Sound — 7
Even though many have enthusiastically insulted bands like Asking Alexandria and Attack! Attack! for practicing the young and polarizing fusion genre of electronicore, many have also used the same breath to praise how forward-thinking Enter Shikari was. Though Enter Shikari were employing the same kind of hard dance synth presets like any other eletronicore act, their ace-in-the-hole back in their earlier years was taking the then-esoteric sound of dubstep and putting it into their music, making them innovators as much as oddballs of the hardcore scene.
That exclusivity in style shrank as the last few years went by. Producers like Skrillex, Excision and Datsik turned dubstep into the next biggest music trend in 2011, pop music producers foraged from those trendy trees shortly after, and Korn incited a tidal wave of disdain with their dubstep/nu-metal album, "The Path of Totality" - this all rendered Enter Shikari's 2012 album, "A Flash Flood of Colour," substantially less cutting-edge. Now, with bands like Imagine Dragons and Muse augmenting dubstep-esque elements into their arena-rock music, the fusion is a common thing to come across. Even more so, it's a flavor that's evidently lost its luster - based on how quickly the hype dissipated after Skrillex's debut album "Recess" came out a year ago, it's not hard to see that many are "over" dubstep at this point.
So where does that leave Enter Shikari? With the release of their fourth album, "The Mindsweep," they answer the writing on the wall - move forward. Well, not entirely. When the album kicks off with "The Appeal and the Mindsweep I," which wields a 'roided up arpeggiated trance synth as aggressively as any other song Enter Shikari have composed in the past six years, it seems like the new album will be business as usual, continuing to carry the torch of in-your-face electronicore. The drum 'n' bass/rapcore hybrid tracks "The Anaesthetist" and "Torn Apart" also carry over the few aggressive bass wobbles from "A Flash Flood of Colour" to this album, and while those that loved Enter Shikari's previous album ought to be pleased here, linearly speaking, the "past-mentality" sound of these tracks doesn't contain as much freshness and fervor today.
But while Enter Shikari is no longer banking on the coalescence of dubstep drops with metalcore breakdowns, they haven't abandoned all of their synthesizers with it. Primarily, "The Mindsweep" isn't as aggressive with its synth usage, utilizing them often to build richer layering and nuanced texture to their compositions (see "The One True Colour," "Never Let Go of the Microscope," "Myopia," "The Bank of England,"), and their big single "The Last Garrison" takes more tastefully-contained indie dance melodies to integrate with the post-hardcore structure to strengthen its positive disposition.
This difference in Enter Shikari's composure shows more appreciation for smooth and strong dynamic range in songs, rather than manically sprinting from one loud section to another loud section like in their earlier works, and it's a solid step towards growing their electronica elements from sophomoric to sophisticated. But even with this new emphasis on sonic serenity, the other pleasant surprise on the album is the polar opposite of that: the technical-riffed hardcore madness of "There's a Price on Your Head" is essentially the band's love letter to The Dillinger Escape Plan, while frontman Rou Reynolds decides to do his best Serj Tankian impression on the track to further raise eyebrows. While it shouldn't be expected to be as hectic as anything found on TDEP's "Calculating Infinity," it's damn satisfying nonetheless.
Lyrics — 8
Reynolds' decision to get fully political in his lyrics two albums ago was met with mixed feelings - as admirable as it was to make socially-conscious music, his messages back in "Common Dreads" weren't much more than broad calls for action. Reynolds kept working out those lyrical muscles in "A Flash Flood of Colour," and now with "The Mindsweep," it's easy to see Reynolds has hit his stride. Instead of simply shouting the need to "stand up" (a sentiment Reynolds liberally used in past albums), Reynolds dishes a multi-course meal of what systemic problems to be conscious of - from highlighting the toxic norm of passing xenophobic worldviews to younger generations in "The One True Colour" and "Torn Apart," to condemning the unethical, for-profit behavior of pharmaceutical corporations and the hospital-industrial complex in "The Anaesthetist," as well as bluntly hammering the overwrought pissing contest of wealth and economics in "The Bank of England" and "There's a Price on Your Head."
Further evidence of Reynolds' growth as a lyricist is shown in songs where he retries subjects/tropes that he's tried before. "Myopia" is Reynolds' most articulate song about global warming, comparing humans' callous actions causing it and their apathetic feelings towards it to the suffering of animals living in arctic regions because of it. "Dear Future Historians..." shares a similar message of recognizing the need for improvement in order to ensure a healthy future to the "A Flash Flood of Colour" track "Constellations," but instead of using a parable to express that like in "Constellations," Reynolds uses the concept of writing a heartfelt letter to the future, understanding that his generation's actions need to positively affect for the well-being of future generations. And in succession to Reynolds' attempt to channel Gandhi's philosophies in the "A Flash Flood of Colour" song "Gandhi Mate, Gandhi," Reynolds emulates musings of numerous ancient Greek figures in "Never Let Go of the Microscope," though it does toe the line of pretentiousness.
Overall Impression — 8
Based on how dubstep's rise and fall in the past few years is analogous to the Hindenburg, Enter Shikari's follow-up to "A Flash Flood of Colour" could have been set to fall just as severely had it been nothing more than "A Flash Flood of Colour, Pt. II." Thankfully, "The Mindsweep" is a great effort by Enter Shikari of moving into a newer sound, whether as a coordinated move away from a burnt-out trend or an honest show of growth. Frankly, it seems to be the latter - from the more meticulous synth-work and dynamic songwriting to the stronger messages in the lyrics, Enter Shikari are maturing in nearly all areas.