Europe – “War Of Kings” (UDR GmbH)
What a monster. I knew Europe were big especially in the days of “The Final Countdown” back in the early 90s where their brand of Scandi AOR took the world by a storm and made them household names. However, their commercial success also changed the direction of the band with guitarist Johnny Norum leaving ironically during their peak in 1986 to pursue a solo career. With other band members wanting to do the same by 1992, label Epic didn’t share their enthusiasm and soon dropped the band, spelling a 10 year hiatus before Europe were able to regroup releasing “Start From The Dark” in 2004. Still, they would never be as big as they were and had to regain old ground which they’ve arguably been doing over over the last ten years along with countless tours – but with “War Of Kings” they’re finally there! Taking inspiration from their childhood inspirations of Dio era Sabbath, Zepp and Deep Purple, this 10th album is a classic rock monster from start to finish – complete with pumping Mellotron organ! Gone is the commercial bubblegum rock of the 80s and instead comes the pulsating beat of pure hard rock, humble yet straight from the heart! Norum’s deep, crunching riffs grab your soul before those irresistible melodies and solos soon have you reaching air guitar orgasm on the heavy, thumping opener of ‘War Of Kings’ while Joey Tempest sings his heart out like a lion on unhurried but no less powerful ballads like ‘Angels (With Broken Hearts)’, graced once again by Norum’s classy blues guitar – and not forgetting that aforementioned organ courtesy of Mic Michaeli that has a whole preacher rock vibe to it, made all the more so by Rival Son’s producer Dave Cobb at the helm! In fact, the whole album has a natural feel to it, right from sexy funked up songs like ‘Praise You’ that were written collaboratively by the band as a whole rather than in the past by Tempest himself, through to recording live using vintage gear, right down to taking a more relaxed approach to press and promo. Like I said, it’s a monster and arguably the album the band should’ve always made. Clearly not in their 20s who were once one of the biggest bands in the world – and living that life of glamor – these days Europe are more content to be earning their respect from the rock world through their music.