British post-hardcore band Enter Shikari’s latest album, The Spark, is a frenetic mix of traditional rock instrumentation and electronic elements. David Kosten’s slick production combined with lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Rou Reynolds’ stentorian voice, and lyrical themes that range from personal motivation to political progression, help to make Enter Shikari’s fifth studio record a largely energetic workout with a few balladic moments interspersed.
After about a half minute of shimmering synth washes, The Spark’s first proper track, “The Sights”, begins. A light, playful staccato keyboard enters just before Reynolds’ deep, serious-sounding voice asks, “Are you staying awake for the liftoff, tonight?” Quick drums start up and vocal harmonies join in to punctuate the end of each lyrical phrase during the verses. Each time the explosive chorus comes around, guitars gloriously crash in as Reynolds’ lyrics use space travel as an analogy for the exploration of the unknown; i.e., the future. The Spark’s lead-off single, “Live Outside”, is next up, and it begins with a similar pulsing staccato synth before harmonizing voices, immediately reminiscent of the opening bars of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, sing, “I want to live outside, live outside of all of this.” Enter Shikari’s “Take My Country Back” is the most explicit example of the band’s expression of displeasure with recent political events in their home country as well as abroad. “I feel like we’re living on the edge, and the cliffs are eroding,” Reynolds repeats melancholically before singing conclusively amidst bombastic guitars and smashing percussion, “So get up, get up and feel the rising tide, I’m fed up, fed up with all the cyanide.”
The Spark’s first ballad is heard just before the album’s halfway point. “Airfield” features a gently played piano that was evidently recorded by a microphone so sensitive you can literally hear the air in the room. Reynolds’ voice grasps a distinctly higher register during the song’s first minute, dropping back into his baritone to offer, “It’s common for people to believe, everything happens for a reason, I’m sorry that’s false, and it’s poison.” Reynolds takes aim at clone-like cookie cutter modern rock stars on the tense “Rabble Rouser” which does a decent job of reintroducing the energy of The Spark’s earliest songs. Other second half standouts include: the dynamic “Undercover Agents” and the gorgeous near-six-minute ballad, “An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces”, which has Reynolds in top form lyrically as he tenderly utters beautifully descriptive lines like, “I awoke with a face like a crumpled plastic bag in a puddle,” and, “Oh how I miss your Prosecco-glazed lips.”
Enter Shikari’s mix of near-operatic, occasionally harmonized crooning and hardcore-esque yelling is a good fit for Kosten’s pristine job behind the mixing board. The album’s producer utilizes the band’s blazing lead guitar lines, rapid-fire percussion, and enthusiastic synths to greatly entertaining effect throughout. If you’re looking for new songs for your cardio workout, or if you’re just feeling beaten up by the world and need a motivational soundtrack to help you put your life back together, you couldn’t do much better than Enter Shikari’s The Spark.