All Enter Shikari has to do to make a bad album is to listen to anyone who finds merging genres unoriginal. Chuck the wide-eyed approach out the window, and just kick straightforward, aggressive songs. There are people in the 21st century who still find Slayer more original than Linkin Park. A lot of bands tried to appease the idiots by going heavy, even if it was clear their spirit wasn’t into it (I See Stars, for example). As good as Enter Shikari are, there’s no guarantee they won’t cave in.
Listen to the three pre-released songs, and this fear evaporates. “The Last Garrison” is the most boring of the three, and it’s miles ahead of most loud music. It’s an empowering anthem with electronics, screeching guitars and a drum and bass final to improve it. “Never Let Go of the Microscope” is a rap song that ends with a breakdown. “Anesthetist”, the best of the three, combines Big Beat drums, rapping, hospital noises, thrashing and a hardcore breakdown.
These are enough elements to build an album on. Most bands work with less, but these are merely for these songs. There’s a piano ballad in “Dear Future Historians…”. “The Bank of England” is the opposite of epic, and includes a little rappping. “The One True Colour” alternates between very hard and very soft. “The Appeal & The Mindsweep I” has a spoken word intro, hardcore screaming and anthemic singing. This wealth of ideas sure makes the rock canon looks pretty embarrassing.
Shikari’s musical ideas don’t exist just to contrast each other. The quiet-loud or the screaming/singing dynamic relies on the contrast, and rarely do the bands try to make the parts stand on their own. In many cases, the screaming or the singing is there to relieve the monotony, but it’s a mere interlude. Shikari puts emphasis on both sections, letting them stand on their own. There’s no need for clean vocals on “There’s a Price On Your Head” or screaming on “Dear Future Historians…”. Shikari’s handling of the elements is good enough so they can also build a song around a single one, instead of a dozen.
More impressive is that Shikari always remains in control of their ideas. The problem with this abundance is a loss of control. That’s where you get the double album with too much fat in it, or the bands who switch from genre to genre with no connection (Or Andrew Huang). Shikari don’t merely pile up the ideas, but connect them. “The One True Colour” is perhaps the best example of alternating between the soft and hard parts. The band doesn’t just switch from a soft part to a hard section. They start the song with playing both, and always hint at what’s coming next.
Even the songs with the weaker structures would stick out in an album by any other band. Shikari understands that while it’s okay to have a core for your song to revolve around, such as hooks, you can’t rely on them to make your songs. Plenty of bands create a fantastic chorus and get lazy on anything that surrounds it. Even if your chorus is the center of your song, it’s important to make the rest of the elements matter and to have a satisfying climax. Not every song has to be as progressive as “The One True Colour”, but on more accessible tracks, like “The Last Garrison” they make sure that what surrounds the hook is just as good. Every song here has a climax, even the simpler “There’s a Price On Your Head” and “The Bank of England”. For most bands, this is a rarity.
Special mentions goes to “Torn Apart”. The political lyrics tend to be inoffensive cliches, but in that song they finally say something with substance. Unlike most songs against racism, “Torn Apart” isn’t a cry for equality. It’s a cry against the whole concept of race. All races are not equal, because they have to exist first. There may be more important songs against racism, but this is one that thinks outside of the box.
The Mindsweep’s only weakness is that it doesn’t sound like Shikari reached their limits. They pushed them even further, so the bars raised higher. At first, it seemed like their classic album would be this, where they will expand on every element of their music. Instead, it just leaves you begging for more. The electronics are still here, but not enough. Now that Rou started to rap, they must turn it into another part of their sound instead of a single genre experiment. Shikari’s masterpiece will not be an experimental rock record. It will be an album where they will abandon the concept of genre, and be almost impossible to categorize.
4 microscopes out of 5