Review: Everything Everything breathes new life into well-trodden themes on ‘Re-Animator’

British art rock band Everything Everything unleashed their latest album, “Re-Animator,” on Sept. 11, dropping a satisfying record brought to life through thematically resonant lyrics and elevated by the group’s electrifying instrumentation.

“Re-Animator,” the band’s fifth studio album, masterfully exceeds the high expectations set out by their prior work — particularly 2015’s “Get to Heaven” and 2017’s “A Fever Dream.”

In composition, “Re-Animator” mirrors the latter record, opting to navigate a range of tempos throughout. In its lyricism, “Re-Animator,” while never as vitriolic as the unrelenting “Get to Heaven,” does weave a thematic thread through intra-album references and persistent motifs that characterize both records’ narratives, written and delivered by frontman Jonathan Higgs.

The album’s title references H.P. Lovecraft’s horror short story “Herbert West–Reanimator,” itself influenced by Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” These two literary works both explore the folly of unrestrained human ambition via the tales of mad scientists, spurred by god complexes to reanimate the dead — themes this album boldly takes on.

In the record’s first song, “Lost Powers,” the band begins to lay the groundwork for an 11-track trek through these universal themes. The song’s meek narrator envisions his God egging him on in his unnamed pursuits with the refrain, “Come on, you’ve only lost your mind.” The song is kicked off by a lively pairing of synths and electric guitar both supplied by lead guitarist Alex Robertshaw. However, as the song progresses — synths distort, guitars screech and snare drums rattle, reflecting the narrator’s decline into madness.

On “Big Climb,” the pattern of deliberate instrumentation to match Higgs’ complex lyrics continues with a track whose caustic criticism is leveled at the corporate world and its deterioration of the environment for the sake of a profit. “Not afraid that it’ll kill us / Yeah / We are afraid that it won’t,” is the simple, yet heartbreaking chorus belted out by the other band members who maintain a twistedly upbeat arrangement.

Ironically, it is after “Big Climb” where the record suffers its biggest, albeit brief, fall. Both “It Was a Monstering” and “Planets” fail to match the heights of the rest of the record.  “It Was a Monstering” proved especially disappointing.

Despite Michael Spearman’s rumbling percussion and Jeremy Pritchard’s subdued, yet rolling bassline providing a perfect backdrop for Higgs’ lyrics of loneliness during the first half of the track, the song was begging for an explosion of energy in its second half that just never came. Instead, the track delivered one of the record’s most lackluster choruses.

“Moonlight” is instead better able to couple melancholic lyrics with another groovy Pritchard bassline.

The last track on the album’s A-side is “Arch Enemy,” an insult-ridden track directed to a “Sphinx of Grease / Faceless Bloat” later identified as Fatberg — a personification of gelatinous greed and gluttony. Elevated by Spearman’s backing percussion and Robertshaw’s cutting riffs, this high-energy tune spares Fatberg, the arch enemy, no mercy until the final line of its haunting chorus, “Now I’m lonely without you.”

On the record’s B-side is where Everything Everything’s ambition is put on full display.

“Black Hyena” pounces on the motif of raising the undead. An eerily gothic mood is first established by Higgs’ zombie-like delivery of ghostly lines like “An eyelid starting to twitch,” complemented by a tempered, biding instrumentation. The instant the chorus arrives, the instrumentation jolts into a frenzy of pulsing synths — sonically conjuring images of electric coils aimed at the soon-to-be-reanimated beast. A swift comeuppance is rendered at the Re-Animator, however, with the refrain, “Black Hyena gonna bite the idiot.”

Immediately following “Black Hyena,” the band delves into perhaps its most enigmatic, conceptual track of their discography with “In Birdsong.” Higgs described this track during its release as imagining the experience of the first self-aware humans. Pursuing such a lofty aspiration, Higgs begins his falsetto serenade with a stream of consciousness description of unruly flames, perhaps an allusion to the Greek myth of Prometheus who stole fire from the gods and delivered it to humanity. A methodically arranged instrumentation soothes the band’s signature synths into an orchestral backdrop for the celestial, out-of-reach lyrics that describe the titular birdsong as, “A song / That I cannot begin to understand.”

“Violent Sun” caps off the record with a track bubbling with romance that bestows closure and comfort to an album oftentimes steeped in horror.  Whether it be its intoxicating warmness, its second-person perspective, its tale of a fleeting romance or its maritime setting, “Violent Sun” seemed to be a synth-heavy, booming retelling of Leonard Cohen’s 1967 folk classic, “Suzanne.”

Higgs described the track as “the last song of the night,” alleviating the panic of impermanence into an appreciation for the current moment and an acceptance that all good things must come to an end.

Luckily for “Re-Animator,” the replay button is well within the listener’s reach, inviting further lyrical interpretation, musical admiration and anticipation for what the luminary band has in store next.

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