Greetings, Glancers! We plough onwards with the 2020 series as I listen to another artist I’m unfamiliar with. For a long time I’ve been aware of the name Enter Shikari, but even with being a lifelong Metal fan I don’t believe I’ve heard a single song from the band. I don’t know how long they’ve been around, but I remember hearing the name shortly after leaving University – so mid 2000s? From memory, I think they’re quite Screamy, but that’s based on foggy recollections of half-read reviews. The picture I always had in my mind of them was of a more emo, fashionable, At The Drive In. As always with this series, I’m 100% prepared to be proven wrong on any and all misconceptions – as we should be with all things in life.
Being a Liverpool fan, the last few seasons have seen a bit of an in joke among fans thanks to our (former) player Xherdan Shaqiri and anytime he came on as a substitute – Enter Shaqiri. Great player. What of the title and the artwork? I think I would disagree with both of the statements made in the album title; some things are ‘true’, objectively and subjectively, though you can debate till the cows fuck off about your definition of ‘truth’. Some things are not possible – me swallowing an entire Country in the next 8 seconds, this blog hitting 1 million subscribers, an afterlife – but on the other hand if we agree that we exist in an infinite universe or universes, then all events and actions are possible, however unlikely. What does this title mean? It seems very much like a ‘come on boys, we can do this’ statement. Apparently it’s also the name of a book about 21st Century Russian history. Is there a link?
Looks like a statue of a Greek or Roman dude. Seems like he’s really enjoying sucking a 3 for 1 pound pack of lighters. The border is like some old wallpaper I used to have in the 80s, and there’s a big sticker, or faux sticker slapped on the front. Is this the back cover? Most albums will have the tracklist on the back, but whatever. There’s 15 songs, I’m not sure if the colouring on the numbers means anything, but the song names seem appropriately quirky, from the font to the words, to the brackets. Is is a concept album? Those names, and songs in different parts suggest Prog. Or a bunch of musicians who might like to suck themselves off. I think that covers everything – once you read the next sentence, I will have listened to the album several times.
The album starts with promise; The Great Unknown is a thumping opener and one which I hoped set the scene. If I skip forwards a little… the closing track is decent too. You see where I’m going with this. This has been a recurring theme in my 2020 posts – I tend to enjoy the opening track, but then the vocal quirks or sameness kick in and my enjoyment rapidly declines. Such is the case with Nothing Is True. Whatever I was expecting, the screaming, frenetic band of my imagination, that’s not what I got. I can’t blame the artist for my own invalid expectations – maybe earlier albums have more of an edge or are closer to Metal, but make no mistake this feels like a pop rock album. Again, nothing wrong with that at all. It’s that the songs were never interesting to me, didn’t connect on any emotional level, and were overall very tame. Throughout the album, the drums are incredibly weak and ineffectual, the guitars are tame, and the electro beats don’t have enough venom to get me up and out of my seat. That’s before we get to the accents.
Jesus, the accents. I know it’s just me and others probably love the vocals and accents they are sung in, but from the opening track almost every line, every lyric, every word felt like a haggard crone slipping into my lung, reaching up and tickling my throat with her wart worn claws. It gets so much worse when the vocals move away from traditional singing and towards a more talkative, not quite rap approach. I have no problem with rap – love it. But that halfway house between talking and singing is a massive nope for me, fully exposing the horrors of accents. Here, it’s not quite Cockney guvna shite, but it’s damn close. The Dreamer’s Hotel, which does have a faintly tasty chorus melody and a great, thick, fuzz backing, is utterly ruined by the vocals – especially in the verses. ‘PRONOUNCE YOUR FUCKING ‘T’ SOUNDS’ I shouted, to choke the witch. This vocal approach always strikes me as faux bravado – the big fucking lad strutting about town, 12 pints, a curry, throw a couple of traffic cones at the police on the walk home while singing Chumbawamba. It continues into Modern Living which, again has promise thanks to its chanty schoolboy nature and some interesting robotic antics, but the living it laaaage sense I get from the vocals utterly turns me off. I’ve no idea if this was intentional or ironic – the fact that it happens again and again throughout the album suggests that this is simply the way the band is rather than any sense of irony or even self awareness. Having said it’s not for me, there must be plenty of people out there who don’t have the same issues I do – I can see this chorus, and many others being sung loudly from the terraces and from the pit.
I don’t think I’d go so far as saying it’s a shame that the vocals pissed me off – they certainly detract from the music for me, but the music wasn’t too appealing either. The most interesting moments were the blending of techno and Metal, the orchestral outbursts, the robotic splurges, and the rhythm shifts within and between songs. But the songs are each very short and don’t use their time well – the longest song is under four minutes and most of that time is a rather lovely instrumental which feels like the cinematic new dawn after some epic battle scene where the good guys overcome impossible odds. It does take balls for a rock band to do this sort of thing – again I’ve no idea if this was a first for the band or if they’ve also experimented in such ways, but credit where credit is due… assuming of course they were the ones to compose Elegy For Extinction. Other tracks – the Marionettes and Waltzing songs do a better job of melding the various musical parts and ideas which are spread elsewhere, and the vocals are noticeably less intrusive. Still, whether it’s alienation or anger or political angst which the band are moaning about, no single song is potent enough musically to make me care about the message. The Ascent has atmospheric moments, has nice falsetto moments, but also has the talky crap. Each song conveys this battle between the annoying crap and the moments which suggest the band might be moderately decent. Satellites gets closer than most at creating a good, jumparoundtheroom pop rock song, but opens with the cringe-inducing ‘Oi wish I was a com-meh, runnin up into the noigh’ (pronounce your fucking ‘T’ sounds) and the rest of the run time is spent trying to recover.
I’ve grumbled long enough about the vocals, but is anything the band is saying worth hearing? On my first listen I was already dismissive of the lyrics by the time they utter the unforgiveable ‘is this a wind up’. No, seriously. And they say it twice. They should really be asking if the album is just a cutting floor lost episode of Eastenders. Thematically, we can obviously point to current fuck-ups from Brexit to Climate Change deniers to the handling of Cov-ID 19, to the Tory scum in general, with the opening line setting the tone – ‘is this a new beginning/or are we close to the end’. There’s a sense of desperation and powerlessness – the hope of a younger generation being lost due to being unable to actually make a worthwhile change. Artists and poets are referenced, modern tech speak and communication failures are documented, and by and large each song points to the same overall big themes. That means there is thematic coherence and the album feels like a whole piece of art rather than a bunch of random songs, but it means a lack of variety. While there are decent one-liners delivered in quotable chunks – ‘nuance ain’t nothing but a nuisance’ for example, they’re usually left dangling or followed up by another weaker line basically reiterating the same point. Drop your bomb and leave, don’t qualify it.
There are good ideas – the idea of a ‘dreamer’s hotel’, this imaginary place we can all go to ponder on better days and ways to get there, yet all the rooms are empty – that’s a nice metaphor for several tiers of civilization today, while the imagery of Waltzing Off The Face Of The Earth gives a clear picture of a world in careless decay, of common sense being replaced by the bizarro world of anti-science and anti-facts we find ourselves in today, with those purveyors of misinformation and their followers typically the ones shouting loudest about Truth. If the album is a big enough success, and the listeners understand what is being said, I can only hope it’s a catalyst for some to change if they have been swayed by bullshit. Then again, I imagine the majority of people listening to the band are already on the liberal side of sense. While certain phrases did annoy me – rhyming ‘apocaholics’ with ‘gin and tonics’, others will likely appreciate such antics. The lyrics, in the main, stand in stark contrast to the bravado I spoke of earlier… maybe I would have enjoyed this more with a different vocal approach, not significantly, but it would have taken things from ‘this pissed me off’ to ‘it’s fine’.
Nothing Is True is not for me. Knowing nothing else the band has done, I don’t know how similar it is or isn’t to their previous work. Hopefully the fans got more out of it than I did, and hopefully the band roped in some new listeners. There’s nothing here to encourage me to hunt back through their back catalogue or look forward to any new material. That being said, if they have songs which are less on the distinctive accent side, then I’d give them a blast.
Sales: 3. From what information I have, it looks like this sold fairly well in the UK upon release, then dropped off.
Chart: 2. Hit the number 1 spot in the UK Metal charts, and number 2 overall. Outside of the UK it barely registered.
Critical: 4. It might be stingy of me to give a 3 here just because a few critics gave low or average scores – those were in the vast minority. I’d say it’s a low 4 as even the best reviews weren’t gushing.
Originality: 3. Lets go with the average 3. There’s a blend of techno and trad rock and orchestral stuff – not that these things are unique, but they’re certainly not the norm.
Influence: 2. I don’t see this having enough widespread appeal to be influential.
Musical Ability: 3. Risks and bravery in some of the choices, but if I’m taking a traditional rock band view the instrumentation on display is very basic.
Lyrics: 3. They’re fine. Good moments. Very dubious moments.
Melody: 3. A few good moments, good choruses, but most of the melodies were either too frivolous to leave any effect, or too shrouded by the awful vocal delivery.
Emotion: 2. I didn’t feel much emotion from the band, I didn’t feel any emotion from the music. It happens.
Lastibility: 3. An average 3. The band has enough fans that this will likely be in rotation for a while to come. In the wider zeitgeist where everything is replaceable, who knows? It doesn’t
Vocals: 2. The guy can sing, and I imagine I’d like his voice if it was less talky, done with a less distinct accent. A few moments when there is traditional singing, whatever that means, the vocals are perfectly good but for the majority of the
Coherence: 4. Musically, everything flows together nicely – good job of blending different styles to make a coherent whole.
Mood: 2. I felt disparity between the lyrics, the music, the vocals which meant no clear mood was apparent. Flickers of each come through, but nothing is clear. Unless of course that was the intent, and confusion is the desired effect.
Production: 4. All sounds crisp, the blending of the orchestral with the traditional rock band side to the more techno stuff works well. The drums are pretty bad though, and almost singlehandedly knock this down to a 3.
Effort: 3. It comes across as just messy enough to not be total chaos, but having no grounding in what else the band has done, I can’t say how this compares to their other work. An average three.
Relationship: 2. I can relate to the confusion and anger of the lyrics, but their delivery severely dilutes the message. The combination of music and vocal and lyric don’t do enough for me to relate at anything more than a base level.
Genre Relation: 3. It seems quite experimental and certainly takes directions that most modern pop or rock I’ve heard do not. Therefore, I’m not sure what genre this is supposed to be, if the band cares, or if it even matters.
Authenticity: 4. The band seem committed to their message and I have no reason do doubt their authenticity.
Personal: 2. On another day maybe this reaches a three, but it would be a low three. The lack of emotion, of drive, of melody, combined with the already mentioned quirks inside me which prevented me from getting along with the vocals mean that this was not an enjoyable experience.
Miscellaneous: 3. Three seems to be the standard for this category.