When I think of Enter Shikari, I think of boundless energy wrapped up in joyful creativity, while still retaining a firm grasp of reality and what’s going on in our world. When I reviewed The Spark, I was touched by the band’s open invitation to join and create something new in the world. The captivating storytelling and wordplay added to the experience.  Needless to say, I didn’t need much encouragement to feast on the delicious metaphors contained within Nothing is True & Everything is Possible.

Album opener “THE GREAT UNKNOWN” sets a scene of concern and tragedy from its piano introduction onward.  It proved to be tense as it continued, before rising into a rave synth question mark of what lies ahead. Softening into a playful and percussive moment that’s still tense and synthy, it was the relative calm before the outward broadcast of the chorus.

Seeking signs of life, the outpour of “THE GREAT UNKNOWN” is palpably desperate, before returning to asking questions via an intriguing guitar dance.  I found myself to be mostly affixed to the vocals and what was being shared through the lyrics. A random soft and sparkly capture of beauty appeared, suggesting that nature could stoke the coals of possibility, and that there’s more possible than disconnect. Though I wasn’t sure that I fully understood this song, the manipulated vocals and their masking and morphing made me think about concepts like identity and who we are.

Flowing into “Crossing the Rubicon”, I had a squirming moment of not really enjoying the pop nature of the song. It reminded me of the cringey 80s, with people like Richard Marx, Paula Abdul, and Belinda Carlisle, open button-up shirts and riding in convertibles with the top down, and dancing in music videos with the wind blowing their hair.

But thankfully the lyrics saved the song for me! I understood it as someone seeking a solution for the lives we’re living, but there being no way to turn back or undo what’s done.  Laden with historical references and even references to their own music, the subject matter gave substance to what might otherwise have been written off as fluff.  The ‘there’s no turning back’ sentiment is an important one; encouraging forward movement instead of digging around where we’re at or toward the past.

 

There’s no squirming to be seen when the album ticks over into “{ The Dreamer’s Hotel }”.  The grit and noise of this track is fabulous, like blasts of CO2 comin’ at ya while you traverse hallways with stomping frustration, and people unexpectedly leap out at you.  When this released as a single, I wrote about the “two flavours of sound” comparing the stomping intensity of the verses with the joyfulness of the choruses. Both parts are steeped with energy that splashes up at the listener and metaphorically wets their face playfully or does the job of waking them up.

After many many listens, I continue to adore the chaotic percussion and samples that show up in this track, as well as the high-pitched backing vocals.  The meaty dance break of the “courtesy disco” is the cherry on top of this, giving a great sense of fun to something that otherwise seems to shine a light on our penchant for attacking each other instead of donning more forgiving lenses.

The arrival of the “oom pah pah” pace of “Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (I. Crescendo)” tells the listener to stay alert for the unexpected. Despite its weirdness, it was love at first listen for me.  I could see the track opening the album, especially since it lyrically ties into the album title. Enter Shikari combine what sounds like tuba and radiant sparkles of metorites, and somehow it works brilliantly in expressing unsettling thoughts that sink in a downward direction.

As the song continues to sink and vocalist Rou Reynolds repeats “Nothing is true and everything is possible” in this anguished kind of way, it’s a darkly theatrical experience, where you can feel like you’re about to see something grotesque but you don’t want to/can’t look away.  The tuba becomes electronically saturated and the horrifying ‘something’ turns out to be what we’re living in, and our experience with saturation of what we’re seeing and how it is massaged into our brains. The theatricism, the crashing waves of repetition, the backing vocalisations, and the climb – it’s fucking full-on, and continues being full-on through to its dissonant end, where the brass quartet regain footing even though with scrambled edges.

My first note in my review about “modern living….” was “What the fuck am I listening to here?” when rounded EDM tones came at me with a “Bittersweet Symphony”-esque backing. Regardless, it inspired a bounce from me, and was again seeming like commentary on this filtered and tantrum-throwing modern life we lead.  There’s an infectious happy feeling to the song, with its many layers interwoven and its matter-of-fact observations of how we melodromatically endure what we experience.

Its sibling that followed, “apøcaholics anonymøus (main theme in B minor)”, honestly made me laugh. It felt like just playing, stretching, and kneading the dough of the song.  Though I can’t say I’d return to it in a hurry, it felt great in following up the track before it, and would no doubt inspire some great dance moves in a live setting.

Less experimental then, the melody of “the pressure’s on.” touched my heart before I knew what was really going on.  Revealed via the vocals, the pressure in question is the societal pressure of having your life planned out before you’ve even lived.  Somehow this band wring emotion out of me in the most simple of ways. With this song, it seems to come from the way they’ve musically created this gentle innocence of the ‘character’ of the story of this song, and how ‘another voice’ comes at them in repetition.

Their wounding in being torn away from the simplicities of life with the repeating drumming in that they need to figure it all out is palpable, and I’m left feeling for them, while bass groove and building beats capture the dance of being who you are in a world that wants something more.  As someone that spends her life writing about music full-time on a tiny website that barely anyone sees with no economical reward, I fully feel this unspoken urging to be something more, bigger, better, and have also felt the “ricochet” that happens when you force yourself into that and away from where your heart wants to go.  I was ricocheted out of a steady and high paying job to chase this passion and “I wish you could understand.”

The eerie and beautiful 46 seconds of “Reprise 3” that follow evokes something akin to determination in the face of historical downfall.  The ninth track, “T.I.N.A.” carries the same eeriness, explaining itself in the first line in that “there’s no alternative”. The phrase is being used as an ultimatum, like cooperate/believe or perish.  The chimed melody stirs up internal concerns of what’s actually going on, but is drowned out by the force of other elements of the song.

The electronic voices give me the impression of the concept of T.I.N.A. as a kind of programming. This combined with the “I never noticed you were in disguise…” section has me think that Enter Shikari are referring to historical ideas becoming fixed (false!) truths that prevent anything innovative to show up.

On that vein, I consider “It’s how we’ve always done it” to be a dangerous phrase, and when it comes to how societies are structured and built, has room been made to question whether what we do is still relevant? still makes sense? still works? Or is it happening how it is because of the beliefs of the past that we’ve clung onto, preventing us from coming up with creative solutions that will benefit all? The instrumental unease and concern is perfectly fitting for this.

 

The second half of Nothing is True & Everything is Possible was the better half of the album for my tastes, and this was most noticeable from “Elegy For Extinction”.  My review notes captured “Wow, this is something else” as flourishing brightness and blooming orchestration came to my ears.  Building with more elements, proud trumpets sparked emotion, with timpani rolls seeming to lead to triumphant presentations.

Via Apple Music, Rou shared that the song was intended for Enter Shikari to share “the story of life on earth” from the big bang through to modern day.  Ambitious indeed, the only other attempt I’ve heard of this in recent times was when Avenged Sevenfold did something similar with “Exist”.

Progression and pace is captured nicely in “Elegy For Extinction”, making me think about developments of industry and technology, growth and expansion. With the final minute of the song turning dramatically sour, I immediately think of the climate stripes graphic which Enter Shikari have used on backdrops (ie. like this). The unsettling changes in the latter end of the graph – our most recent history – seem to be captured by the dissonant and destructive turn at the song’s end. Horror is captured by sinking strings and overlapping sounds and samples. We’re clearly a long way from that bright beginning where we began. The bitter pill to swallow is a realistic one.

Before even hearing “Marionettes (I. The Discovery of Strings)”, I smiled at the title, picturing little wooden heads turning upward and going “Huh?”.  This could just be a simple ‘What if?’ inspiration, but I like to think of this idea as a living metaphor for existential questioning; where maybe whoever is pulling the strings and orchestrating life as we know it is being looked at.

Instrumentally erratic, the song is at times slinky and mysterious, especially when a small voice talks with the “master” about the state they’ve left the marionettes below them in.  I feel it’s asking things like “Is God/whoever drunk at the wheel?” “Are we left to our own devices?”.  Whether the puppeteer is government, unspoken rules of society, religion, or something similar, it seems as though we are waking up from the stupor of being controlled and seeing more to what’s going on.

Deliciously fat bass pulses take the mystery into something more substantial and danceable. Honestly, I found it kind of funny (and fun to move with), considering a humble assistant standing beside an intoxicated puppeteer and trying to get them to get back to work before the marionettes below take control of their own destinies. Regardless of the fun, the last chorus inspired very real goosebumps, like “yep, the marionettes have worked it out”.  I did not expect to get immersed in the story of this, but here we are.

Continuing into part two, “Marionettes (II. The Ascent)”, more assertively and clearly, the vocals urge forward, with gang reinforcement.  It sweeps appealingly into a waltzy moment that oozes repetitive effort, sounding like it’s saying with lines like “From underneath the bed / Of toil and doctrine”.  The puppet show relies on the ‘work’ of the puppets, at the whim of the one above.

Deciding this concept and its two songs are fucking great, I felt that if any present-day band could tackle something like Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, it would be Enter Shikari, in their own fantastical, feelings-evoking way.

With urging riffs and close-quarters vocals, the marionettes climb their strings and it’s impossible to look away, sonically speaking.  For something perhaps purely fictional, it’s moving in its encouragement to “Reveal yourself, reveal yourself”, and the revolutionary encouragement of “our means to remake” the world is importantly shared.  With this, the chorus had me crying – and simultaneously laughing that I’m crying over a tale of marionettes – but heart-warmed too by this triumph over containment and thoughtless path-following.

I loved this all so much, and found it to be a definite highlight of the album in its crystalline and mountaintop melody. Pushing and urging further with its stomping beats, with the soul-soothing “Oh, truth hurts” gliding over top.  I melted in a puddle of feelings by the end of the song, captured by stunning harmonies and finding beauty in the magic created by a “what if?” about marionettes. Perfection.

 

Another chapter in exploring the control we’re under and the “we’ve always done it this way” damage is “satellites* *”.  I’d heard this song in a Release Radar Spotify playlist when the album released and adored it immediately.  Star-laden, the multilayered song uses celestial metaphors to paint a heart-aching image of a relationship of distance. I adore how even the title itself shows two stars with space between them.

Instead of colliding and exploding, these two people orbit like satellites, held at arm’s length. I immediately understood it as a song about societal distaste about same-sex relationships and the pressure to hide away. Rou revealed as much on Radio 1’s Future Sounds with Annie Mac describing it as “an exercise in empathy towards the LGBTQ community”.

Goosebumps run through me with “satellites* *”, and I’m left feeling the hiding and separation and the yearning painted by the anthemic tune.  “What is life without affection?” asks the song as it zips across the instrumental ‘sky’ with smothered thumps that expand at the radiant chorus.  The interplay with two ‘voices’ adds to what’s being expressed.

At risk of repeating myself, “thē kĭñg” was another ‘love at first listen’ song, and it gave me similar vibes to New Politics‘ “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens)” due to its self-pride as well as sass and fun.  Enter Shikari have painted this idea far more realistically though, where the toughness falls flat when it comes down to it and how underneath the superiority is a thirst to be liked.  They also add flaws to the so-called former king, creating a larger than life character.  I can’t get enough of the song and its addictive bouncy trap-esque sequence with the rapped/spoken vocals fitting the in-your-face aggression of what’s being shared.

Crowd noises and shushes lead into the final track, “Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (II. Piangevole)”. When the bird noises show up and my ears are full of ethereal tones and a call into the oblivion, it’s hard to not get caught up in this lightness. When it settles down into babbling brook gentleness, the cross ear-interruption is at odds with the building waltzy orchestration.  It’s another goosebumping moment of the album, where choral exploration of “Nothing is true” is dotted by trumpet calls, before fading out to stellar pulses and rocky collisions.

And when I got to the end of my review listen, I just wanted to laugh. There’s so much going on on this album, with the resulting ‘stew’ created by these 15 ingredients being a joyful waltz with fellow marionettes in the starry unknown.  No complaints from me, this is somehow what we need; an element of awareness of our own beliefs and a sense of curiosity and questioning, instead of continuing the well-worn paths as if they’re gospel. It’s so interesting to me that art that could be seen as abstract and weird as fuck is so relevant for our times now, and like The Spark before it, the album forms a welcome hand-hold and escape.

Though I don’t know enough of Enter Shikari’s discography to comment on the sonic nods to the band’s previous albums, the span of the album captures a full picture of sound. I’m left feeling like “There’s no one like Enter Shikari”, which is fitting for a band fully owning more than a decade of making music, and bringing the metaphorical sky-full of fans along with them. This is a treat for the loyal, as well as a feast for the newcomers. All are welcome on the Enter Shikari voyage toward a future of connection, acceptance, and innovation.

 

Enter Shikari - Nothing is True & Everything is Possible
  • Album Rating
    9
The Good

Emotionally moving in a way that was both out of this world and grounded in reality. Insane contrasts of instrumentation throughout the album. Proving that nothing compares to Enter Shikari.

The Bad

Some of the tracks were harder to 'get', and didn't feel as though they belonged as much as others did. The second half of the album was far more consistent to my ears.

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Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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