Sunday, 15 January 2012

Album Review: Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour

I've been a fan of Enter Shikari ever since their first album came out. I'm not a fan of metal or the heavier end of rock as a general rule, but their blend of electronics and many other genres was somehow very appealing. Three albums in and they've expanded ther style even further. A Flash Flood Of Colour takes a slightly more poppy turn in places but heavier and more powerful in others. The political and world-weary lyrics have fully taken over this time; every song has them which does take a bit of getting used to. After the release of Destabilise and Quelle Surprise, two fantastic singles (not on the album!) came Sssnakepit, back in September, and Gandhi Mate, Gandhi a couple of months later - and on first listen, I genuinely hated both. After the latter one came out I thought maybe this album wasn't worth a try. But I gave in when the two singles grew slowly on me (Gandhi... is now one of my favourite Enter Shikari tracks) and I am pleased to announce that Enter Shikari have crafted something absolutely mind-blowing.

So, we open with the opening duo System... and ...Meltdown. The former starts off the same way as Common Dreads, but then gives way to some programmed strings and lead singer Rou flying into a political rant (get used to that, he does that a lot). Towards the end you can hear it building and building... and then with the whole band shouting "our future!" the heavy guitar of track two smashes in. Meltdown re-uses some of the strings from its partner track but this one is far heavier and faster - very recognisable as Enter Shikari - with some epic drops to boot. Compared to the rest of the album, it's actually the weakest link for me, as it seems to just go in circles with a few changes here and there. But it's still a great track and I still love it, it's just that the other 10 tracks are a bit better.

Sssnakepit, then. The other weaker link. I've never been massively keen on Sssnakepit, but it has grown on me a lot since its release. It has a monster of a chorus that feels slightly free of the madness and politics dominating the lyrics of the rest of the album - "come and join the party, leave anxieties behind" - the verses unfortunately leave a little bit to be desired, however. The most recent single, Arguing With Thermometers, is far better. Making itself known instantly with the heavy guitar announcing itself along with the vocals, it gets straight into its stride. It takes a slightly dubby turn here and there, but you can tell the band were having fun being let loose with all the synths. It's a very catchy tune.

The other single is Gandhi Mate, Gandhi, the most ludicrous and oddest thing that the band have ever done and may ever do. It begins with a 40-second rant ending with "we're sick of this shit!" before flying through about three or four other sections that sound completely different from each other and yet manage to fit within the four minutes and a half it occupies on the album. The first section ends with the band trying to calm their outspoken lead singer down - "Gandhi, mate, remember Gandhi". At least you can't say they take themselves too seriously. Soon after follows a fantastic lyric, "yabba dabba do one son!" and another verse before flying off in another direction - this song does not sit still for a second. It gets heavier at the end before it descends into synth madness as "emergency frequencies" is repeated slowly until the song's end. It's such an unbelievably odd song, it's not really a shock that I couldn't stand it first time. But given time, it's actually very good!

The heaviest moment on the album comes from Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide, the penultimate track on the album. The first word I would use to describe it is apocalyptic. Opening with a menacing string instrument (no idea what) and the declaration that "empires always fall" before the guitar comes in at full power with some sort of air raid siren, then onto the verse which is not sung, but screamed as loud as possible. The chorus, on the other hand, takes the song skyward - the heaviness drops a bit but the background music accompanying it is just so epic.

Another heavy moment comes from Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here, even though it doesn't sound like it at all. The first half of the song is one you can sing along to, starting off with just a drum and then a lone guitar before building up a little bit. The chorus is, of course, epic - even if the lyrics are just the title repeated! After going for round two, the song changes (it even tells you it's changing with the words "transformation in progress") before the guitars build allowing Rou to scream "a flash flood of colour!" over the top, although his voice has been restrained in the mix. And then comes the previously mentioned heavy moment... one of the most thunderous, massive guitar riffs I have ever heard. Seriously, this thing is an absolute beast and is without doubt the best moment on the album and the band know how strong it is, allowing it to be repeated again and again. The song also features an unexpected fade out to end it - very un-Enter Shikari!

Following on from Warm Smiles... is another favourite, Pack Of Thieves. It's maybe the most poppy venture they've ever had, but it's still clearly the same band. Starting off quite summery and happy, as the chorus is sung over the top, the song then of course adds the customary big guitar sound and lets the bouncy, incredible verse loose. When the chorus returns, it has of course been given a huge boost by all the instruments, and is another great moment for the album. It will guarantee mass sing-alongs at gigs - it's exactly the kind of song for the job. The other poppier moment happens earlier in the album in the form of Search Party, again a sing-along type of song with all the band on vocal work for the chorus, with some crowd-baiting "whoa! whoa!"s. It takes a break halfway through leaving Rou and something sounding like a glockenspiel in quite a peaceful moment... before (naturally) heavy guitars dominate proceedings for a huge middle-eight section, and then it all kicks back into the big chorus and slowly lets itself out, having made its mark on the album.

Lastly, there are two songs on the album that allow you to catch your breath and are the quietest things that the band have done. The first is Stalemate, which is an acoustic ballad (yes, I'm serious) that slowly builds up its instruments before heading into rockier territory towards the end. The two things that may annoy are the fact that the lyrics do not fit the song and at the start they may sound a little odd as they manage to fit millionaire, billionaire (twice) and trillionaire into the first ten seconds (!) and the second is the overlong outro which doesn't end when it should do - the band are usually masters of knowing when the right time is to stop something in a song, but here it's a little off. The second song I mentioned is the closing track, Constellations. Again, it's a beautiful piece for the first half, before everything comes in for a truly huge moment to close the album - it's serious "put-your-arm-round-your-mates" stuff. The lyrics even become incredibly moving when you listen to them, especially in the second half - it's rare that lyrics give me goosebumps, but right at the end of the album, Enter Shikari manage it. Their greatest closing song, and one of the greatest I've heard in a long time.

This is by far the band's most listenable album - it may be heavier in parts but there are also some fantastic sing-along moments and catchy parts. It's a very rare combination but Enter Shikari have genuinely struck gold here. The lyrics do take a bit of getting used to, but sometimes they just work fantastically, as I explained when talking about Constellations. Again, it's good to know that they aren't taking themselves too seriously, and they do have a very unique style to them, both musically and lyrically, which they must be given credit for in a world where the charts are dominated by everything sounding like everything else. Even if you don't like the singles and are an Enter Shikari fan, get the album. There are some massive, massive moments on here - a true masterpiece. Let it grow on you like I did, it'll be worth it. And if nothing else, you can't deny that the band have some of the greatest song titles of all time!

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Search Party, Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here, Pack Of Thieves
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACKS: Meltdown, Sssnakepit

PREVIOUS ALBUMS (as I would rate them now): Take To The Skies (4/5), Common Dreads (3.5/5)

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