Newton’s third law states that for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction. By extension, an object of desire always comes at the cost of a sacrifice – sometimes, that sacrifice entails giving up something dear to you. Therein lies the dilemma of life: “The most precious things might be the things you have to give away in order to get the treasure”, as ENHYPEN say on ‘Intro: Whiteout’.
The track sets the stage for what is another triumph in this rookie powerhouse’s career. The septet are quickly emerging as not only one of the most exciting and conceptually rich acts of this generation, but also as one capable of wielding exceptional cohesion in their art, a feat demonstrated nowhere better than on their first full-length album ‘Dimension : Dilemma’.
At first, it’s easy to dismiss this viewpoint – offering something of value in return for something you desire manically – as philosophical hocus pocus, one of those things you only read about in books that you only ever picked up under peer pressure. Take away ENHYPEN’s enticing fantasy storyline and the alluring CGI on their music videos, however, and you realise how simple yet apt it is for them to talk about this contrast. After all, we were all spectators to their journeys on I-LAND, the music survival show where the members fought to debut as a team.
Under the veneer of their complex mythology, ENHYPEN are, after all, young idols living double-edged lives. On one hand is the high of the immense success that followed their previous releases; on the other is the pressure of constantly having to outdo oneself and facing the travails of being in the public eye, making you wonder where you stand and who you are between the two worlds. Therein lies the choice: do you reach out and take what you want, or do you compromise and regret later on?
Coupled with this knowledge and bolstered by its predecessor ‘Border: Carnival’ – where they touched on the pressures of idol life – ‘Dimension: Dilemma’ is a work of multifaceted ingenuity. Over the course of its eight tracks, ENHYPEN not only race past musical constraints with thunderous velocity, but also move up a rung in maturity, going from jumping headlong into things to accounting for how their choices affect them.
Holding the album together in enchanting gravity is the title track ‘Tamed-Dashed’, carrying forward their tradition of making anthemic numbers deceptive in their brevity. Seeped in exciting, blood-pumping EDM-style synth bass, ‘Tamed-Dashed’ pulls one in with its dizzying intensity, but just like its ‘Border: Carnival’ equivalent ‘Drunk-Dazed’, it never quite breaks free from the clutches of a sinister energy lurking beneath.
This invisible darkness coupled with the temptation of choice, in fact, becomes a consistent concept on the album. It’s as if ENHYPEN are taste-testing the consequences before finally swinging one way or another. Take for example ‘Upper Side Dreamin’’, which turns the intensity of ‘Tamed-Dashed’ into a completely different, yet equally charming direction. As images of a utopic “midsummer night’s dream” and vocal loops on the chorus lull us into sweet submission, you almost miss the quiet admission of the fear of losing it all hidden in the electro-funk inspired track.
The only time the album stumbles is on the romantic, lovelorn ‘Just A Little Bit’. While an easy listen, the guitar-led simple acoustic arrangement feels lost on an album driven by ambition and single-minded determination. Then again, however, ‘Just A Little Bit’ plays neatly into the album conceptually – as ENHYPEN’s rhythm is thrown off due to the appearance of “you”, the world comes to a stop, making them wonder what the right choice truly is.
Often, as they vacillate between here and there, one sees their youthful fervour shine through as they gear up to rush into the storm. “A world like a game where there’s only victory or lose / I’m going right, right now,” they say on ‘Go Big Or Go Home’, which acts as the perfect tipping point on the album. As the disco and EDM-inspired track climbs in intensity, the realisation that something big is about to happen settles into one’s bones.
If ‘Go Big or Go Home’ is the climb to the top, ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Attention, Please!’ are the proverbial act of throwing caution to the wind and hurtling yourself off of the cliff. And reader, we ain’t floating to the ground like a feather – we’re screaming all the way down. ‘Blockbuster’ – easily the best B-side on the album along with ‘Attention, Please!’ – features fellow HYBE labelmate Yeonjun of TXT and comes marching in on a wave of pop rock and distorted guitar, quickly dissolving into powerful hip-hop beats as the band taps into their confidence.
It’s ‘Attention, Please!’, though, that takes the cake. Breaking out the guitars and alt-rock, it’s a neat throwback to the early 2000s era of indie rock, brought to completion by the intense desire to have both love and popularity – perhaps the most personal and direct confession on the album yet. It also makes the segue into the climax, ‘Interlude: Question’, more meaningful. Echoing the same spoken-word style of the introduction, the track brings the album to a bittersweet end.
As the exhilarating rush of the long run wears off, ENHYPEN find that they are no closer to solving their “dilemma” than they were in the beginning. This, in turn, brings on a new barrage of questions: “So, what is it I want? / Is this correct? / What should I do? What choice do I make? / Who am I? And what do I mean when I say ‘me’?” they ask. Never, however, does it feel all in vain – with new questions come new journeys and bigger challenges. You may not find all the answers in one go, but then again, what is youth but a constant exploration of yourself?
- Release date: October 12
- Record label: Belift Lab / HYBE