EUROPE – War of Kings
Experiencing a second revival heals all personal wounds or musical trends that may have swept away a successful act’s first go around. For hard rock act Europe, everyone who grew up in the 1980’s probably remembers their melodic foundation, Joey Tempest’s smooth vocals, and the pinnacle success of their third album "The Final Countdown". Since their 2003 reunion with the marque lineup (Tempest, Norum, Michaeli, Levén, and Haugland), Europe has been sailing along smoothly in terms of consistent studio output and touring the globe proving they are vital, creative musicians not content to live in the past.
"War of Kings" is their latest album, their 10th studio effort and in tune with Europe’s current ability to keep one ear to the present while not forsaking their legendary bluesy hard rock roots. The title cut opens the proceedings in more of a swirling Deep Purple meets Rainbow fashion, John Norum delivering an effective, slow-building lead break while Mic Michaeli pumps out organic rhythms. The follow up "Hole in My Pocket" has an up tempo boogie foundation, Joey Tempest very speedy in his delivery during the verses but still excelling in his note holding abilities during the bridge and chorus. Throughout these 12 tracks reference points to the early Led Zeppelin or UFO roots come up, especially on the slower "Praise You" or the swanky "Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll" – bassist John Levén and drummer Ian Haugland intuitive in terms of their tempo instincts and fill moments for the latter.
Adding in Middle Eastern elements in terms of the snake charming keyboard tone for the throwback oriented "Rainbow Bridge", I find "War of Kings" very consistent in terms of pacing and song flow, which is not easy to maintain over the course of a 55 minute album. Those who expect the pristine polish of their commercially blockbuster 80’s days need to be aware that Europe circa 2015 prefers to be more organic in terms of their outlook and sound, and that’s alright by me. Another outstanding record from Europe, who 30 plus years in the business deserve all the accolades and popularity coming their way because quality product and performances should trump any momentary fad or trends.