Enter Shikari have never been a band that’s content with resting on their laurels. After their explosive 2007 debut, Take To The Skies, which pretty much championed the newly minted “electronicore” style as something that can be pulled off with both integrity and artistry, they’ve managed to make a bigger name for themselves with each successive LP, taking things a step further again and again. On 2009’s Common Dreads, they continued to establish and perfect the style that shot them out of the gate in the first place, and their 2012 effort A Flash Flood Of Colour took everything the band was known for and blew it up to spectacular proportions, politically charged lyrics included.
That same political activism, in fact, is probably the biggest factor defining Shikari’s style nowadays. Seasoned fans, already knowing what to expect in terms of the group’s sound, are able to look past the synthy-breakdowny-craziness coming out of their speakers and focus more on the actual theme of the music, which is usually a positive one: Shikari (mostly represented in this case by the band’s outspoken vocalist, Rou Reynolds), when it gets down to it, speak for peace, equality, and the proper treatment of our surroundings. Whether it’s Flash Flood’s “Arguing With Thermometers” warning us of the dangers of fossil fuels, or Common Dreads’s “Wall” encouraging humanity to rise up against oppressive forms of government, Enter Shikari’s aggressive and passionate lyricism fits their overall musical fingerprint in that neither one is all that keen on sitting still.
So why should we expect anything less from The Mindsweep, the band’s fourth and latest full-length? After all, the record’s title brings forth images of a population being mentally set free – giving people the opportunity to think and make decisions for themselves. Closer inspection of the tracklist, with song names like “Dear Future Historians…” and “There’s A Price On Your Head”, suggest that what the Shikari fans know and love will once again be making an appearance. All signs point to more of Rou screaming in the metaphoric faces of politicians, more battle cries to stand up for what’s right, and a record that never stops to catch its breath.
This brings me to what’s possibly the most important point I want to make about The Mindsweep: Enter Shikari have developed a sense of pacing and control that has revolutionized the way they structure a record. While their other full-length efforts can basically be defined as collections of rants, lacking a sense of direction or an end result, The Mindsweep offers something a little different – focus. Every track flows into the next, wider themes and arcs are developed between songs, and as the record draws to a close, you start to think of the record as more of a complete package. Simply put, on this record, Shikari has a newfound sense of what they’re capable of, and how to use it to their advantage.
Of course, I’m not saying that The Mindsweep is perfectly paced. Not every transition is smooth, and not every song or idea perfectly leads into the next one. However, compared to their previous efforts, the band manages to tie it all together a lot better than they ever have before. Which is kind of astounding, considering the sheer variety of sounds that are at work. The aforementioned “There’s A Price On Your Head” offers the most energetic, abrasive end of the picture, so spastic and in-your-face it almost seems as though System Of A Down wrote it instead. On the other side of the spectrum, “Anaesthetist” seems almost groovy, a danceable electronic loop backing the energetic highs and lows as the song runs its course. The band really seems dedicated to their often-stated vision of not fitting into a specific genre, choosing to tie everything together thematically as opposed to having all the songs sound similar, a really smart move for a band with so much to offer.
All things considered, then, what does The Mindsweep really manifest itself as when all is said and done? The answer, however simple, is an important one: The record paints a picture of suffering, injustice, and the intensity and determination it takes to really make a change for the better. While this may be the same thing that Enter Shikari was trying to get across on their previous records, there’s a newfound sense of cohesion and purpose on their latest release that really drives the point home. Now that the band knows what direction they want to go in, they have the potential to forge a path all their own, one that can take them wherever they may want to end up in the world of music. No matter what they choose to do, though, one thing’s for sure – you can’t expect them to just sit back and get comfortable.