Friday 6 February 2015

Review of 'The Mindsweep' by Enter Shikari

St. Albans metalcore/electronica outfit Enter Shikari want to be fun party animals and political activists, but don’t how to be both at the same time. It’s a precarious balancing act that only the most skilled songwriters can pull off.

I was never a huge fan of this band in the early days, despite being a teenager from Hertfordshire at the time their debut dropped. I found their music gimmicky and the death growls scared me.

In the eight years since then, Enter Shikari have cut down on the amount of breakdowns per track and gained an ear for progression, just as I’ve become less afraid of metal, now frequently indulging in the most guttural, brutal variations of the genre available.

I thought maybe that my newfound openness to heaviness and their newfound rejection of gimmicks might cause me to like this album. Having listened to it, I can definitely see that the band’s creativity and musical prowess has improved. However, The Mindsweep doesn’t feel nearly as fun as their early stuff. The one thing they had going for them then is the one thing they’re lacking now.

A lot of it’s down to the way they convey their political messages on this album. Whilst there are clearly some interesting topics here such as the privatisation of the NHS and classism, the band choose to discuss these issues by spewing a thesaurus at the listener, using as many long words as possible where short ones would do. It’s the Russell Brand approach of trying to sound overly intelligent in order to make up for immaturity.

The best tracks on this album work when the band embrace their inner childishness and drop the fancy vocabulary. ‘There’s a Price on Your Head’ sees the band laying manic vocals over wild and crazy System-of-a-Down-like guitars. An airhorn is even thrown into the mix for good measure. It’s comically and brilliantly over the top.

Humour is the perfect counterweight for preachiness. Saying this, seriousness can work in music too and Enter Shikari also prove this on the following track ‘Dear Future Historians’. The complete opposite of ‘There’s a Price on Your Head’, this song does away with the mosh-friendly instrumentation entirely in exchange for some intimate ballady piano. The long words are also ditched here. The result is a track that’s genuinely and enjoyably sincere. Well, at least for the most part.

‘I never swam with dolphins’ – Enter Shikari :(

The fact that these two tracks don't come across as wholly cringeworthy proves that this band can balance politics and party atmosphere and it’s therefore annoying that the remaining tracks exist in the form that they do. As stated many times already, it’s mostly the pretentious language that holds a lot of this album back. The band's focus seems to be on educating rather than entertaining. I guess for some people the preachiness is the pull factor. Alas, however, it is not my cup of tea.