can be attributed largely to Enter Shikari. While the anti-mainstreamers may jump to decry their efforts given half the chance, it’s easy to forget that what Enter Shikari have done to the modern scene is, in all honesty, punk as fuck. If you’ll all just cast your minds back for me, you’ll remember that Shikari first burst onto the scene back in 2006 with the now-classic “Sorry, You’re Not A Winner”, an absolutely gigantic anthem that perfectly fused the angular post-hardcore riffs of early Alexisonfire with straight up dance music and synths. It IS a classic. Everybody knows that song. EVERYBODY knows the clapping bit. That’s just fact. Are your minds still in 2006?

Good.

Then you’ll know that Enter Shikari emerged from out of nowhere into a landscape where, at the time, metal was all the rage once again in the UK. Trivium were the band on everybody’s lips after their landmark Ascendancy album, Dragonforce achieved runaway success with their equally classic “Through The Fire And Flames” and Metallica were out on the road performing Master Of Puppets in its entirety. It’s just unthinkable that a band like Enter Shikari could find a place at the time. And yet they did. And with no effort whatsoever. This is where the scene started to take a turn once again, albeit subtly at first. But fast forward six years, and what have we got? Every modern metalcore band you can think of is overloading their music with synths, Skrillex is accepted in as equal a measure as Bring Me The Horizon and it’s now not out of the ordinary to find bands like Pendulum and The Prodigy occupying huge slots at predominantly metal festivals. A strange opinion though it may be, you can’t deny Enter Shikari’s influence on the modern era of the heavier side of rock. They have punk in their veins through their ardent determination to constantly do their own thing, and with A Flash Flood Of Colour, they’ve delivered their most concise, most experimental and most defining collection of songs.

The segueing one-two punch of ‘System...’ and ‘...Meltdown’ turns out to be a fairly accurate indication of the direction Shikari have taken with this album. Their electronic side is now far more in-keeping with drum n’ bass but there’s also now an overwhelming pop influence shining through. While there has always been poppy sensibilities and radio-friendly melodies, this is the first album where it’s been moulded so succinctly into their music that it’s now just a part of their sound as opposed to being a standalone section. ‘Sssnakepit’ is monolithic as you’ll already know, transitioning in and out of multiple genres with what might be the biggest chorus of their career in tow. ‘Search Party’ is going to take on a life of its own on the live stage, with its gang vocal chorus and catchy refrain, but it’s these new found commercial tendencies that allow the angrier side of the album to make itself unavoidably known, and gives the album true light and shade. ‘Arguing With Thermometers’ is like a distant cousin to ‘Sssnakepit’, boasting an equal amount of schizophrenic stylistic shifts but exaggerating them far more than the aforementioned lead single. The aggressive parts sound like Every Time I Die and the poppy bits sound like Take That, and the dichotomy works to startling levels. Elsewhere, ‘Stalemate’ is absolutely spine tingling. Beginning with one acoustic guitar and Rou’s uncommonly subdued voice, it twists through a multitude of luscious melodies and creates a positively dreamlike atmosphere, showcasing a side to Shikari you never knew they had. You’ll have already heard “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi”, and will most likely have been taken aback by how frenzied and unformed it sounded. Fret not. All these issues resolve themselves in the context of the whole record and as a result it becomes an album highlight. And if you can’t get off on the inspired lyric of “Yabba-dabba do one, son” then you officially hate fun. Pay attention to the guitars too. It has one of the darkest and most unconventional riffs Shikari have ever penned. “Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here” and “Pack Of Thieves” deftly recall the bands earlier work but with not a hint of nostalgia, still sounding like the redefined Enter Shikari of 2012, and “Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide” rounds off the heavy portion of the album before the soothing “Constellations” completes what will almost definitely be one of the most interesting albums you’ll hear all year.

That being said however, I’m not going to round this off with some kind of spewing hyperbole like “This is the definitive Enter Shikari record” or “This is their masterpiece”. The best thing about this album is that while it’s undoubtedly the best thing they’ve ever put their name to, all it does is add more weight to their promise. There is so much more to come from this band, and the infinite creativity on show here should excite us all for their future. Never have they sounded this cohesive, this strong, and this unrestrained. Lyrically, compositionally and atmospherically, it’s their most original offering to date. They still wear their influences on their sleeves, it’s just that now they’re so teasingly close to what will one day only be described as “the Enter Shikari sound”. Enter Shikari will be on tour this Spring, playing the biggest venues they’ve ever headlined. These could be the most intimate places you’ll see them in for a long time, because if Shikari nail it on album number four, we could very well see them finally make the jump up to arenas. It’d be about time too. A UK rock band, with all the commercial components to satisfy the radio-huggers and all the balls to satisfy the hardcore-heads. Miss out on the party at your peril.

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