Review Summary: Enter Shikari spark a fire and let it smoulder.The Spark
comes equipped with a warning, one which falls right in that classic Shikari sweet spot between self-parody and steadfast belief they actually can change the world: Warning! This escalates quickly!
That comes from "Rabble Rouser", closest to an old-school Take to the Skies
banger on this whole thing; both song and line engineered to trick us into thinking that the album is about to cut loose and go hard in its second half. Instead, something far more interesting happens; Rou and the lads slow down, breathe in, and open up.
I mean, nothing's particularly wrong with that first half, either. It sounds like Enter Shikari interpreting Bloc Party's Hymns
through a filter of not absolute garbage, songs relying on glitzy electronics to drop massive earworms and finishing quickly. It's not far off the dreaded 'x goes pop' nightmare that has metalcore fans over the globe waking up in a cold sweat, sure, but at the very least you know when Enter Shikari go any genre they're gonna go the entire damn way, with "The Sights" and "Live Outside" boasting the hugest choruses the band has ever written. Rou's constantly improving vocals showcase a range and power which forego the shallower tendencies of the music, and the relationship-heavy subject matter is far easier to connect to than Rou's Rant #666 (which quickly arrives in the form of the tepid "Take My Country Back", if you were holding your breath). The album comes into its own with the arrival of "Airfield", a delicate work of piano sculpted from the hardest porcelain, cut from the same cloth as "Constellations" and "Adieu". Shikari have always been at their best when they drop moments of sincere beauty into the pulsating temple-throbbing pit (just check out Chris' bridge on "Hectic" for a start), so "Airfield" and "An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces" double down on reminding us that behind the accents, political raving and nudge-nudge-humour are human guys capable of delivering some of the more unexpected emotional beats of the year.
Nevertheless it's not a real Enter Shikari album without a couple songs fully leaning into their birthright – that is, schizophrenic genre-hopping nonsense – so "Shinrin-yoku" and "The Revolt of the Atoms" see the band cut all anchors to the land of logical song progressions. The former builds from a lovely horns-led beginning to the most powerful crescendo of the year, while the latter pairs satanic falsetto chanting and a voice message from the end of time with scattered synapse electronics like the band is summoning some heathen digital god. Undeniably, it's tempting to see The Spark
as Shikari-lite, a poppy album which forsakes the sound and fury which made the boys so interesting in the first place. But making the same album twice is anathema here, and the sound of the band isolating the human element and expanding it into their most beautiful, focused work to date is a wonder to behold. And hey, just as every "Airfield" is followed by a filthy "Rabble Rouser", and every "Jigsaw Pieces" ends in the sound of a fucking apocalyptic meltdown, you will leave knowing that the old Enter Shikari never went away.