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Now entering their 13th of existence, progressive hardcore outfit Enter Shikari could be forgiven for resting on their laurels. But if the UK quartet’s latest record, The Mindsweep, is anything to go by, it’s abundantly clear these fiercely independent punk-rock protagonists have no interest in settling into complacency.
Arguably Enter Shikari’s most progressive record — an achievement in itself, given the expansive nature of their previous work — The Mindsweep is an impassioned call to arms which both engages and challenges the listener from the outset.
Opener The Appeal & The Mindsweep I wastes no time making their intentions clear. An escalating synth pattern provides a dramatic backdrop over which vocalist Rou Reynolds delivers an emotional spoken word appeal to humanity. You can feel the urgency and desperation in each syllable, and the air of anticipation allows the track to explode to life via an ear-splitting combination of screamed vocals, metallic riffs and booming rhythms. It provides the ideal introduction to the environment of barely controlled sonic chaos the album inhabits.
The One True Colour and There’s A Price On Your Head move at a frantic pace. Incendiary riffs from guitarist Liam ‘Rory’ Clewlow interlock with ferocious rhythms provided by drummer Rob Rolfe and bassist Chris Batten underscore Reynolds’ caustic howl. Subtle electronic elements in The One True Colour provide temporary respite from the onslaught, and the soft/loud dynamic highlights the band’s firm grasp on songcraft.
Electronic production on the band’s earlier record often seemed to occupy a world of its own, but here it’s utilised more intelligently and efficiently, adding layers to the album’s sonic palette. Myopia and The Bank Of England are all the more memorable as a result. Reynolds and Clewlow’s vastly improved vocals and strong melodies are also an essential element in the album’s success, and symphonic arrangements as in The Appeal and The Mindsweep II further sell the impact of the confrontational lyrical messages.
Lead single The Last Garrison, Torn Apart and Never Let Go Of The Microscope will sound familiar to Enter Shikari fans, integrating a dizzying array of ideas into mesmerising yet melodic musical monoliths. Recent single Anaesthetist strips things back somewhat to provide a 3.5-minute war cry against the current state of the UK’s healthcare system. As Clewlow’s riffs crash, Rolfe’s simple, groove-laden drums mesh beautifully with some restrained synths, giving Reynolds a platform to unleash his wrath in all of its scathing glory.
Nowhere is the essence of The Mindsweep, and Enter Shikari’s growth as artists, better displayed than in the album’s penultimate track, and undisputed highlight, Dear Future Historians. A gentle, intimate number, it’s a hauntingly beautiful lament on the frailties of our human experience. Opening with vocals and a simple piano accompaniment, the song builds in intensity as Reynolds makes peace with the reality of the life he leads. He’s soon joined by soaring guitars, pounding drums, choral vocals, woodwind instruments and beautiful pizzicato strings.
It’s two of the most moving minutes of music you’ll hear this year. A truly remarkable achievement for any band, in any genre, Dear Future Historians is essential listening.
An ambitious, passionate and empowering record with a vital social message, The Mindsweep is a seriously impressive artistic statement from a band which simply refuses to play by anyone else’s rules. In a scene increasingly flooded with unadventurous careerists, Enter Shikari remain as innovative and as dangerous as ever. Listen and be inspired.