Serge Pizzorno is a very talented man. His career thus far as the songwriter, producer and guitarist in Kasabian has seen them fill stadiums and top the album charts as almost a courtesy. However, the last two years has seen Pizzorno tried in the fire. The departure of Kasabian’s lead vocalist Tom Meighan, an end to their titanic partnership, and a move to centre stage.
Meighan’s well documented departure spelled the end of Kasabian for many fans. To many, it felt like it could never be the same as it was. The comeback for Pizzorno and company was a feat that, at this scale, hadn’t been done for a generation. It hasn’t been the easiest path, but their creativity in the face of fundamental change has seen them return to the same heights as before. The Alchemist’s Euphoria is proof of Kasabian’s unlimited capability to entertain, all while moving forward with both different personnel and sound.
It’s key to place The Alchemist’s Euphoria alongside Kasabian’s public image. Superficially, they churn out bangers for stadium settings, and are palatable to the football fans’ away day playlist. Strip this perception back, and there has always been a creative and intricate base to the songs and albums across the last 20 years. It can be argued that with Pizzorno taking the helm in his endeavour for experimentalism, as heard on his 2019 solo project The S.L.P., that this is Kasabian’s most overtly challenging album yet. Coupled with the departure of a primary vocalist, this is make or break for a band of their stature. And they triumph.
The album is thematically organised around the sound of crashing waves; this soundtracked the height of uncertainty for Pizzorno. With changes happening around him, he visited his sister along the coast to gain clarity. Kasabian, in Pizzorno’s own words, decided to go for it on this album; “It’s like, do you get in the boat? Do you risk it all to see what you can discover? Or do you sit on the shore and go, ‘No, I’m scared. I’m just gonna sit here and disappear.’”
Opening track ‘Alchemist’ builds and builds into lead single ‘SCRIPTVRE’, which is a huge tune. Echoing the swagger of first album hit ‘Club Foot’ and anthemic hooks of ‘Underdog’ and ‘Stevie’, it’s one for the festivals. The following track, ‘Rocket Fuel’, also hits this sweet spot but with more bite, with Pizzorno drawing from grime and hip-hop. Co-producer Fraser T. Smith’s fingerprints can be heard, with a CV that boasts grime’s household names (Stormzy, Kano, Dave) and beyond (Adele, Raye).
The influences of the album appear to reach far and wide. Kasabian have a habit of reinventing themselves with every release, and The Alchemist’s Euphoria is no exception. From the electronica influences carried from The S.L.P, to the Abbey Road-esque harmonies on ‘T.U.E (the ultraview effect)’, they stamp their authority once again, and reveal their most eclectic project to date.
The album feels coherent as if its moving towards one place. This is a mature iteration of Kasabian and indicative of a band on their seventh outing. In many ways, The Alchemist’s Euphoria feels like a sibling to 48:13, yet more lo-fi and speculative than the flamboyant and uncompromising 2014 LP.
Having said that, the record is not lacking in bangers. Single ‘CHEMICALS’ is the standout track. It’s gloomy and post-punk in places; an anthem that feels like it has fallen out of the sky. An ethereal Boards of Canada-style foundation is behind the rock instrumentals, making it sound extraordinarily fresh. Pizzorno’s battle cry of “Hold on, chemicals ain’t got you baby” isn’t ground-breaking lyricism, but his ability to slot into the lead role is effortless. The song works equally well live. Having had the privilege to see Kasabian twice this summer at Truck Festival and InMusic Festival, it’s pretty incredible how easy the song slots in the stacked live set.
So much was riding on this album, but Kasabian quell any speculation with ease and almost make you forget there was ever a chance they would be finished. The Alchemist’s Euphoria is a multifaceted and yet authentically Kasabian album; full of headline set-ready songs, and moody interludes to satisfy the listener and merit repeated listens. Instead of staying safe, Kasabian chose to push the boat out; from now on, it’s plain sailing.