'It’s not just the next step in their trajectory, it rewrites their path rather dramatically’
Anna Smith
09:51 14th April 2020

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As a band who thrive on denouncing and criticising modernity, and its many shortcomings, the bewildering thoroughfare from 2019 to 2020 has been somewhat of a musical petri dish for Enter Shikari.

The Shikari boys have spent nearly two decades painting themselves rather enthusiastically as ones on the right side of history, consistently attacking climate change, capitalism, overconsumption and the ultimate sin; entitled customers in restaurants. 

In a bid to create the “definitive Shikari album”, the St Albans four-piece have delved into the corners of all avenues of sound they’ve ever explored on Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, leveraging everything from classical influences to early days-reminiscent heavy cuts. 

Opening the 15-song journey, fourth single ‘The Great Unknown’ tests the waters tentatively with an unassuming piano-led intro, before devolving rather dramatically into a futuristic number - equal parts heavy as it is intricate. The prophetic apocalyptic lyrics set the tone of the album from the offset, touching on the prospect of the future with an underlying sinister air: “Is this a new beginning? Or are we close to the end?”

Rightfully the lead single from the album, ‘{ The Dreamer’s Hotel }’ is Shikari at their most wonderful; it’s a welcome, danceable amalgamation of old and new, climaxing rather cuttingly with “If love is blind, hatred is deaf, and well fed.” Almost titillating in execution, it’s the best thing the band have released in years, heightened only by frontman Rou Reynolds’ production that carries on throughout the album.

Between 2017’s The Spark and now, the outfit released long-awaited standalone single ‘Stop The Clocks’, which, on listening to Nothing is True… seems to have served as nothing but a red herring for their future direction. The festival staple was decidedly dance oriented, more focussed on the upbeat, post-punk pop aspects of the track than lyrical intricacy; a far cry from next track ‘Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (I. Crescendo)’.

Never ones to shy away from declaring their political stance, ‘Waltzing’ is a scathing attack on both the listener and the world at large, holding everyone within reach accountable for all societal wrongdoings in a way that can’t be ignored. Sung over almost ironically comical brass, lyrics like “Our future’s been denied and there’s nowhere to hide” and “there’s been a shooting in a Walmart, so put guns on every shopping cart” paint a desolate, dystopic picture of both contemporary and future civilisation.

Ultimately erupting in to sonic chaos and repeating the album title, ‘Waltzing’ is by far and away the most thought-provoking cut from the album, containing near enough jaw-dropping moments and holding absolutely nothing back. So much so that transitioning into ‘modern living…’ and its tongue-in-cheek lyrics about gin and tonics feels guilt ridden and uncomfortable entirely through fault of our own. 

In contrast, the pastoral imagery that ‘modern living…’s’ lyrics, “lying in the flowers, counting down the hours” evokes is a deceiving respite from the condemnation. Returning to form with the guitar-led track, the motif of “We’re apocaholics, drinking gin and tonics” carries over to ‘apøcaholics anonymous (main theme in B minor)’, bringing a seamless continuity to the mid tracks.

Standing at just 3:05 of pure pocket rocket, ’T.I.N.A.’ is the album’s driving powerhouse. Picking the frenetic pace back up after the more demure moments of ‘the pressure’s on.’ and ‘Reprise 3’, the third single from the release conveys all the hectic energy of a live Shikari show whilst still demonstrating a more evolved and refined sound.

Surprisingly the longest cut from the album, ‘Elegy for Extinction’ could warrant a review all of its own. Enter Shikari have had a track that addresses climate change on every album since incarnation, but ‘Elegy…’ explores a direction never traversed by the band before. Intricately telling the story of evolution from the Cambrian explosion through to the modern day Anthropocene via orchestral program form, the piece highlights the descent of humankind with nothing but sonic expressionism. Initial nimble strings unfold into an exhilarating symphony, before ultimately breaking down into industrial chaos that evokes fear and trepidation. Pushing the boundaries of anything they’ve done before, ‘Elegy…’ propels Shikari into another realm of songwriters, confirming they’re not ones to be boxed in by genres or perceived abilities. 

Coming down off the unprecedented highs, ‘Marionettes’ part I and II, ‘The Discovery of Strings’ and ‘The Ascent’, respectively, are more familiar manifestations of the Shikari sound we’re accustomed to. There’s the overtly British elocution, elements of everything from pop to EDM and whiffs of 90s era Nine Inch Nails. 

In a similar vein, ‘satellites* *’ wouldn’t sound out of place on The Spark and ‘thē kĭñg’ sits squarely and purposefully as the mood lifting, fist-pumping penultimate track, preceding pensive album closer ’Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (II. Piangevole)’.

It goes without saying that Nothing is True and Everything is Possible is the band’s most inventive and ambitious effort, which bodes well for their aspirations of creating a ‘definitive’ album. The wide-scoping compilation reaches far, explores and refines their musicality without losing their idiosyncrasies.

It’s not just the next step in their trajectory, it rewrites their path rather dramatically. The notion of a band whose roots sit firmly in hardcore - a genre which is notoriously hard to evolve from in the first place, owing partly to the armies of purist fans - spattering their releases two decades later with orchestral writing, straight-up pop and more dance tracks than you can shake a stick at - it’s brave. But the line between bravery and stupidity here is not a thin one, as the album charges so confidently towards innovation it would be foolish to suggest it’s anything other than brilliant. 

As for whether it’s definitive? Only time and the fans will tell. As reiterated on ‘Reprise 3’, the Shikari war cry of “And still we will be here, standing like statues” is not one that fades to obscurity easily. They’ve never exactly been followers, but they’re now distinct leaders, paving a new and exciting trail for those in their ever-growing shadow. 

Nothing is True & Everything is Possible is released on 17 April 2020 via SO Recordings.

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