The Porcelain Throne: Enter Shikari
On this edition of the Throne, we have Formerly Known As Oli Sykes here to talk about a genre unfamiliar to the Toilet. While some of you may shy away from change, I encourage this diversity so we don’t become a strictly pornogoregrind blog in years to come. As always, The Porcelain Throne is looking for submissions, so download The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines, and send me some stuff!
Now, we all know that trancecore/wubwubcore is usually fucking shite. It’s full of crappy bands who aim to make up for their lack of musical talent by shoehorning in techno elements and bass drops. Enter Shikari are the exception to that rule. Maybe it’s because they are from Europe, and therefore know what rave culture actually is, or maybe it’s because they actually know how to mix electronica and post-hardcore well, unlike the rest of the genre. They’re more like a modern analogue for Faith No More than your average scenecore band, and seeing as FNM are my favourite band ever, that’s no mean feat. Like FNM, they have quite a bit of success in the UK and elsewhere, but America mostly shafts them in favour of shite like Breath Carolina. God I hate Yankees sometimes.
Take To The Skies (2007)
This is their trancecore record, and while it’s their weakest album by far, there are hints of what Shikari would become on later albums. There are a ton of songs that will always bring the mosh, but then there are songs that are completely different than most of the album. “Today Won’t Go Down In History” starts calm, but builds into a heavier climax, “Jonny Sniper” is a calm and uplifting song with an environmentalist message, and “Adieu” is an acoustic ballad for god’s sake. However, while I like the album, it has some MAJOR flaws. For one, the vocals aren’t great. Rou Reynolds became a fantastic vocalist, but his young age is quite noticeable during his screams, and while Rou’s clean vocals are quite good here, their bassist Chris also chips in with some here and there, and the less said about them the better. Also, with the exception of the one, the interludes need to go, as they often kill the pace of the album. Also, the song “Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour” can fuck right off. All in all, the album is good in my opinion, but it just doesn’t go far enough with the ideas found on it.
Common Dreads (2009)
While Take To The Skies was a good album, it wasn’t the record that really got me into Shikari. That delightful album was Common Dreads. I have to admit, as a dumbass child, I didn’t get most of the lyrics, but looking at them now, it’s pretty easy to see that this is a political album. The vocals are also much improved, as Rou’s screams are pretty incredible, the clean vox are great, and the vocal interplay is just awesome. There is some rapping, and while some people may immediately stop reading this and cry poser, the rapping is actually surprisingly good. The music also takes the ideas seen on TTTS to new areas, with elements of drum and bass, house, and dubstep added to the mix. Whereas most bands would just shove them in for the sake of it, Shikari knew where these elements were needed and how to add them in without them sounding out of place. Just look at “Solidarity”, “Juggernauts”, and even “Zzzonked” as examples. All in all, this was a massive step up from TTTS, and this firmly established Shikari as the genre busting crazy people they are.
A Flash Flood Of Colour (2012)
Going back to my FNM comparison, if TTTS was their The Real Thing, and Common Dreads was their Angel Dust, then this is their King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime. Here is where Shikari took all their elements to a logical endpoint that created their most experimental and overall best release. The vocals were incredible, with Rou finally turning into the British Mike Patton he is today, Chris finally sounding great, and their guitarist Rory having some great moments on songs like “Sssnakepit” and “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi”. The experimentation on songs is more prevalent than on previous albums, with “System…” being an epic intro turning into the mosh heavy “…Meltdown”, “Sssnakepit” mixing elements of jungle music and thrash with their older D’n’B-meets-post-hardcore style, and “Arguing With Thermometers” sounding like the bastard offspring of Weezer, Knife Party, and Slipknot. Despite mixing these disparate elements together, they work extremely well and sound great.
Finally, the political aspect is taken to its endpoint as well. The band politically identifies with The Zeitgeist Movement, and whatever your thoughts on the movement, they do make a great case for it throughout the album, even more than on Common Dreads. All in all, this album is an incredible ride from start to finish, experimenting with newer sounds, improving the vocals, and having lyrics that resonate with intelligent people while still getting their point across to their (admittedly) young fanbase, whilst still not losing what made the band great to begin with. This is why it’s my favourite album by this band.
The Mindsweep (2015)
After the masterpiece that was A Flash Flood Of Colour, Enter Shikari had the impossible task of topping it with their next release. While they could never top their previous album, it is still a great album in its own right. “Anaesthetist” is one huge fuck you to the UK’s current administration and their stance on the British health system with some incredible rapping courtesy of Rou, “The Last Garrison” is a great anti-war track, and “Never Let Go Of The Microscope” is a fantastic pro-science anthem that goes from incredible rapping to one of the best climaxes the band has ever done. Also, “There Is A Price On Your Head” goes full Dillinger Escape Plan, and it’s awesome. While the album is great, it just has the unfortunate task of following A Flash Flood Of Colour, which was something that couldn’t be done easily.
The Non-Album Stuff
In a move not done anywhere near as much as most bands should, Enter Shikari also have a bunch of non-album material that has gone on to be just as famous, if not more so than some of their singles. There were a few earlier tracks, but things got awesome with “Destabilise”, as probably the best of their non-album material. This is a fantastic song, both in studio and live, with an anthemic chorus, fantastic vocals, and some real mosh-worthy moments throughout the song.
Where things got better was with the Rat Race EP, consisting of “The Paddington Frisk”, a straight up punk track with an electronic part playing throughout the track, “Radiate”, a great song with excellent verses and a really cool calm part that builds back up into the chorus, and finally “Rat Race”, which also goes full Dillinger Escape Plan, but with some Mr. Bungle and electronica mixed in for good measure.
To conclude, I think Enter Shikari have been one of the most interesting, intelligent, and just damn great bands to come out of the UK in the past 10 years. They have a ton of elements that shouldn’t mesh well, but do so incredibly well, and they have an intelligent and fantastic vocalist in Rou Reynolds, and some of the best songwriters in the post-hardcore genre today. The fact that they have achieved the success they have in the UK from the start, while always self-releasing their music, is even more impressive. All in all, I can’t think of any more kind words to say about this band so, uh… Gandhi mate, remember Gandhi.
Thanks again to Formerly Known As Oli Sykes for this fine addition to the Throne.