Words: Craig Hartranft
Something's different. Upon first gaze of the album artwork and then upon listening to Miskatonic Graffiti, this couldn't be Swedish band Casablanca. At least not the band I remember. With 2012's album Apocalyptic Youth, the band was playing basically AOR melodic rock. Miskatonic Graffiti is a different animal.
Miskatonic Graffiti is a different animal. My best description of the current Casablanca sound is classic melodic hard rock and metal blended with nuances of space and psychedelic rock. Perhaps, being a concept album gives us some clue to the sound as well. Based on a twist of Chuthulu mythology, it "tells the story of The Originals, a group of creatures who pre-date H.P. Lovecraft's Old Ones and refuse to give up on their dreams of sex, love, rock and fast cars, despite the impending collapse of civilisation." Enter weirdness. The album is bookended by the two longest numbers, Enter The Mountain and Exit The Mountain, and this is where the whole melodic hard space rock comes in, especially with the former tune, quite ethereal at times.
While this "vibe" seems linger underneath, the rest of the album invokes the blend of melodic hard rock and metal. It can be catchy, even AOR-like or radio-friendly, with Sister. More so, even reverting back to that earlier album, is the subtle, gentler in the current context, title cut. It's smooth, moving by the slick soothing refrain. Then there's something akin to a ballad or anthem. She Was The One begins benignly with lighter guitar and vocals, only to get gutsy and heavy, with flaming guitar solos in the later half. Alternatively, the songs can be heavier, yet with groove, an abundance of groove, slick riffs, and some old school keyboards as with This I Tomorrow and Closer.
Bottom line: this was not the Casablanca I expected, and I'm guessing that's what the band had in mind. Am I disappointed? Not in the least, but opening the album with the spacey ten minute epic did throw me off. So then, is it a new and improved Casablanca? Maybe so. It's more like an evolving, a friendly experimental, Casablanca. Makes you wonder what's next. Recommended.
If, like myself, your last memory of Casablanca was their early AOR melodic rock, then plan to be surprised. The band ventures into new territory with their version of classic melodic hard rock with space opera nuances.
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