Casablanca – Apocalyptic Youth


Review by Brian McGowan

Yet another class act from Sweden, signed by Dave Laroxx’s Rocket Songs’ label. Laroxx is credited with finding and nurturing new kids on the AOR block, Houston. That fact gets people’s attention. Interest is further cemented on finding that Ryan (Alice Cooper/Electric Angels) Roxie is in the band. But ultimately it has to be the music that does it. And it does.

The band name and the look suggest Sleaze Rock. The album title suggests Heavy Metal. There are trace elements of both here, but the truth is nothing quite so prosaic. You’ll find the classic hard edge of Brit bands like Thin Lizzy and the Quireboys, and Eighties’ LA bands like Faster Pussycat here; all percolated through layers of post punk alt rock, bleeding into and colouring the sound. I’d put money on Michael Monroe and Ginger loving this band.

Produced by talented technician, Chris Laney, 2010’s work-in-progress (and more imaginatively titled) release, ‘Kings Queens And Guillotines’ contained six tracks. They all make it onto this full studio album, and they aren’t necessarily the best tracks here.

There’s a touch of Phil Lynott and of Rick Springfield to the voice of Anders Ljung. Nowhere more so than on the title track, ‘Apocalyptic Youth’, where he croons with emotional authority on a sultry but propulsive opener.

‘Downtown’ and ‘The Juggler’ have a dark, derivative Britrock swagger, grounded on solid, bass heavy rhythms. Both spin on Roxie’s elegant, eloquent guitar figures, underpinning seriously sinuous melodies.

Laney captures the analogue warmth and indeed the underrated sonic clarity of many melodic hard rock recordings of the genre’s eighties’ highpoint. The headline producers of that era, Fillipetti, Nevison, Olsen and others all knew that you do nothing for show and everything for effect. Laney likewise.

‘Rich Girl’, ‘Secret Agents Of Lust’ and ‘Beast Of Summer’ are the album’s immediate, accessible rock tracks, far less conventionally poppy as you might expect, thanks to a powerful, inventive production. And again, also thanks to Roxie’s stately, measured axework, laced with just enough melancholy to counteract the sweetness.

Elsewhere, ‘Love And Desperation’ starts off like the Eagles before launching into a bouncing, theatrical, Eurorock vibe, like the 69 Eyes coming face to face with Carmen Gray. And to continue the lazy comparisons, ‘Last Of The Rockstars’ could be a Tom Petty homage, right down to Ljung’s drawling vocal and the song’s “American Heartbeat” lyrical imagery.

But really, all that does is emphasise that the band draw their inspiration from a myriad influences.

Judging by ‘Apocalyptic Youth’s 10 tracks, they’ve taken those influences and shaped them, with skill and affection, into something that’s just as relevant today.