I make no denial of the fact that I am a Shikarite through and through. Since hearing their breakthrough single, “Sorry You’re Not a Winner”, I have been interested and since their unbelievable second album Common Dreads I’ve been a hardcore fan. With nearly 80 B-sides and studio recordings my itunes greets their third full length studio effort, A Flash Flood Colour. And I am excited.
The album opens with “System…” with the same synth strings as the band’s sophomore album, but has a bit more of all-out electronics as vocalist Rou Reynolds tells us of his dreams and understanding of the world. Suddenly “…Meltdown” begins and we’re attacked. Hard. Melody, energy, electronics, instruments all fuse nicely into this opener which lacks the all-out grandeur of the previous album’s second track, Solidarity, but is a far bigger track and is definitely a song that showcases the band at their prime. Production doesn’t hinder and the album sounds so consistently cohesive that it’s hard to process that this album is actually a fusion of that many genres and styles.
“Sssnakepit” is the first single from the record, a track opening up with jungle drum and bass effects and drums, with the band tempting us into joining “the party, leave anxiety behind”. The track explodes into energy with almost grunge guitar sounds working over a relentless drum beat and Rou Reynolds on full rage mode. The breakdown is a crusher, and before we know it we’re swept into “Stalemate”, the “soft track”. A politically driven track, it isn’t lacking in the electronics so standard for Shikari but isn’t quite as much as a build up as “Gap In The Fence” was on the last record. It’s a tumultuous, crescendo at the end of the track with a piano outro, all the while, Rou sings about the state of foreign affairs worldwide. At this point it’s obvious to see that the lyrics have almost split in half – some are no-nonsense protest lyrics and some are less obviously putting across a message, they seem to divide their lyrics between the style of the first record and the style of the second.
“Search Party” starts with melodies and an electro intro, busting into a breakdown-ish intro, interpolated by sharp synth stabs, sounding a bit like “Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour” in bits, with big anthemic gang vocals throughout. A real singalong track, there’s less screaming on this one but the metal is still out there, busting out with double kick drumming and plenty of open palm muted guitars, speeding up into a groovy riff and glitch electronics at the end. This is a real old school Shikari track and should recapture some of the fans that were disillusioned with Common Dreads. “Arguing With Thermometers” is one song that’s been parading around the internet for a while but this is my first time hearing it, it’s also the next single – another punishing breakdown before switching to a more fun, clean guitars bouncy verse. The electronics are more subtle now, until Rou busts into his first proper “rap” of this record, on into a sort of understated breakdown. It feels a bit weak, with little aggression – the synthy stabs are definitely a nice touch, and the gang vocals and screams towards the end are brutal. “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” is another one release before the record and has a spiel at the start where Reynolds reveals the axe that he’s been grinding for years. “We’re sick of this shit!” kicks off a dubby break before the guitars kick in, with some sub-par vocals and some decent ones – I am not the biggest fan of this song, particularly in the context of what’s so far a mashup of epic proportions. The anxious sounding riff at the end of the song will be massive live, though.
“Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here” sounds like something Linkin Park might chuck out to begin with, and is the least Shikari song on the album, sounding a bit like the bizarre “Antwerpen”. It’s an odd track and something new for the band to toy with in terms of style. There’s a bizarre but interesting break with dubby synths and crackly drums, leading into the coolest riff of the album, some insane dual harmonies and a big ending which gives the album its title. “Pack Of Thieves” begins with a Hospital Records-esque introduction, clean vocals. The electronic elements of Enter Shikari have reached full maturation on this track and the guitars are sidelined for a forceful arpeggiating synth line. This is another big track which sounds a lot like “Solidarity” in places, and has the hardest breakdown on the album. Another big crowd-pleaser, I’ll wager. “Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide” starts with an odd, baroquial guitar sound and big explosions of synths, with Rou addressing a tyrant (the titular Tyrannosaurus). This is some “Take To The Skies” shit, with big, reverberating guitars and synths, sounding a bit like “OK, Time For Plan B” and influenced by the more dissonant side of hardcore punk.
“Constellations” is a fitting outro – like an epic final scene in a film, the atmospheric intro builds tension and almost sets the scene – a low brass and some keyboards, synth strings and sweeping FX make the intro seem so peaceful, with some soft vocals from Reynolds – this could be a song by The Streets almost, as he praises the band’s fans as “Constellations”. This is an echo from “Fanfare For The Conscious Man”, as it calls for unity, the prevailing theme of Enter Shikari’s music.
At the end of the record, I’m left feeling pretty much as I expected – relieved that Shikari aren’t losing creative steam, that they’ve kept up the high bar of really good music and I can’t wait to see this record performed live.