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Kasabian - Empire

Kasabian, Empire

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

THE mighty Kasabian return with a sophomore album that’s filled with the same confident swagger that made their eponymous debut such a winning release.

Empire is the sound of a band that isn’t afraid to diversify and expand on its sound, while ensuring that the formula for success remains intact. It’s an epic listen, packed with surprise changes in direction, ballsy guitar riffs and mighty vocals that look set to accelerate the Kasabian success story even further.

The formula is pretty much laid down from the outset, when former single and title track Empire proceeds to take us on its thrilling joyride of tempo changes, emphatically delivered vocals and anthemic chants. It took a while to get used to but now its energy and volatility are completely invigorating.

Almighty second track, Shoot The Runner is a similarly crunching mix of guitars, electronics and tempo shifts. It unfolds in the style of T-Rex with elements of glam-rock before unfolding into an out-and-out rock anthem, complete with fired-up guitar solos.

Last Trip (In Flight) kicks off amid a wailing vocal harmony that’s breathlessly delivered, while Me Plus One takes things down a gear or two to provide one of only a couple slower paced efforts. It’s melodies are busy and addictive and its style effortlessly catchy.

The instrumental that kicks in on the two-minute mark is genuinely thrilling and further compelling evidence of a band that has confidence in its own ability to surprise without making a mess of things. The only frustrating thing is that the track’s not longer.

Another album highlight is the epic, string-laden Sun/Rise/Light/Flies, a towering anthem packed with swirling instrumentation, a kick-ass bassline and busy electronica that builds to a towering chorus. It’s delivered at full pelt but somehow never becomes blurred – each component shining brightly and standing out in some way.

It sometimes hints at the brash energy of a Chemical Brothers track mixed with Noel Gallagher – only better and more addictive.

And it’s followed by the equally frantic wall of noise that is Apnoea with its cascading, jagged drums, vocal layering and edgy guitars.

The band’s newfound fondness for changing gear mid-song is evident on By My Side, which shifts from being a synthesizer heavy rock-out to a bongo-laden, strings-heavy cinematic piece of music, while Stuntman features another driving underscore that sends you into a giddy headspin.

The odd slower tempo offering also succeed in displaying a softer, more sensitive side to the band that’s equally as enticing.

British Legion is a slow-builder that’s steeped in classic values – part Primal Scream (vocally), part Beatles (instrumentally), while equally as compelling as the slower, earlier stuff of acoustic-based Oasis. The shuffling drums and the low-key guitars terrifically counter-balance the aching vocals that showcase a completely different and more vulnerable side to Tom’s vocals.

While epic final track Doberman is another almighty anthem that impressively builds amidst some satisfying guitar riffs (of which there are plenty), chanting vocals (layered to the hilt) and yet more tempo changes (now firmly established as a hallmark of the album). The change on this song, however, incorporates yet more cinematic flourishes exemplified by the trumpets that serve to provide the album with a truly magnificent send-off.

The question on everyone’s lips, however, will inevitably be: “Is it as good as their debut?” To which we would answer, “yes, perhaps even better”. In terms of ambition, scope and vision, it’s a towering achievement that retains the Kasabian sound while building something altogether bigger. And while certain tracks may lack the instant appeal of some of those on the debut, that only makes it more satisfying once you fully get to appreciate all that it has to offer.

Kasabian appear to have made a mockery of “that difficult second album syndrome”.

Track listing:

  1. Empire
  2. Shoot The Runner
  3. Last Trip (In Flight)
  4. Me Plus One
  5. Sun/Rise/Light/Flies
  6. Apnoea
  7. By My Side
  8. Stuntman
  9. Seek And Destroy
  10. British Legion
  11. Doberman