While the lyrical and visual process may have been one that shines a light on the worst facets of human existence, the year-plus creative journey that only ended in January was, in fact, full of positivity. Album centrepiece Elegy For Extinction allowed Rou to record with the City Of Prague orchestra – an army of 70 classically-trained musicians playing a piece of music that he’d written, “and be given evils by the second violins who have some of the hardest parts,” he laughs.
Such an experience was possible thanks to the involvement of George Fenton, the acclaimed composer who worked on Planet Earth and Blue Planet. First meeting George at an exclusive, intimate Shikari show in London to celebrate the Kerrang! Awards in 2018, they developed a friendship that led to one of the most resplendent songs Enter Shikari have ever put their name to.
The experiment’s success was little more than a bonus to a man who values the process as much as he does its result. Reciting a Thomas Beckett quote for the jubilant Crossing The Rubicon chorus, the vocalist sings, ‘Try again, fail again, fail better’ – a mantra he lives by, and not just artistically.
“It really does feel like – as someone who wants a sane, compassionate, progressive, logical world – we’re further from that than we’ve been in my lifetime,” he muses. “It’s so easy to drift into complete pessimism or nihilism, and that Beckett phrase becomes pivotal. The leaders we have now are much closer to autocratic than we’ve ever been before, they’re closer to people who’re likely to press a nuclear button than ever before. As characters and human beings, they’re so far from compassion.”
But surely, there’s still a reason to be cheerful. Right?
“Cheerful may be a stretch,” he laughs, casting his thoughts to the current coronavirus pandemic, and questioning whether it will be the wake-up call we all need to see the planet as one people.
“I don’t like to use broad historical terms, but hopefully we’ll see a lean toward socialism and socialist policies because this virus is reminding us that we’re one globe. This virus doesn’t accept national boundaries just as climate change doesn’t, just as antibiotic resistance doesn’t. All the big problems we’re faced with are completely global. We need that local/global outlook, and we need compassion more than we’ve ever needed it.”
Ruminating on what optimistic outcomes coronavirus could provide, Rou cites the opening line to the new album, ‘Is this a new beginning or are we close to the end?’. “It really feels like this could be a new beginning if we actually learn from history for once. We have to restructure things, which could be just in time.
“Human ingenuity should never be underestimated,” he continues. “When there’s a necessity it’s amazing what we’ve come up with throughout history. I’m not one of these people who thinks humanity is a disease, it’s the system that we’re in that dictates our behaviour. In [latest single] T.I.N.A we say, ‘It’s the essence of humanity to build an infinite reality,’ and hopefully they’re the aspects of humanity that will come through – the perseverance, creativity and imagination.”