Kasabian: Velociraptor!


The 2009 release of West Rider Pauper Lunatic Asylum stands as a defining moment for then decade-old band Kasabian. If nothing else, the success of the album on the charts and with critics in the U.K. encouraged the permanent adoption of a grandiose electro-rock sound best characterized as “larger than life.” The group’s newest album, Velociraptor!, is self-described as none other than “epic;” an album composed of “amplified vocals” and “stadium sized riffs” that “fans of Kasabian are sure to love.” While the group’s fourth release certainly takes a page from the musical style developed in West Rider, Velociraptor! ultimately struggles to live up to the hype.

On the whole, Velociraptor! highlights Kasabian’s musical growth over the past decade, and especially since their last studio album, while exploring increased instrumental experimentation. For this album, West Rider producer Dan the Automator and guitarist Sergio Pizzorno team up as co-producers, allowing Kasabian to further develop the epic sound of their last release while paying homage to their musical influences. Velociraptor! keeps step with West Rider’s punchy electro-rock guitar riffs and aggrandizing background vocals. From song to song the collective sound of the album is still distinctively Kasabian, but brass, strings, and unique vocal harmonies add novel depth to the album while highlighting the band’s audacity and commitment.

“Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To,” Velociraptor!’s opening track, showcases Kasabian’s stylistic alterations while previewing the music to come. While the aggressive, up-tempo sound and feel of the song are reminiscent of West Rider’s opener “Underdog,” the first track of Velociraptor! presents a catchy hypnotic riff and a chorus boasting blaring horns and intense strings. While this song is obviously influenced by the music of Elvis Presley, an artist Kasabian notes as very much impacting their newest work, every successive track offers a changing dynamic and influence. For example, “Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm),” invokes the harmonic minor suggestive of rock legends Led Zeppelin. Throughout the album, Kasabian continuously steps outside of its musical comfort zone while managing to remain within the boundaries of their traditional sound. Each new track has a different vocal harmony or instrumental fill to offer, but the distinctive voice of Tom Meighan and the band’s playing style ultimately remind us that this is still very much Kasabian.

Though Velociraptor! features a high level of experimentation and musical skill, a lack of vocal creativity and poorly crafted lyrics prevent it from reaching its full potential as a collective work. Corny, half-formed lines repeatedly interrupt the flow of the album and fail to convey any relevant message, detracting from the overall listening experience. Verses are sloppily constructed and some words seem to serve little purpose other than rhyming. Where the lyrics throughout most of West Rider bring the individual tracks together as one cohesive work and attempt to speak to some deeper ideological purpose, those of Velociraptor! lack depth and seem like an afterthought. Additionally, background vocals across the duration of the album leave the listener unfulfilled. Though these vocal harmonies and fills are used in new and interesting ways, they struggle to texture Velociraptor! as they have Kasabian’s past albums.

Despite these deficiencies, Velociraptor! holds its own as one of Kasabian’s best albums musically. The band’s willingness to experiment with new instruments and tamper with its sound from track to track demonstrates a musical maturity as of yet unseen from the band. While the lyrics and background vocals leave much to be desired, with this album Kasabian are clearly taking steps to improve as a band and release a collection of songs illuminating their goals and plans for the future.

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