St. Albans four-piece Enter Shikari may have emerged from the Myspace era, but through sustained progression and a fierce dedication to experimentation, the band have long since transcended their roots. On 2017’s The Spark, they were at their most commercial yet, but rewind to 2013 and the band were evolving in a different way. On paper, a blend of post-hardcore, rap and dance music seems like the bottom of a cesspit opened up by Limp Bizkit, but in reality the band were years ahead of their peers, and rose to prominence through their ability to offer something no one else could.
When they first emerged, Enter Shikari tinkered with dubstep before it was dragged into the mainstream by pop acts co-opting it. They pre-dated Skrillex, not to mention Korn’s foray into dubstep, but most notably they bridged the sizeable gap between the rock crowd and the drum and bass scene that was popular at the time. Shikari gigs were a mishmash of cultures, where neonised new rave culture was thrown into a whirlwind mosh pit. They were heavy, no one could take that away from them, but they were also fun, with a style more palatable to a broader audience.
And this ability to bridge gaps is important, as it has allowed the band to deliver their message to a wider range of people. Unreserved in their politicised material, the quartet have spoken about climate change, criticised capitalism, supported mental health awareness and fought back against privatisation of the NHS. Their tracks often contain vital but easily digestible messages, each one containing a slogan-ready soundbite like “countries are just lines drawn in the sand with a stick” or “the foundations of all our great nations are lies and indoctrinations”.
All these elements – the varied sound, the exciting live show and the politically aware lyrics – were honed over the band’s first two albums, but they were refined much more skilfully on 2012’s A Flash Flood Of Colour. In some ways, it’s a more restrained effort, with the speechifying reigned in and the multifaceted music executed with just a touch more nuance, but that’s not to say that ambitions weren’t high, simply that this album marked a point at which the band began to create more considered material.
Opener ‘System…’ saw frontman Rou Reynolds sing metaphorically about a house on a cliff over stabbing synths before adopting a more vulnerable voice to speak of his childhood dreams – it’s a compelling and poignant intro that builds expertly before launching into ‘…Meltdown’ where the album announces itself with aplomb. This is the band on their best form, and they maintain it from here on out. Instead of the more generic “folks, we’re fucked” lyrical ideas many so-called political bands often come out with, Enter Shikari truly begun to deliver focused protests on A Flash Flood Of Colour.
‘Arguing With Thermometers’ compares the race for oil to Class A drugs (“What happens when it’s all gone? You haven’t thought this through, have you boys?”), whilst ‘Gandhi, Mate, Gandhi’ begins with a venomous anti-capitalist rant (“I don’t think we’re supposed to sit by idle while we continue to use a long outdated system that produces war, poverty, collusion, corruption, ruins our environment and threatens every aspect of our health and does nothing but divide and segregate us.”) before the band take some time to point fun at themselves in a truly memorable mid-section. Even the lighter moments manage to discuss heavier topics – the lush acoustic guitars and singalong chorus of ‘Stalemate’ are accompanied by lyrics about war, whilst closer ‘Constellations’, perhaps the finest example of the band’s softer sound, is subtler in its message, even if it is powered by a hamfisted train metaphor.
Enter Shikari are a unique proposition, undoubtedly a Marmite band that many metal fans are keen to assure you they will never listen to whilst others won’t shut up about them, they nevertheless deserve full credit for always being ahead of the game, not to mention for their dedication and integrity as a band on their own independent label. They are a group who, through quality songwriting and sheer wit, managed to start ranting about the state of the world and actually grow their audience. A Flash Flood Of Colour is arguably their finest hour – not flawless, but nevertheless a remarkable accomplishment worthy of a respect they are often denied.
Words: George Parr