Casablanca – Riding A Black Swan

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Review by Brian McGowan

Gain

This is the second full studio album from Swedish band, Casablanca, a band that includes Ryan (Alice Cooper/ Slash) Roxie in its number. Roxie uprooted from the USA to live in Sweden some years ago, where he is treated as something of a celebrity, with his own syndicated radio show. The band’s debut, Apocalyptic Youth, (reviewed here) released on Dave Laroxx’s Rocket Records label last year, showed immense promise. So much so, the band have now been signed by Sony, with RABS being released through label offshoot, Gain Records.

They have frequently been lumped in with The New Wave Of Glam Rock, but there’s much more to Casablanca. The opener, ‘The Giant Dreamless Sleep’ – a tale of mortality and modernity – is set against a caustic, staccato, Backyard Babies-like soundtrack. It’s a challenging way to begin, yet, as the album unfolds, it’s clear this track cuts against the grain. In fact, the heart of Riding A Black Swan lies in an altogether different place. Take the music’s pulse and you can hear the beat of gothic rock and 80’s melodic rock occasionally, but these impressions are overwhelmed by the classic sound of seventies hard rock, big and bold, pumping through its veins.

The first single ‘Hail The Liberation’ – sounding like it was written while listening to Desmond Child’s ‘Poison’ – comes early on, only hinting what will become the album’s dominant theme… an alternately glittery and strident Celtic stomp, often recalling Thin Lizzy and Big Country. It works best on ‘It’s Alright’ and ‘Barriers’, high calibre tunes and highly convincing hard rock delivered in an epic style. Emotional, elemental even……they pick up on Mike Scott’s assertion about the Waterboy’s music – “a metaphor for seeing God’s signature in the world”.

Despite that notion, they keep their feet firmly anchored in the sonic depths of unpretentious seventies rock with the title track, ‘Riding A Black Swan’, on which Roxie and frontman Anders Ljung respectively approximate the fiery guitar skirl and the abrasive vocals of the late, great Stuart Adamson. And on the rolling thunder of ‘Misty Morning’ which bypasses its more obvious  reference point to champion the era’s legacy – tuneful, driving hard rock; wiry, direct and often much more lyrical than you might remember.

Further on, Casablanca add a few contemporary metal ingredients to the mix, as on the scorching, two guitar burn of ’Heartbreak City’ and on the compact, whip smart, alt rocking ‘Just For The Nite’. In the wrong hands this stylistic match could have turned out to be an uneasy compromise, but with ….Black Swan everything fits, like it was designed that way, and maybe it was. Recommended.

9 out of 10

Casablanca – Riding A Black SwanTrack Listing:

  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