Album Reviews

Kasabian – The Alchemist’s Euphoria

(Columbia) UK release date: 12 August 2022

With Serge Pizzorno at the helm, the Leicester band’s songwriting will never be short of heft as they look set to begin chapter two of their story with a show of strength

Kasabian - The Alchemist's Euphoria A new chapter opens for Leicester’s heavyweight champions. Never short on self-confidence, Kasabian nonetheless admit to being completely thrown by the sudden change in circumstances within their band in 2020. Singer Tom Meighan was unexpectedly removed from his role as frontman, on the same day that he pleaded guilty to charges of domestic assault against his partner.

This shocking turn of events threw the band’s future into doubt. A bout of soul searching determined that Kasabian should continue, and Meighan was indirectly replaced by guitarist Tim Carter. A great deal of thought was given to the frontman issue before Serge Pizzorno, always Meighan’s right-hand man on stage and in the studio, took charge. As the main songwriter, he decided he was the only one who could sing his songs moving forward.

Pizzorno has always been acknowledged as Kasabian’s musical lynchpin, though would often defer to Meighan when rousing the stadium-sized crowds to which they have played for nearly two decades. How he handles the spotlight will be key to their onward progress, but from the sounds of their seventh album The Alchemist’s Euphoria, he will meet the task head-on. A telling lyric from later in the album gives us a clue: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Stepping up with characteristic poise, he receives a helping hand from the bruising beats behind him. Indeed, Scriptvre sounds like the The Chemical Brothers have popped in for a jam, with its urgent continental strings, big vocals and vast sonic panorama. The uninhibited chorus of Rocket Fuel shows he can hold an anthem with the same urgency that Meighan did, if not the same roughness of vocal.

Then, just as old and new Kasabian face the prospect of becoming inseparable, the music pulls back. The instrumental Space begins an astronomical trilogy with calming waves of reassurance, a pivotal moment leading to The Wall, a woozy piece of late-1960s psychedelia. “I got a lot of love to give, it’s just a simple way to live,” sings Pizzorno.

These Jekyll & Hyde moments show the contrasting inspiration behind the album. Pizzorno’s writing is initially in thrall to the alchemist, bringing synth and guitar loops into his characteristically patchwork writing before raising them to a level of euphoria the band’s fans expect and demand. When this happens naturally, as in the demands of Alygatr to “Never back down!”, the music is as thrilling as anything Kasabian have written.

The preoccupation with space arrives suddenly, taking a view of the world as a pale blue dot and examining how it changes the views of the astronauts who have seen it that way. The music pans out expansively but allows more room for contemplation, finding its zenith as the three-part suite passes through TUVE (pronounced ‘The Ultra View’) before reaching its cumulative high in the instrumental Star Gazer. There is still euphoria here, but of the less frenzied variety.

The songs here are mostly strong, with the first half housing the more obvious singles candidate. Among these is the song Strictly Old Skool, celebrating musical creators including Dr Dre, Frida and Kurt Cobain. The intensity dips in the second half but necessarily so, and influences from The Move and Led Zeppelin, among others, become more pronounced.

Subtlety has rarely been a Kasabian hallmark until now, so it remains to be seen if Pizzorno will bring more ebb and flow to future songs. What is clear is that the band’s songwriting will never be short of heft, with the potential to rouse a festival crowd. The Alchemist’s Euphoria will definitely do that, especially the primal, chest-bared early examples – and so for now the band look set to begin chapter two of their story with a show of strength.

buy Kasabian MP3s or CDs
Spotify Kasabian on Spotify

More on Kasabian
Kasabian – The Alchemist’s Euphoria
Kasabian – For Crying Out Loud
Kasabian @ O2 Forum Kentish Town, London
Kasabian – 48:13
Kasabian – Velociraptor!