It’s been two years since Tommy Morais contributed a review here. It is with great joy that I celebrate Tommy’s return, and that of the rock band Europe! Please join me in welcoming back Tommy, a great reviewer originally from the province of New Brunswick, Canada.
NEW RELEASE review by TOMMY MORAIS
“Europe establishes itself as a modern classic rock band”
After the bluesy affair that was Bag of Bones, the band Europe returns to a heavier sound and approach on War of Kings and ultimately, a more Europe-sounding album. The band has essentially transformed itself from its glam metal roots to essentially become a modern classic rock band. I’ve always been a fan of albums like Wings of Tomorrow and Out of This World, just as l am a fan of Last Look At Eden and their recent albums. If anyone cares to listen there’s more to this band than “The Final Countdown”, the occasional hit song and power ballads. For anyone who’s been keeping track, they know that the last few Europe albums have been very enjoyable and saw them release some of their best music thus far in their career (Last Look At Eden, Start From The Dark, Secret Society).
The title track opens up, and it’s every bit as epic sounding as you expect it to be. It’s a raunchy, slow down and dirty metallic number. Europe makes it clear from the get-go that they’re going in a heavy direction. “Hole in my Pocket” is a more light and upbeat track, and whereas the first track sounded more metal this one is more energetic AOR rock (with a blistering John Norum solo). “Second Day” is one of the highlights for me: the lyrics and the feel of the song are inspiring and Joey Tempest’s voice sounds like some part deep on him is aching and it’s brilliant. “Praise You” is a slow tempo rocker, not-quite ballad with a bluesy feel (Norum’s playing is just magnificent here) with hard rock tempo changes… this track really surprised me! “Nothin’ To Ya” is in a similar vein as the title track in that it goes for an epic feel but there’s orchestration on in the background that makes it interesting.
“California 405” is a cool mellow, almost easy-listening song. “Days of Rock ‘N’ Roll” is probably the closest sounding thing to a “The Final Countdown” here, and that is based on the joyous riff it possesses. Another solid rocker. “Children of the Night” is a dark sounding tune with some excelling guitar playing, something almost fit for the late great Ronnie James Dio. “Rainbow Bridge” has an exotic sound; it makes me feel like l’m about to enter some place like Morocco. It’s this album’s “Kashmir”, very different and very cool. “Angels (With Broken Hearts”) could almost be considered a ballad but it’s really a slow, here-comes-the-heartache piece with the music doing the biggest talking. “Light Me Up” is not bad at all, but it’s my least favourite song on War of Kings and not the best way to end the album.
For what it is I quite enjoy War of Kings, and it offers a solid collection of songs. Joey Tempest’s voice has aged like a fine wine where you can tell he’s comfortable and confident in his abilities, and this is possibly the best he’s ever sounded in all honesty. John Norum is a very talented guitar player and he has his shining moments in his riffs and solos, and puts a little blues out there as well. Europe are competent musicians and it certainly comes across as such, and maybe even more so now that they have moved past the “glam” and “hair” metal tags. I feel like since their comeback in the early 2000’s they’ve truly become a modern classic rock band in sound and spirit (don’t worry they still love and play the classics and hits live).
While it’s true that you only get one first impression, l wish more people would give Europe a chance, because they’re not the same band they were during the 80’s and they’ve become better musicians as time passed by. I think a lot of classic rock fans who didn’t like Europe during their most successful years especially might enjoy this a lot more than they’d ever think. Maybe some were hoping for a nostalgia trip but the keyboards and power ballads are not to be found here, this is a more mature Europe and a very fine one at that. For that reason l think some would like this a lot more. And if you were a fan all along then what are you waiting for? Pick this up and give it a spin. I praise Europe for giving us a true great hard rock record in 2015.