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Enter Shikari

England’s belated nu-metal/post-hardcore answer to the likes of LIMP BIZKIT, SYSTEM OF A DOWN et al, ENTER SHIKARI were something of a rarity in today’s rawk music world, rejecting as they did a line-up of record companies. Instead, founding their own Ambush Reality imprint on the strength of an explosive Gibson/MySpace spot at 2006’s Download Festival, the quartet railed against the majors while only becoming the second unsigned group to fill the halls of London’s Astoria. The timing was indeed perfect as their debut album, TAKE TO THE SKIES (2007) {*7} rocketed into the Top 5.
In the space of only four or five years (add another year to include a debut demo-EP as Hybyrd `Commit No Nuisance’ from 2002), the quartet from St Albans, Hertfordshire were challenging the big guns. Developing tracks that appeared on long-since deleted demo-EPs (`Nodding Acquaintance’, `Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ and `Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour’) – available at only gigs and their website – Roughton “Rou” Reynolds (vocals/electronics), Chris Batten (bass/vocals), Rob Rolfe (drums/percussion) and Liam “Rory” Clewlow (guitar/vocals) proved there was indeed another route to the hearts of minds of young metal fans – the internet; note that “Rory” was added within the change of their moniker in 2003.
A band that was not immediately identified with stadium-screamo attributes, ENTER SHIKARI could throw in the odd ballad (`Adieu’), while interpolating trance and space themes by way of `Mothership’, `No Ssweat’ and the eponymous `Enter Skikari’.
Garnering plaudits as far apart musically as Kerrang and the NME, hit album two COMMON DREADS (2009) {*7} again flooded the singles charts with hook-line dirges, namely `Juggernauts’ and `No Sleep Tonight’. Lyricist Rou could certainly write the odd emotionally-driven mini-opera, although the OTT screaming prog-metal aspect was hardly necessary and probably in breach of trademark from a thousand Yank acts. Defiantly for the young at heart rather than old-skool hard-rockers, `Antwerpen’ and `Solidarity’ (but not jazz-rapper `The Jester’) were feet to the pedals with fists in the air.
Roping in former Sik Th axeman Dan Weller to take up the controls in faraway Bangkok, Rou’s metaphor-ic abandon was highly noticeable on third set, A FLASH FLOOD OF COLOUR (2012) {*6}. Profoundly socio-political and punk in nature, Rou and Co were tearing up the metal rule book on the drum ‘n’ bass-ic `Sssnakepit’, the tongue-twisting `Stalemate’ and the techno ranting of `Ghandi Mate, Gandhi’, but like everything else, cascading crescendos were just around the corner.
Content with Dan the man as producer once again for 2015’s THE MINDSWEEP {*6}, America was always going to be a hard nut to crack open, although the band’s previous set had flashed in and out of the US Top 75. Rou’s London-centric spoken-word vernacular – when not in RATM growl mode – was reminiscent of a distant Robert Smith or Mark Perry, but his rapid-fire range enabled him to adapt to almost anything he could throw up. Never one to shirk from the day’s recession-hit world order and/or class wars, the topic-fuelled `The Last Garrison’, `There’s A Price On Your Head’, `The Bank Of England’ and `The One True Colour’, made sure boy-meets-girl tales of woe were barred sin-died.
Play It Again Sam duly endorsed ENTER SHIKARI’s in-sanitised remix venture, THE MINDSWEEP: HOSPITALISED (2015) {*5}; remarkable in the fact that its jungle/drum ’n’ bass rhythms dented the Top 75. Maybe the set was a wild and wayward taste of what was to come, because after the stop-gap LIVE AT ALEXANDRA PALACE (2016) {*6}, there were drastic changes afoot for fifth studio set, THE SPARK (2017) {*7}. It’d be a brave band to follow the flat – nay tragedy-linked – footsteps of LINKIN PARK; if not from rap-rock to pop, then hardcore metal to socio-political electro-rock, but that’s the gambit these proud Englishmen took, aware of the nation’s Brexit doomed lemming-mania or what the aftermath of OTT Trump-gate scandals might bring. Treading on tried-and-tested, anthem-fuelled indie-rock (`Take My Country Back’ and `The Sights’), old-skool new wave (`Live Outside’), or rock-raps (`Rabble Rouser’), there were a myriad of music to cherry-pick from this Top 5 record.
On a parallel perspective to its predecessor, the genre-busting Top 3 follow-up, NOTHING IS TRUE & EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE (2020) {*7}, threw everything at the walls but the kitchen sink; if one could imagine YOU ME AT SIX sparring with The PRODIGY (though ultimately tame by comparison), electronicore ENTER SHIKARI’s identity got lost somewhere in translation. A marmite prospect if taken as a pending apocalyptic concept set under a kaleidoscopic microscope, highlights were in its many download-only singles, including `The Great Unknown’, `The Dreamer’s Hotel’, `T.I.N.A.’ and `The King’.
© MC Strong/MCS Jan2015-Apr2020

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