EUROPE is one of the most loved and mocked bands to come out of the 80’s. The album that put them on the charts, The Final Countdown, makes me cringe these days. They quietly went away in 1991 after the abysmal failure of that year’s Prisoners In Paradise, and not much was heard of them for many years – except, of course, at EVERY SINGLE GODDAMNED SPORTING EVENT. The band is back, though, and they’ve revamped their sound over the last 10 years to the point where you wouldn’t recognize them from the days of Joey Tempest’s ridiculous hair and bad videos. So, yeah, if your favorite EUROPE song is “The Final Countdown”, and you can only name two or three of their albums, you may want to stop reading now.
War of Kings (out now,Hell & Back Recordings/UDR Music), the band’s fifth release since reforming in the middle of the 2000’s is here, and there’s no hairspray on this one. This is a dark and brooding EUROPE that continues the progression to a much more mature and accessible sound that they’ve been working on for a decade. War Of Kings is heavily influenced by the bluesy classic rock of the 1970’s, and it sounds great on the band. There are no mailed in performances on this disc – every member contributes to the album in a big way, whether it be Ian Haugland’s inventive drumming, John Levén making every bass line anything but background noise, or Mic Michaeli’s fat and heavy sounding organ on every song. John Norum remains one of the great rock guitarists of the last 30 years, and Joey Tempest has definitely adapted well to the darker and more controlled vocals of the new EUROPE.
Some of my favorite songs are the title track “War Of Kings”, the rocker “Hole In My Pocket”, “Praise You” (which could have come from a DEEP PURPLE session in the early 70’s), and the intense “Children Of The Mind”. The entire album is great – there’s no filler here.
I was a huge fan of EUROPE’s first two albums before they hit it big, and one of my guilty pleasures is a love for 1988’s Out of This World. That said, the last decade of EUROPE’S catalog has been a high point for them, and War Of Kings is one of their best. Pick it up today. Now.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM