Review Summary: Enter Shikari strip down their post-hardcore based sound in favour of one centred more around electronics, with mixed results
The reason Enter Shikari’s first two albums (Take To The Skies
and Common Dreads
respectively) resonated so much with their young fanbase was mostly due to how well they fused the raw aggression of post-hardcore with the energetic dance vibe of electronic music, before pumping up the result with anthemic hooks and rhythmic singing to create songs you could dance, sing along or even headbang to. Although the distinct electronics would give Enter Shikari their signature sound, and would work well to build up songs and give them that extra edge, their music was still rooted most heavily in the post-hardcore aspect. This gave them the actual grounding and power for the songs to carry the other components and the substance at the centre of the majority of the music.
It worked well. Enter Shikari found what was largely their own niche in music and that they’ve decided to fiddle with the formula is a dangerous move, and arguably unnecessary one. On A Flash Flood of Colour
, the guitars and immense energy are largely toned down in favour of more stripped down textures lead by electronics and Rou Reynold’s vocals. It’s a lot to ask of them. On their own, the electronics risk sounding extremely hollow; and although a competent vocalist, Rou Reynolds is by no means the best singer around, especially when a large proportion of his vocals are spoken. When the music does
climax, it’s often restrained and quickly stifled. The picture doesn’t look good. What could A Flash Flood of Colour
possibly offer without the aggression and dance-vibe of their previous albums" The answer is a mixed one.
“Meltdown”, “Search Party”, “Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here” and “Pack of Thieves” generally follow a regular verse-chorus structure. They rely heavily on their hooks, which generally stand up unexpectedly well. In fact, Rou’s vocals succeed throughout the majority of the album. He carries the hooks well, and his spoken/screamed sections spit with a political venom that give a surprising amount of depth to the songs. “Stalemate” and “Constellations” could be described as ballads (although they do retain many similarities in line with the rest of the album), with the latter giving the impression of an electronically infused The King Blues song. Where the album is more interesting and unpredictable is with tracks like “Arguing With Thermometers”, “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” and “Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide”.
Upon the first listen, these songs sound like a complete mess. Bits and shreds of electronic warbling and bare guitar parts seem patched together with vocal ramblings, resulting in songs that sound like they were thrown together from the rotting remains of numerous other songs. “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” starts with a spoken word rant against capitalism (obviously), before dropping into a section filled mostly with a persistent electronic bleeping, and then cutting into a sample of the band talking, and back into another completely different musical section. And so on. At first it seems ridiculous. But something strange starts to happen when it’s listened to a few more times. The parts seem strangely to come together- the bubbling pieces of electronic music interspersed with rhythmic political ranting, the warped samples, the jagged vibe and an underlying tension that feels like it may crash the song down at any moment. It eventually starts to make sense. The music may be stripped down, but the sense of urgency created fits brilliantly well with the political message and the result is an oddly enjoyable piece of music which profits from its schizophrenic, detached structure. Even the quirky, electronic breakdowns are enjoyable if you let yourself go with them, especially when you consider how dull and generic they could
It’s not all good news. “Sssnakepit” is simply horrible. The verses consist of a grating, throbbing electronic drone that almost completely drown out Rou’s equally bad spoken/rapped segment, with pointless and chopped together electronic blipping chucked in on top. It’s a relief when the chorus finally comes in, not because it’s catchy or particularly enjoyable (it isn’t), but because it gets that vomit-inducing noise out of your ears. And the aforementioned hooks are nothing new to Enter Shikari’s sound. Many songs still sound rather flat without the bite of more prominent guitars. Even “Stalemate”, with its acoustic guitar and piano, lacks any real depth. The hooks themselves are decent enough, but nothing special enough to make the majority of the songs worth coming back to for long.
Overall, A Flash Flood of Colour
doesn’t live up to the band’s previous material. Despite its pleasant surprises and (occasionally) successful risk-taking, it simply suffers from the lack of raw vigour- there aren’t any “Sorry You’re Not A Winner”s or “Zzzonked”s here. But it is by no means a failure. Though they may need more time to refine their progression, the fact that Enter Shikari can make one such as this without it collapsing completely underneath their feet should be indicative of their determination to succeed, no matter what they do.