Background: England is a nation that is both notorious and famous the whole world over for its music scene. The country aided in establishing and contributing to several notable movements in the realm of both the mainstream and underground varieties of music including, but not limited to: hard rock, soft rock, alternative and punk rock, heavy metal, and electronic/techno. Specifically, its rock music history has spawned a large following of modern artists who aspire to claim the similar fame and notoriety that countless acts had possessed before them. One of these so-called modern rock enthusiasts and creators being the band known as Enter Shikari.
Band History: Originating from Hertfordshire, England in the late 1990s, the band once operated under a different moniker prior to changing their name (in 2003) to what we call them today. Since then, the four-piece group has released five studio full-length albums, performed in many musical festivals and, in addition, racked up around a dozen music-related accolades.
The band can be considered pretty eclectic and experimental, given their susceptibility and willingness to merging their sounds with those of other genres through incorporating electronic elements, rapping sections, core influences and several others into their own works.
Album Facts: Their recent fifth album, titled The Spark, was recorded in a Northamptonshire studio and released through the label Ambush Reality in the UK as well as another called PIAS Recordings, which distributes their material internationally. During the making of the album, the band's frontman was reportedly going through a rough patch of Generalized Anxiety Disorder due to the world events unfolding at the time like Brexit and such. Through the tough time, he found new inspiration to write this album.
The Breakdown: The music on The Spark is a rather intruiging and slightly "different" take on the entire alt-rock and electronicore genres. As mentioned earlier, there are abundant sections of the songs within the album that include elements of techno and some rapping. In addition, certain parts are heavy and loud while others are soft and relaxing. Similarly, some tracks are more vocal and lyric-oriented while some are mostly instrumental in nature.
The lyricism, which is mostly related to themes of patriotism, fear, paranoia and real-world political issues, is possibly the most significant aspect of this release since it hits so close to home for many. The instrumentals are worth talking about as well, since they are mostly blended together so well, to an extent. The vocals themselves are alright, but nothing to really write home about.
Analysis: The album begins with an instrumental prelude that heavily consists of some electronic ambiance build-up. Possibly some synth and a choir-like atmosphere is present, as well. Then, the sudden second track commences, with some melodic singing and added electronic elements. Soon, the percussion and rest of the band come in to provide their own energy and support to the rest of the sound. The song's chorus has a decent flow, and it drags on for a bit before going in for a little break and coming back towards the end for a second round.
Some of the songs on this release are somewhat also reminiscient of older punk bands such as The Clash, as well as more contemporary alt-rock and emo groups of the 1990s. The guitar work contributes greatly to that nostalgic sound. The third track is comprised of an energetic vocal presence and great rhythm and instrumental structure. The guitar riffs also add a bit more variety and intrigue to the mix.
Specifically, the lyrics on the track "Take My Country Back" are very competently organized and thoughtfully written. The song in question discusses the issue of patriotism and taking one's country forward, instead of back. The protagonist of the song wishes to escape the pressures of being bullied and attacked by other nations, and only wants to live in peace and pursue their goals as well as progress their nation's interests. The political pressure and message of fear is very strong here.
In all, the first half of the record is pretty solid and catchy. However, when one reaches the second half...it all begins to sound repetitive and the flame that the spark caused in the beginning starts to fade. The charm that the album opens with is lost through the overly eclectic sound, at the expense of losing its own energy and identity as well. Basically, one feels as though that, at this point, the band is starting to run out of ideas and is trying to compensate by mixing together a bunch of recycled previous elements with no rhyme or reason. The concept becomes a bit too avant-garde for my liking, and the interest dwindles a bit. The rapping sections become too abundant, the electronics too "in-your-face", and it feels as though the album does not know what it wants to be anymore. The focus towards the end is more instrumental, especially in the last few minutes of the album.
The Verdict: In conclusion, this new album by Enter Shikari is one that possesses many, many interesting ideas and concepts, which it contently throws your way at any given moment. While that makes for a surprising and experimental creation, it ends up somewhat stale and drags on for a bit too long. At approximately forty minutes of running time, this rock release isn't very long. What can be found in this album is enjoyable, innovative and well-executed to a great extent, especially when you get right down to it. From the start, you can feel the energy and talent of the artists. However, these elements later become shrouded in experimentation, as the album becomes a bit too ambitious in the second half. Most of the time, everything transitions together well and sounds great...but, there are also times in which the sound gets either a bit too repetitive or a tad too eclectic. Overall, The Spark is an album that is decent in its own merit. It has established its own quirky presence and sound for the most part, despite its faults, and I encourage any and all modern rock fanatics to check it out at least once.
Pros: Hard-hitting lyricism, relatable themes, wide variety of instrumentals, great song transitioning, strong energy in first half
Cons: Average vocals, some repetition, drop-off in second half of album
Get ready to Rock & Roll!
Review by: Dave Raffy
Rock & Metal Musician, Writer, Enthusiast
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