In terms of the British rock music scene as a whole right in 2017, it’s difficult to come up with a band who perhaps have the importance that Enter Shikari seem to right now. As politics seem to divide more and more people as time ticks on, the St Albans band have returned with The Spark – an album that not only has to deal with the fallout from such events, but also help continue their ascent and cement them fully as the arena-level band they have now become.
After the short cinematic intro of title-track The Spark, things immediately give way to a more recognisable tone, with a light cascade of synthesiser heralding the arrival of opener proper The Sights. Frontman Rou Reynolds’ vocals are as recognisable and strong as ever – beginning as almost spoken word before gradually accelerating into his usual style, as instrumentation gradually builds towards the kind of explosive chorus you can’t help feel has been tailor-made this time for conquering massive venues.
It’s immediately followed up by first single Live Outside, a track which most Shikari diehards will by now undoubtedly be wholly familiar with. Arguably one of, if not the band’s most pop-leaning moment to date, complete with lashings of “woah-oh-oh-oh” backing vocals and an anthemic chorus to die for, it’s immediately not only a highlight of The Spark as a whole, but perhaps of the band’s career to date.
Any worries that Enter Shikari might have fully ditched their previous sound for a more mainstream approach can immediately be put to bed the second the frantic riff of Take My Country Back kicks in. Fast-paced and rightfully angry-sounding, the track sees the band hitting their usual hyper-political stride, seeming to take a thinly-veiled aim at the societal division in the UK caused by the likes of Brexit. Shikari have always been a band focused on the principle of unity, so the repeated mantra of “Don’t wanna take my country back/I wanna take my country forward” hitting like a sledgehammer to the face. It’s a powerful track in terms of musicality too, with Rou furiously barking in the verses before his bandmates join in with choruses declaring “We’ve really gone and fucked it this time”. This all goes on for about half of the song, before yet again, the band throw out a monolithic chorus that changes the pace of the entire thing into a colossal arena anthem that almost begs to become a rallying cry for the band’s upcoming live shows.
Perhaps one of the overriding themes of The Spark as an album however, is the sheer level of musical diversity it reveals as it goes on. From the slow-building balladry of Airfield and Shinrin-yoku, to the mosh-pit inciting synth/rap hybrid insanity of Rabble Rouser and the towering, borderline-EDM feel in places of Undercover Agents, this really does feel like the band taking a running leap into the unknown and, not only landing on their feet, but taking off again an immediate sprint. The Revolt of the Atoms, for example, leads with a kind of electro-swing feel that it feels like only the Enter Shikari of 2017 could have come out with, and hits like an absolute truck to boot.
Perhaps the crowning glory of The Spark though, comes in its final ‘proper’ track An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces (In Two Movements). As the title would suggest, it’s a sweeping 6 minute mini-epic that flits between emotional crooning one moment, and bile-laden aggression the next, with a truly epic feel throughout thanks to cleverly-placed electronics that might as well have come from a Hans Zimmer film score at times.
As the final strains of closing instrumental The Embers bring the album to a close in a similar vein to its opening, it gives perfect time to reflect on the preceding 40 minutes or so of music. Not only is The Spark a remarkable piece of work on its own merits, it also represents perhaps the strongest indication to date that Enter Shikari’s future certainly lies in the arenas they are set to dominate across the UK later this year. Armed with such a diverse and powerful record, there can be little doubt that the St Albans outfit are operating at the absolute peak of their career, and indeed appear to have found the spark to ignite their explosion into the mainstream consciousness.
Enter Shikari’s The Spark is released on the 22nd of September 2017 through Play It Again Sam/Ambush Reality.