Returning with their new album Common Dreads, the quartet of mates that make up Enter Shikari have continued their brutal sonic attack on conformity. Despite its imperfections the band’s second record pushes the boundaries, a valiant effort worthy of praise.
Hailing from St Albans Enter Shikari were causing a stir in the underground music scene long before they effectively broke through into the mainstream with their first studio album Take To The Skies in 2007. Their innovative brand of electro-hardcore and high-energy performances has brought them a loyal fan-base in Britain and across the globe, blazing the trail for dance and drum ‘n’ bass influenced rock along with other acts such as Pendulum and Innerpartysystem.
Two years have passed since Take To The Skies and Enter Shikari have definitely been busy. As well as touring around the UK and beyond its borders the four lads have been working on their second album, Common Dreads. The process of recording the album could be viewed as a series of videos posted on the band’s website, a testament to how well Enter Shikari have embraced the digital advances and changes that are effecting every area of the entertainment industry. And it is good to see that the boys haven’t just stuck with the tried and tested formula, moving on from the success of their first album and trying new ground for the second.
One of the band’s strongest elements is that they deal in interlocking themes, not isolated ideas. Some of the vocal sections from Common Dreads will be strikingly familiar to fans of band, rousing these followers like a heart-stirring battle cry. Other sections will introduce new themes as the band confronts issues such as war, poverty, social responsibility and the death of community. Rou Reynolds’ lyrics flirt with the boundary between artful poetry and gritty dialect, tossing references to wordsmiths such as William Blake into his charming melodies and guttural screams.
As Enter Shikari are a crossover act in essence there are many influences that can be seen within Common Dreads. The rising anthemic beats and keyboards of trance can be found in tracks like ‘Hectic’ and ‘Gap In The Fence’. Grimy drum ‘n’ bass hooks and rhythms resound throughout the ‘Havoc’ instrumental tracks and also within the song ‘Wall’. Over these styles the pummelling riffs of punk and metal carve out their crunching destruction, setting Enter Shikari apart as an aggressive musical force. Also thrown into the mix are some quirky swung sections in ‘Zzzonked’ and ‘The Jester’, shaking up the format and showing the group as striving for originality.
The main flaw that can be found in Common Dreads however is that the focus seems to have been placed on the electronic side of the band’s sound, leaving the real instruments feeling slightly weak. Although the synth parts and processed beats have obviously been honed to perfection, its seems that this has been at the expense of the other musical elements. Rory Clewlows’ guitars are sometimes lost in the mix, not quite hammering through like they did on Take To The Skies, and the accompanying kick-drum rhythms don’t punch as crisply as they could. However, the fact that the band’s sound has changed since the last album is definitely a good thing. Although in my opinion some of the inherent power has been lost in Enter Shikari’s newest offering, it would be unforgivable if they hadn’t changed at all.
This imperfection does not however spoil the overall effect that Common Dreads has. The whole album flows together well, with each song strengthening those that follow and precede it. Creating anthems that contain brutality counter pointed with the ethereal is what Enter Shikari do best, shown in the albums strongest tracks; the thundering single ‘Juggernauts’ and the catchy breakneck tune that is ‘No Sleep Tonight’. It is obvious that the band has enjoyed themselves immensely in forging this new collection for their avid followers.
Aside from the slight lack of strength and definition earlier identified, Common Dreads is an album that works very well and is a formidable companion to Enter Shikari’s previous album. The artwork and presentation of the CD is well-honed and adds to the sense of connection and conviction that runs throughout energetic assault of Common Dreads. The four members of Enter Shikari have faced the horrific ‘dread’ of the second album, and they have fared incredibly well where others and fallen and failed.
If you like this, then try: DJ Hype, Faithless, High Contrast, Incubus, Innerpartysystem, Killswitch Engage, Linkin Park, The Mad Capsule Markets, Muse, The Prodigy, Pendulum, Shy Child.