Enter Shikari – Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible


Artist

Album

Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible

Label

SO Recordings

Year

2020

For Fans Of

Muse, Radiohead, David Bowie.

Summary

Anthem of a new decade's existential dread.

Rating

85 / 100

Sounding like a mantra Altaïr would’ve proclaimed in the first Assassin’s Creed, Enter Shikari’sNothing Is True & Everything Is Possible‘ is going to surprise many come April 17th. It’s also likely to piss off just as many. Sitting somewhere between the sounds of ‘Common Dreads,’ ‘Tribalism,’ and ‘The Spark,’ ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible‘ is perhaps the weirdest, most interesting, out-there, and experimental Enter Shikari record. Because listening to this eclectic LP is like embarking on an acid trip guided by the U.K. act, with little red lions plastered on those pesky little tabs as noisy synths wash it down. No matter the vast diversity of these 15 songs – with two exceptions, no track is like the last – it’s all filled with the sorts of philosophically-heavy, political-drenched song work that we all know them for, sentiments of disdain that have never felt so dire given the current unsure state of the world.

The title ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible‘ is exactly the prophetic vision for the music behind this self-produced batch of songs from Enter Shikari; mixing punk, house, pop, electronica, rock, jazz, and classicalism. Which is also the mindset that you should go into it with. For while there’s something for every fan, aspects pulled from almost every era of the group’s history, Enter Shikari’s sixth LP may very well separate their fans on which listeners wanted the same ol’ hardcore-synth breakdowns from 2007 and those who actually want something fresh and adventurous. Something that’s uniquely Shikari; something that allows them to do what they wish without feeling restricted to being just a “heavy” band.

You can tell a lot about a person’s tastes based on what their favourite Enter Shikari record is. While ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible‘ isn’t my favourite record of theirs, it’s their boldest and most detailed, with plenty of surprises, subtleties and outright bangers. There’s so much that I adore here, so let’s dive in deep!

The chilling pianos and frenetic urgency of ‘The Great Unkown‘ make for an awesome opening moment, a modern ring-in for how they would’ve started their older albums. Rou Reynolds reaches into his upper register, singing with equal parts caution and anxiety about whether this is “a new beginning or if we’re close to the edge?“, as big synth stabs that wouldn’t have gone amiss on ‘Common Dreads‘ act as a solid ostinato around on-ice guitar riffs that explode during the choruses. Right after ‘The Great Unknown,’ as if pulled in from another album entirely, ‘Crossing The Rubicon‘ is a warm, fuzzy indie-rock song but as seen through the third-eye of Enter Shikari. This means Rob Rolfe going harder on the drums; lyrically quoting Samuel Beckett (“fail again, fail better“); being a metaphor for our society’s point-of-no-return; Rou having fun with his pitch – playfully sliding around his lower, earthy drawl – and butt-loads of cool synths.

Things get grungy and sharpish on ‘The Dreamer’s Hotel,’ with their signature Shikari-branded synths blaring all over, armed with one of the best choruses of 2020: “meanwhile, back at the Dreamer’s Hotel, five stars but all rooms are vacant.” The Brit-pop vocal-driven bridge over chorus-dipped guitars that give way to a mental, danceable electronic breakdown finale is masterclass songwriting; a masterful tension and release pay-off for a song about coming together to see the bigger picture. So far, these three songs sound and feel like three different bands, yet it’s nothing too out there for these four lads, right?

Enter ‘Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (I. Crescendo),’ whose lyrics are where the album’s title originates, and one of the most interesting songs off the whole LP. With a 3/4 waltz and bellowing brass instruments, Rou pens a grim essay about deception, fake news, flat earthers, climate change denialists, capitalism, mass shootings, and the stranger-than-fiction truth that defines headlines these days. But as the song builds, and as more harmonic vocal and instrumental layers creep upon you, with the repeated phrase “nothing is true & everything is possible” feeling like life or death, Rory Clewlow’s skittish guitars mangle themselves over a stomping, booming percussive slab as weird synth noises fire off. It breaks free from that chaos and ends as a jazz number, making me think: “how the fuck did we even get to here!?” Yet I’m so glad we did, with one of the boldest compositions from Enter Shikari in recent memory no less.

With lurching beats, bass-blowouts, rock riffs and trap-pop vibes, ‘modern living…‘ makes for a fun little off-beat gem full of that Shikari charm. Thematically, this song is the band throwing an end-of-the-world shindig. Glossy keys and ear-worming refrains act like this song’s version of a Snapchat filter, whereas Rou’s cheeky vocal delivery and direct lyricism hit like a dose of reality to your synapses. And I love how the lyrics pre-empt ‘apøcaholics anonymøus (main theme in B minor),’ which continues a similar vibe of ‘modern living…‘ and is a neat mid-album remix of tempo-edited instruments, modulated vocals and a classic Shikari synth rearing its big beautiful head. If you didn’t understand before, then you should realize right there how little of a shit Enter Shikari care about containing themselves to a singular box with their sixth album. Of course, most know and expect that from them by now, but ‘modern living…‘ (and this wider LP) sees the group take it to a new extreme, making it loud and clear for all to notice.

The major-key, trance-nature of ‘the pressure’s on.‘ sweeps you off your feet, as it subtly morphs into this euphoric, electro banger lead by falsetto vocals. It’s one of the more straightforward songs on the record yet is also one of the most instantly satisfying and soothing as well; easily one of the catchiest, at the very least. ‘Reprise 3‘ then succeeds in its namesake, bringing back the opening synth strings from their self-titled song, ‘Common Dreads,’ and ‘System‘ as Rou’s pitched-down vocals announce over distorted acoustic guitars: “and still we will be here…” Though ominously, he doesn’t finish the band’s long-running quote of “…standing like statues“. It’s more of a statement of intent; the past is the present is the future, but not in the way that we think.

Acting as a push-back against the hoodwinkers atop the social pyramid who proclaim there’s one single way for human society to progress in – a method that benefits them – we have ‘T.I.N.A.‘ A clever metaphorical acronym that stands for the song’s opening lyric, “there is no alternative,” this trendy-sounding and immensely bouncy club banger is an anti-shrinkwrapper for devious single-minded paradigms. To follow that analogy all the way to end, which exact clubs would spin ‘T.I.N.A.‘? I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. Clubs suck, this song doesn’t. And I never knew Enter Shikari could sound this groovy again, but I’m more than happy to have been proven wrong.

Embracing the Havok of this epoch is the biggest curveball, the classical orchestral arrangement of ‘Elegy For Extinction,’ performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Adam Klemens, reminding me of some Igor Stravinsky epic. Skyrocketing past uplifting positive moods through overwhelming horns, marching snare rolls, xylophones, and booming timpanis, this solely instrumental piece is a shape-shifter, with what sounds like motifs and melodic fragments lifted from older Shikari songs. As it’s tone colour changes dramatically when the song switches key halfway and turns into a panicked, foreboding landscape. You know how Bring Me The Horizon pulled off that insane Royal Albert Hall performance with a choir and an orchestra supporting them? This is the album that could potentially see Enter Shikari one day pull off such a massive feat. (Honestly, I’m hoping for it.)

The creepy-as-hell ‘Marionettes (I. The Discovery Of Strings)‘ is a sporadic, dark and grimy piece. Yet once its main dubstep beat kicks in along with sweet pitched-vocal loops, it’s like something from another planet, imploring us to overthrow the masters that control the strings with some heavy Radiohead vibes. (Given the emphasis on strings across this LP, the phrase “The Discovery Of Strings” seems apt.) By the time it’s wicked half-time groove smacks you over the head, I’m in love with it. Yet it’s just one half of the same golden coin. Because igniting a spark right afterwards is the Matrix-breaking class struggle of ‘Marionettes (II. The Ascent).’

This second part sounds like a throwback from ‘The Mindsweep,’ and is an interesting amalgamation of old and new Shikari, speaking about how much hurt the truth can hold; about using our minds as “kindling” for fires that must be lit lest the darkness swallows us all from up above. The truth-testing vocal calls of “CLIMB!” are one of the most politically-direct manifesto’s of the band’s whole career, and the vocal harmonies of this second half to ‘Marionettes‘ are blissful, even with the pitch-black theme of ignorance-curing and social revolt.

Shooting across this album’s heavens is the fast, upbeat and magical comet of ‘satellites**,’ a pro-LGBTQ song with pop-vocal licks showing solidarity with marginalised groups that expresses similar sentiments to what ‘The One True Colour‘ did five years ago. The sudden low-pass EQ filters that swell into the track catch one right off guard, as the harmonies from bassist Chris Batten (a subtle MVP throughout the album with his supportive vocals), snappy drumming and ebbing synths become a solid bed-rock for an important message about love, affection and human interaction. Something quite timely given the world’s current self-isolation and lockdown. At one point back in time, Enter Shikari focused heavily on genre-mashing hardcore, techno and dubstep. They already did that, did it very well, so are now fusing their love of electronica with other musical forms. And the way in which the electronic and acoustic parts of ‘satellites**‘ mould together shows that they’re looking to solid new horizons.

Enter Shikari then step up with ‘Thē kĭñg,’ a short and sweet, upbeat punk rock banger with raging horns and pointed, witty lyricism condemning the dangers of revenge and the cycles of violence that it perpetuates. It’s most certainly a very repetitive track, but it has the hooks, energy, and skill woven in to more than make up for such repetition. Finally, bidding adieu to Enter Shikari’s bravest record thus far is ‘Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (II. Piangevole)‘; a harmonic lyrical reprisal of its sibling track heard earlier in the album. Whereas the first part was the real crescendo, this is the comedown; a plaintive, slightly uneventful farewell that strangely feels deserved and fitting.

Conclusion

The start of 2020 and what this new decade has already heralded unto us proves this album’s title to be true: fuckin’ anything and everything is possible these days. As it also turns out, anything is possible for the sound and direction of Enter Shikari. If you’ve heard this LP’s first singles – ‘The Dreamer’s Hotel,’ ‘The King,’ ‘T.I.N.A.,’ and ‘The Great Unknown’ – then you need to be prepared to NOT hear any other songs like them. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a disappointment, one where you won’t fully take in what Enter Shikari are trying to accomplish on album number six, as 15 varied, different and outspoken musical explosions bombard your senses. This is liberation; creative freedom.

After release, there might be critics of ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ who argue that there’s too many interludes, too much “fluff”, and not enough meaty songs. I cannot deny that those individuals will be correct in saying that there’s an a big split of those two sides (though not as much as their debut), that there’s indeed a lot of detours taken. Yet they will miss the clear point behind this new album: it’s a complete listening experience that you take in one big swig. Not one that you carve four or five songs out of for your Spotify playlist as the rest of this daring beauty gets discarded. As a whole album, front to back, it’s one of Shikari’s most ambitious works, scattering out different ideas and genre-mash-ups like a bright sea of stars in a night sky. Which is precisely why I love it, and precisely why I think you all should hear it.

Tracklisting

THE GREAT UNKNOWN
Crossing The Rubicon
{ The Dreamer’s Hotel }
Waltzing Off the Face of the Earth (I. Crescendo)
modern living….
apøcaholics anonymøus (main theme in B minor)
the pressure’s on.
Reprise 3
T.I.N.A
Elegy For Extinction
Marionettes (I. The Discovery of Strings)
Marionettes (II. The Ascent)
satellites* *
thē kĭñg
Waltzing Off the Face of the Earth (II. Piangevole)

‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ is out Friday, April 17th:

4 Responses to “Enter Shikari – Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible”

  1. chris_m_55

    My most anticipated release of 2020. By this point, anyone expecting “same old Shikari” is kidding themselves. They’ve always mastered truth to their roots balanced with unapologetic evolution. Great review and can’t wait.

  2. schmitty_boi

    This album absolutely bangs, up to my third spin through already. You really hit the nail on the head in the conclusion with “Yet they will miss the clear point behind this new album: it’s a complete listening experience that you take in one big swig. Not one that you carve four or five songs out of for your Spotify playlist as the rest of this daring beauty gets discarded.”

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