Looking back at the ever-rising trajectories and metamorphoses of Enter Shikari makes it abundantly clear how they can reasonably be the blueprint for what rock music is today. From their beginnings scrappily melding trance passages to hardcore, they’ve always done things exclusively their way, and that exact notion has seen them become one of the UK’s most revered act, full stop. Few bands have that intrinsic solidarity that Enter Shikari do; even as they’ve ditched a lot of the hardcore and metal in recent years, they’ve more than compensated with an ongoing tenacity and creativity that’s never felt dulled or phoned-in. When you think of creative, forward-thinking rock music in the UK scenes, Enter Shikari are likely the first band that come to mind. They’re the archetype to aim for.
But everyone knows that by now, right? This is a band who’ve never been comfortable with sitting still—both figuratively and literally if their touring presence is anything to go by—and they’re rightfully celebrated for it from pretty much every corner of the music world. When 2020’s Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible can be widely lauded as their best album, six albums deep and over twenty years into their career, the swell is not nothing by any means. And that album was fantastic, certainly, with an execution and streamlining that was almost pop-rock, without losing sight of the grandeur and vision that’s classic Shikari at this stage. Even more so, it felt like a consolidation of almost everything that had come before, and for a band who you’ve always been able to segment into defined eras like Enter Shikari, it’s worth pointing out.
It also presents the question of ‘what’s next?’ After an album like Nothing Is True…, for as ‘definitive’ as it can be made to seem, the unpaved future can be a daunting proposition for a band for whom retreading old ground has never been an option. It’s also a relatively quick follow-up at that; yes, it’s been three years now, but between Shikari’s own steamrolling momentum and pandemic-era time dilation that everyone’s just learned to live with now, A Kiss For The Whole World comes somewhat out of nowhere here. Well, not strictlyout of nowhere, per se, but the fact that the preceding singles The Void Stares Back and Bull (collaborations with Wargasm and Cody Frost respectively) have been left as loose cuts is worth noting, if only to reinforce Enter Shikari playing to the unpredictability that’s so often been their forte.
In that case then, the most unpredictable thing that A Kiss For The Whole World can be, is predictable. Though even that sounds harsher than it’s intended to be, really. More accurately, it’s less a brand new foundation that’s being built on here, and more the existing structure of Nothing Is True… getting some extra storeys and cladding. It’s just as punchy and incandescent and melodic, but lacking the oomph or the wow factor that made that album such a breath of fresh air, even for Enter Shikari. Even down to some typographical stylising in the tracklist that’s carried over, it’s a point in the band’s catalogue where extra tweaks and coats of paint have been prioritised the most, and unequivocally at that. That still doesn’t make it bad though; building on their best album pretty much avoids that by default. Even if it’s not a towering monument to their own boundless innovation, the quality of an Enter Shikari album speaks for itself, and this is a prime example of that at work.
And anyway, they’re playing off all the right cues for this to swing ridiculously hard still, most notably how sweeping and glittery the laser-focused hooks continue to be. There isn’t one as fittingly galactic as satellites* *, but that’s also one of their best ever songs, and when you still have It Hurts or Leap into the Lightning at the top of this pile, it’s not for a lack of trying. It’s practically second nature now; since The Spark, the refinement process has taken such a sharp focus, and on A Kiss For The Whole World, it’s as bladelike as it’ll ever be. It’s all about propulsion too, on a runtime without a lot of padding (despite its handful of interludes and offshot codas) that moves quickly and swings with an enormous radius at all times.
The similarities to its predecessor prove rather evident in those factors alone. This is another album to crystallise Enter Shikari’s pop impulses into their most solid, glittering extremes, via many of the same methods. The synths are bright and exuberant, and play just as much of a leading role as its solid alt-rock and pop-rock cores. Just from the opening moments of A Kiss for the Whole World x, you start getting the picture, with the blast of buzz against horns that may or may not be synthesised, and the surging guitars and drums drenched in compression. It’s got that distinctly modern rock feel to it, where the heavy processing forms the rafters that everything inside of it tries to reach up to.
The difference is that this feels way more natural for Enter Shikari, and the years of experience they’ve had literally blazing this trail come out very prominently. Something like Bloodshot is the kind of Shikari song that it’s always terrific to see as it brings the trance and hardstyle influences back to the front, and then folds it into a slobberknocker hook as if it’s the most natural thing in all of music. Conversely, goldfish ~ builds itself on a low, snarling riff, though that isn’t overshadowed by the more processed percussion or the cascades of blindingly colourful synths for the chorus. It’s the spare-no-expense method of composition that Enter Shikari have soared on the back of for years now, in both a grand rock sound that’s clearly blessed with the budget to allow these shifts and stitches to work, and the simple know-how to get the best results. The one iffy case is Dead Wood and its symphonic pop style that’s a bit empty and…well, wooden, but one fumble is hardly a bad record.
Besides, it regardless fits with the brighter, more elated tone that A Kiss For The Whole World cultivates overall. satellites* * once again gets placed into the spotlight as the genesis for so many of this album’s directions, as that track’s rocketing messages of hope and acceptance above all else really are what this entire body of work stem from. And for a band like Enter Shikari, who once found the most mileage from indignantly chomping at the heels of societies and individuals wanting to suppress those feels of hope and actualisation, outright embracing them ends up such a good fit. That same message remains at its core, but the vehicle for it is now turbocharged with flushes of liberation and self-love, embracing the speckles of light among an ever-gaping void, and taking the leaps to find more. It’s always been a great juxtaposition of how deep on a human level Enter Shikari’s message permeates while being so sonically produced and synthetic, and that’s basically at its zenith on both counts here.
It should go without saying that that’s impressive, on an album that we’ve openly stated isn’t as good as what came before. And it still isn’t, that should be stressed; overall, A Kiss For The Whole World doesn’t have as sharp a kick to it to land in the same way. But that’s also something most will likely ignore, especially fans of Nothing Is True… for whom this spiritual sequel brings back everything about that album that was so great. And by now, that’s really what everyone has come to expect from Enter Shikari—a band who always deliver, regardless of any climates or moments around them, because that has no bearing on what they are. In their own words, they’re the fire lily in the blackened ground, a source of live and vibrancy that’s impossible not to marvel at for its hardiness and tenacity. And in a career that’s carried Enter Shikari from one nigh-on-unassailable height to another, that represents A Kiss For The Whole World to a T.
For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, Muse
‘A Kiss For The Whole World’ by Enter Shikari is released on 21st April on SO Recordings.
Words by Luke Nuttall