Casablanca band photo

CASABLANCA – Riding A Black Swan

Casablanca - Riding a Black SwanWhen Casablanca released their debut album Apocalyptic Youth last year, they were hailed as somewhat a supergroup with members from big bands (Ryan Roxie, guitar – Alice Cooper), pretty big bands (Erik Stenemo, guitar – Melody Club and Joesphine Foreman, drums – Sahara Hotnights), not so big bands (Anders Ljung, lead vocals – Space Age Baby Jane) and a football (ok, soccer if you’re American) player (Mats Rubarth, bass – played for the awesome and beautiful team AIK). Me personally not being a huge fan of any of the bands mentioned, except for Alice Cooper, didn’t have any expectations at all, but their first single “Downtown” was played on Melodifestivalen (the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest) as an intermission and I really liked the song. The album was  pretty damn brilliant and one of 2012’s best hard rock albums and it only took me one listen to it in order for me to realise it was an obvious buy. However, the project didn’t become as big as many had expected, which it really should have been, despite some very good reviews and it was very fondly spoken of by fans all around the country. I’m not sure if that made it easier for them to make a follow up or not, but in my mind, they really had to prove themselves because coming up with something even equally as good as the debut is not an easy ask. Fact is, I’m really happy that the guys (and girl) decided on making Casablanca a real band and not just some side project for fun. This new album was something I have been looking forward to and of course my expectations are high – very high!

Some changes had been made, though. On their debut, the production and mixing was handled by Chris Laney and he gave them a slick, but energetic sound that had lots of pop mixed up with their melodic hard rock. This time, the band decided to produce themselves and hire Tobias Lindell (Europe, H.E.A.T., Hardcore Superstar, Mustasch) for mixing duties. There is a certain change in sound, this time, but I’m not sure that the change of mixing engineer or producer had that much to with that. I get the feeling that this is how the band would have wanted it to sound, no matter who produced or mixed it. The happy and easy-going sound that makes you think about hot summer days, cold beverages, beaches and chicks (ok, and dudes if you’re a girl) has been replaced by a darker and heavier sound. But fear not, it’s not like this is a doom metal album. It’s actually not metal at all, this is hard rock ‘n’ roll that still has big pop feel. Like the opener “The Great Dreamless Sleep” – it’s heavier, darker and harder than the debut, but what a killer it is. But already by song number two, the brilliant “Hail The Liberation”, they take us back to the sound of the debut’s more power pop moments and in the awesome “Dead End Street Revisited” we get some good old late 80’s hard rock – all big hair, killer hook and fists in the air. “It’s Alright” is a groovy rocker, so catchy it’s insane and the only bad thing with that tune is that I didn’t write it. The title of the title track really fits the song – it’s darker and heavier and it almost borders to metal, but still in Casablanca mood. “Some Misty Morning” makes me think about Thin Lizzy which is a good thing – a very good thing, “Heartbreak City” is catchy, groovy, it’s rocking and it is such a killer – should be a single in the future and “No Devil In Me” is pure power pop, with an extremely catchy hook – another single in my book. Besides, if you have enough confidence to chant the line “shout at the devil – in me”, then you deserve to have a hit. The album ends on another brilliant note – the power pop goes hard rock called “Just For The Nite”, makes me hum the chorus long after the album has ended. Oh really, another single? You bet!

Casablanca’s second effort is an amazing one. Is it better than their debut? I’m not sure. Is it as good then? Yes it is, but it is a different kind of album and I’m sure fans will debate which album and style fits Casablanca the best. Me, I can’t say. And it’s not like Casablanca has turned 180 degrees and gone in a completely new direction. No, the foundation is still hard rock with its roots in the 70’s and 80’s with touches of both power pop and metal, only this isn’t as poppy as the debut and it has a darkness and – dare I say it – a maturity over it. Will you love this automatically if you dug the debut? Maybe, maybe not. Will you love this if you hated the debut? Probably not. But I can say this, though, both of Casablanca’s albums are better than all of the members’ day jobs – Alice Cooper being the exception. Let’s just hope that the members decides to make Casablanca their main focus. That said – buy this!

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

Tracklist
1. The Giant Dreamless Sleep
2. Hail the Liberation
3. Dead End Street Revisited
4. It´s Alright
5. Barriers
6. Riding a Black Swan
7. Some Misty Morning
8. Heartbreak City
9. No Devil In Me
10. Just For The Nite

2 comments on “CASABLANCA – Riding A Black Swan

  1. Yes, he is. This is a very good band and Roxie isn’t the only talanted musician in this band.
    There’s a review of their debut album, Apocalyptic Youth, in Hard Rock 2012 if you’re interested.

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