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Chart Chat Album Review – Europe – ‘War Of Kings’ (Released 2nd March 2015)

Chart Chat Album Review – Europe – ‘War Of Kings’ (Released 2nd March 2015)

Although fans in the UK were only really introduced to Europe through their 1986 hit ‘The Final Countdown’ that was actually taken from their third studio album. Their self titled debut album appeared in 1983, and now some thirty two years later their tenth studio album ‘War Of Kings’ hits the shops.  As with most heavy metal bands they have undergone several line up changes during that time, with only lead singer Joey Tempest remaining constant in the band although guitarist John Norum was there at the start but left the band between 1986 before returning later in their career.

Europe are one of those bands whose true fans know that they have produced ten different albums over thirty years, but so many only really know them for one or two hits.  Their sound now has moved on tremendously since their early days and is heavier with more of a blues tinge than before. Just listen to ‘Not Supposed To Sing The Blues’ from their ‘Bag Of Bones’ album and I promise that you will be blown away.

Opening track and first single ‘War Of Kings’ kicks of proceedings in some style. It’s been on my playlist since it was first release and for me it is one of their best tracks in several years. If there was any justice this would have given them a first top forty hit of the Millenium, but it is very hard to hear this kind of music anywhere other than on specialist rock radio stations. The days of hearing this kind of song on mainstream radio has sadly passed. It has everything – dramatic guitars, soaring vocals and menacing keyboards. First class!

‘Hole In My Pocket’ follows on quickly, and there can be little doubt that they mean business. “It’s not the end / it doesn’t get better than this” sings Joey Tempest over a dramatic backdrop of keyboards and no nonsense guitars.  ‘Second Day’ has a more mean and moody feel to it, but comes with an anthemic chorus which builds nicely including the lyrics “there’s a place that we cannot reach / there’s a light we just cannot see / there’s a hope that won’t give out / it’s all we should talk about”. The track also boasts a fantastic guitar solo halfway through courtesy of guitarist John Norum.

‘Praise You’ is slower, but for me less anthemic. It’s reliance on keyboards almost reminds me of Deep Purple at times, and if I am honest ‘Nothin’ To Ya’ continues in a similar vein. They’re not too shabby, but they don’t scale the heights achieved by the title track.

‘California 405’ picks up the pace a little and again features some nifty guitar work in the middle section. ‘Days Of Rock N Roll’ keeps up the tempo, even if the keyboards do give the track a 1970’s feel at times. No matter, it is bold and brash and rattles along at a fair old pace.  It has yet to be confirmed in the UK, but it has been chosen as the second single elsewhere in Europe, and you can see why.  ‘Rainbow Bridge’ has the kind of title that a progressive rock band might have recorded, and it does have that kind of sound too although at just three minutes in length that is where the comparisons end!

As we move towards the end of the tracklisting, ‘Angels (With Broken Hearts)’ becomes the main ballad on the album, and then in contrast the standard edition is brought to a close with six minutes of ‘Light Me Up’. Both are able to stand up and be counted and seem a fitting way to bring the curtain down.

Curiously there is only one track difference between the Deluxe and Standard editions, and that is the instrumental ‘Vasastan’. Some fans might turn their noses up at such an idea, but in fact it works very well. The guitar work on show here reminds me of Gary Moore at his creative best, building slowly from the start to a solo guitar which captivates the listener. The final 90 seconds feature a reprise of the title track, and then the end is upon us.

Some would say that Europe are back, but others would point to the fact that they never really went away. On this showing they remain as creative and entertaining as ever, and let’s hope it is not too long before album number eleven is upon us.

Ian Anderson (@ChartChatUK)

29 March, 2015 - Posted by | ChartChat

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