Company: Rocket Songs
Genre: Hard Rock
Blast of genuine talent and youthful mastery
How unusual for me to award an album with a perfect score, yet here we go again in 2012 with another gem in Sweden's Casablanca. Hot on the heels of Jack Blades' staggering rock outlet "Rock N Roll Ride" last month comes this "out of the dark" blast of genuine talent and youthful mastery. "Apocalyptic Youth" is one for the ages, a well-crafted machine of harmony and melody written around huge chorus anthems that are as delightful as they are addictive. How do bands like Mama Kin and Bad City continue to delve deep into 70s and 80s rock sub-genres while still finding something of substance and reverence in 2012...a third decade removed from when big hair, big strings and big toms were the movement of the industry? Damned if it makes any sense but Casablanca have plundered the rock catalogues of years past for their place in the famed halls of rock and roll superstardom.
This Swedish band comes by way of Sacramento, California. The group was formed by singer/songwriter Ryan Roxie, known for his work with Alice Cooper (2000-2005, 2012-) and Slash among others. This domestic export has proven he is a classy guitarist but also a great penman. His writing credits have contributed to Cooper, Crash Diet, Gilby Clarke and Bai Bang. The combination of excellent melodic riffs and self-conscious songwriting is the pinnacle of success for this debut record "Apocalyptic Youth".
The album was produced by Chris Laney, a phenomenal choice considering Laney himself is a rock 'n roller. The man has made a name for himself with Zan Clan, Animal and his solo efforts and recently captured a Swedish grammy for his production work. Laney has paired with the likes of Candlemass, H.E.A.T, Crazy Lixx and even Europe. Together with Roxie the two create magic, a sure fire hard rock album that doesn't necessarily stick to the genre formula. These songs actually take themselves seriously, refusing to simply put on party glitter and create fantasy pieces of rock and roll nights, instead this album is more gritty and has a sense of purpose. That element combined with extraordinary talent sets it apart from the Swedish glam troops that lose staying power through ineffective songwriting.
The record storms out of the box with sweeping melody reminiscent of April Wine or Scorpions. This title track is solid and sets the tone and vibe with the same sort of catchiness that the likes of Mama Kin and Bad City have been aiming high for. That same sort of vibe is evident on the Cheap Trick styled "Downtown" with its huge chorus and acoustic string insertion. The big drums of AC/DC sound out the effective "Rich Girl" while punk rock (emphasis on rock) runs wild with "Secret Agents Of Lust". My favorite of the bunch is the disco rock flavor of "The Juggler", a chorus that sits right with Bee Gees and maybe even B.O.C. I can also hear a little B.O.C on "Love And Desperation" complete with galloping riff in tow. It wouldn't be Swedish without those huge part chorus bites, chomping down on the Hardcore Superstar style of "Deliberately Wasted". The album comes to a stirring close with power-ballad "A Lifetime On The Run".
This certainly isn't a heavy record but the musicianship and overall sound are damn perfect. The longevity of Casablanca and "Apocalyptic Youth" is in the songwriting and arrangements. These songs are masterful storytelling and Roxie's soundtrack is a sure fire winner. Its early 2012 but Casablanca's debut is going to nail my album of the year. Highly recommended for fans of Tom Petty, Bad City, Mama Kin, KISS and late 70s/early 80s rock.