Album Review#1: Enter Shikari – Nothing is True & Everything is Possible

On their sixth LP, trancecore pioneers, Enter Shikari transcend genre-boundaries as per usual. On this record, they merge elements of all of their older ones with new styles and create one of their most interesting records so far in the process. In this post, you will see whether or not this record is worth buying for old fans and people new to this band.

Lead singer Rou Reynolds produced the record by himself, which enabled the band to maintain great freedom as artists. This shows if you consider the genres that this band dives into over the course of this album. They range from electronic genres like jungle beat, drum and bass and grime to rock and even one entirely orchestral song. You can find the Cover and Tracklist below.

A Journey through Musical Landscapes

The tracklist is based on the structure of an opera, as you can tell from titles like Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (I. Crescendo) or Reprise 3. This already hints at the impact of classical music on this record. The English outfit of four merges electronic music with all types of genres. On this album, they draw inspiration from classical music in particular.

On the first half of the album, there are hints at classical music in songs like the aforementioned ones. These classical elements become more prominent over the course of the album and the band merges them with different other genres. Despite this diversity, the lyrics, which are highly political, provide a main theme throughout the entirety of the album and some songs even tell a story (Marionettes I and II). The record is well-structured but it is not one that you can just listen to to kill some time. In order to appreciate this LP, you have to take your time and absorb its diverse soundscapes.

The journey begins with the opening track The Great Unknown. The synthesiser is reminiscent of the earlier days of the band who used to merge post-hardcore with trance and various other electronic genres. The band combines atmospheric synthesisers in the style of their debut album Take to the Skies with upbeat drums. The singer uses more of his range and alternates between higher tones, which he has not used as much on previous records, and lower tones, that the fans have probably grown used to by now. He does so fluently and this song is more dynamic than comparable ones on the precursor “The Spark”.

This energetic upbeat-song is followed by the arguably weakest song on the record: Crossing the Rubicon, a pure pop-song in the style of The 1975, ‘Enter the 1975’, if you will. The song leans into the same direction as The Spark but more strongly into pop. The structure is rather static and the vocals are rather simple, not to say monotonous in comparison.

This is followed by { The Dreamer’s Hotel }, which might be this record’s highlight for older fans of the band. Lyrically and musically, this is a typical Shikari song, which easily could have been on their second record. The song varies between beats as you would find them in hardcore punk, a generally high speed and drum and bass sections as the band has already used on various occasions. Towards the end of the song, there is a breakdown, which adds a nice touch to it and makes it a potential new classic for their live gallery.

The speed and musical style shift drastically in the next song Waltzing off the Face of the Earth part I. Classical music meets electronica and the band plays a waltz beat coupled with an atmospheric synthesiser. The latter becomes more prominent throughout the course of the song and creates a nice, danceable piece. Especially the pits to this song could be interesting, as they might give a new meaning to the words ‘Move that pit’ or ‘Circle Pit’. As the title suggests, this song tackles issues related to the potential decline of humanity and denial of real problems like climate change.

The following track, modern living, is similarly political. It is like a more lively version of Crossing the Rubicon. The electronica are similar to the album Common Dreads and the singer accompanies them in grimy verses. Again, Rou uses more of his vocal range than on earlier records and keeps the structure fresh and more dynamic than in track 2. Therefore, this poppy tune is not as static as the aforementioned song.

This is followed by an interlude, Apocaholics Anonymous, which is similar to the remixes that the band likes to play during their live sets. The track is mainly instrumental but dynamic nonetheless. The base-drop reminds me of the band’s side project Shikari Sound System and the fact that they like to play DJ-sets. This song could be particularly interesting in a live setting, as it could move the masses.

The pressure’s on is another pop song. However, it feels more vibrant than Crossing the Rubicon. The vocals and instrumentals seem more vivid than on that track and fit each other smoothly. The bridge makes this a good live song since the instrumentals become the main focus and make you want to dance.

Reprise 3 may be ‘just’ an interlude but older fans will recognise it from the first three albums of the band. The words ‘And still we will be here, standing like statues’, which have reached cult status for the fans by now, are accompanied by the same synthesiser that plays at the ending of album one and in the beginnings of albums two and three. For old fans of the band, now at the latest is the point when nostalgia strikes. If you are new to the band, it is an atmospheric interlude nonetheless. Reprise 3 also marks the transition to the second half of the album.

This is followed by another nostalgic piece: T.I.N.A., which is based on the saying ‘There is no alternative’, coined by the ‘Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher. Fittingly, this song is one of the heavier tracks on this record. The intro is followed by a breakdown. After that, the tempo goes full throttle during the first verse. In the second verse, it is similar to upbeat songs by the likes of The Prodigy or ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless.

The next song is one of the more interesting ones on this album: Elegy for Extinction, which was composed by the lead singer with help of George Fenton. This is a classical piece, which was recorded in Prague with an orchestra according to the singer. Despite the radical shift in style, this atmospheric song is typical of Enter Shikari, which might be due to the singer giving the orchestra a riff to play, as he states in an interview. The climax of this song is reminiscent of the band’s philanthropy and optimism and of the mood of their choruses. Towards the end of the song, the tone shifts and goes much darker. After the first listen, this was honestly my favourite of the LP, even though I normally do not really listen to classical music.  

From around 11 minutes to 13:20, Singer Rou Reynolds talks about the recording process of Elegy for Extinction. I did not create this video. It was done by ALLSCHOOLS. Check out their channel.

The classical elements also become more prominent in the following songs. After a James Bond- type of intro, a jungle beat kicks in to set off Marionettes I. Add a bit of house and there you have a danceable song that might become a live hit. However, this song is only the build-up for its sequel, Marionettes II, wherein Rou transitions from spoken word to singing. That build-up then culminates in a strong, atmospheric chorus, which could become a hymn in a live setting. The lyrics deal with ignorance in the face of crises like climate change and continue the theme introduced in the first half of the album.

The penultimate song is another hymn, one for the LGBTQIA+ community. Rou Reynolds proves yet again that he knows what he is talking (or singing) about. The lyrics prove that he is an ally, as they show a good understanding of the community and its struggles in society: ‘Online they discuss whether I exist and in court they decide who I can kiss’. An ethereal autotune intro is followed by guitar and drums. The tempo picks up continuously until the song explodes into a powerful upbeat hymn with a great message. – This is definitely one of my favourites on this record. Satellites reminds me a lot of the band’s older songs just a tad bit softer. This applies to the entirety of this album.

The last ‘real’ song is The King, another energetic upbeat song. However, to me it seems a bit static and constructed. The chorus is typical of Enter Shikari and takes turns with grimey verses. To round things up, there is a breakdown, however not nearly as heavy as in older songs like Sssnakepit. Especially live, this song could be really interesting. Maybe it will feel more natural in that setting.

Nothing is True is not only the title of the album but also the chant you can hear in the outro. Already at the beginning of the song, it becomes clear that it is the last one on this album. It is really atmospheric and ends in a vibrant, colourful mixture of classical music, electronica and ambient with effects such as live vocals and bird twitching. This creates a nice homely atmosphere and feels like the end of a journey. The lyrics call back to the theme of possibility and disaster introduced during the first half of the album and everything comes full circle. The sound and themes contrast each other and convey an urgent but positive message: despite the dark times we live in, there is still hope to change things for the better.

This is just a small glimpse of the band’s light shows. Seeing what they are going to do on tour with this record is going to be very interesting. Photo by Artur Kechter on Unsplash

Conclusion: Who should listen to this record?

Enter Shikari are as consequent as usual with their artistic vision. This is an experimental record and the band continues on the journey away from their roots in hardcore and post-hardcore. If you did not like this development on their earlier records, this album is most likely not for you.

However, I can recommend this to anyone, no matter if you like the band or not. Nothing is True is a really diverse record and every track offers something new. If you listen to lots of music and especially if you like experimental music, I recommend listening to this album. Just a warning: in order to make the most of this record, you have to take your time and be patient. If you have taken this first step, this LP gets better with every listen.

All in all, I give this record an 8,5/10. Apart from Crossing the Rubicon, it is interesting from the beginning to the end but of course some songs are better than others. Tracks that stuck out to me were Elegy for Extinction, Marionettes part I and satellites.  My initial reaction was puzzlement and I did not know what to think about this record. Despite that, I was sure that this was going to be a grower and I was correct. Again, I can only recommend this if you are willing to put in some time to listen to it several times. Otherwise, you might not be able to appreciate this album.

This marks the end of my first album review. It was long overdue but I got the record later than anticipated and it took me some time to get down to listening to it. I will probably do this more often from now onward whenever an artist releases a record or song that intrigues me. I actually have another record in mind that I am most likely going to talk about so stay tuned if you are interested. This does not change the focus of this blog. I will still stick to my formats but from time to time, you can also expect things like this as a bonus.

As always thank you for reading. Feel free to tell me if you liked the record. Considering the development of Enter Shikari, I would like to ask how you think about bands changing their style. Feel free to tell me in the comments or on Twitter.

Until the next time

-sovlpvnk

My latest post:

https://sovlpvnk.com/2020/05/17/ace-rep0-an-ace-101-what-is-asexuality/

Published by sovlpvnk

This is my personal blog about culture and sustainability. It is mainly concerned with topics that I'm interested in, mostly the alternative music scene and its ethics as well as LGBTQIA+ -related topics and veganism. I post my content in English and German.

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