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Europe: War Of Kings

"It's the album we always wanted to make since we were kids", might be an odd thing for a band to say after previously delivering nine studio albums and achieving worldwide success, and yet that's exactly how Europe describe War Of Kings. Since their mid noughties reunion, Europe have steadily become a heavier, blues based outfit and with ten albums now under the band's belt, that journey is complete. Those who haven't sampled Europe's output during their recent reinvention (many Black Star Riders fans who attended the recent UK co-headline tour for example) may well be shocked by just how heavy and forceful an album this is and yet even current fans of the band have been making online comments such as "were's Michaeli???" (the band's keyboard player). However the interesting thing is that with the exception of three of the songs on WOK, guitarist John Norum didn't even have any input in the songwriting - and two of those are full band compositions!

Always the driving force behind the band, it's singer (and sometime guitarist) Joey Tempest who appears in the writing credits, alongside at times Mic Michaeli and bassist John Leven. While having loved his work with Rival Sons, the band enlisted the help of Dave Cobb in the production chair and he also had a say in the writing of four of the eleven songs presented.

A mighty brooding riff introduces the album's title cut, slow, steady and juggernaut-like. Tempest sounds absolutely menacing, while the trademark keys of Michaeli take a backseat - a prominent backseat, but just not as to the forefront as expected. However it works supremely and immediately draws you in, "Hole In My Pocket" repeating the trick, but at twice the pace and with more obvious flair. However it's still an intense journey rather than a singalong and Tempest's voice verges on gruff and threatening for possibly the first time ever on a Europe album. From there the powerathon continues, "Nothin' To Ya" pulsatingly in your face, "Days Of Rock N Roll" hitting as though it's UFO in their prime, "Praise You" unable to make up its mind as to whether it's Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple! Although "Rainbow Bridge" isn't afraid to proudly pin its colours to the mast marked Page and Plant. However the real beauty here is the diversity, "California 405" a smooth piece of Hammond infused riffage which reminds of the Europe favourite "Superstitious", while "Angels (With Broken Hearts)" brings the bluesiness down to a slow atmospheric crawl.

Almost every Europe album since the turn of the millennium seems to have drawn comment as to how different it is and how far removed from the band's sound. However in truth there's been a logical progression right from their comeback album Start From The Dark, through to War Of Kings. The other thing they all have in common, is just how consistent they've been and how much more comfortable and confident as a band Europe have sounded as their evolution has progressed. That any band ten albums into their history wants to continue to experiment and stretch its boundaries is reason to celebrate and that's exactly what we should do with War Of Kings.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
1. War of Kings
2. Hole in My Pocket
3. The Second Day
4. Praise You
5. Nothin' to Ya
6. California 405
7. Days of Rock 'n' Roll
8. Children of the Mind
9. Rainbow Bridge
10. Angels (with Broken Hearts)
11. Light It Up
CD digipak/Japanese edition bonus track
12. Vasastan (instrumental)

Added: March 28th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Europe online
Hits: 3235
Language: english

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Europe: War Of Kings
Posted by Brendan Schroer, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-03-28 19:35:50
My Score:

If there's any band that captured the cheese and excess of 80s glam metal to the highest degree, it would have to be Swedish rockers Europe. The act responsible for the incredibly bombastic The Final Countdown record, whose songs have been featured on countless commercials and still get consistent radio airplay to this day, Joey Tempest and co. were not afraid to make their flamboyant image and stage presence a key element in their performances and overall impact on the masses. Love them or hate them, Europe took the world by storm. But where would they go after making record after record of fun excess and synth-ridden hair metal cheese? Well, getting more serious would be a nice route to consider… and that's exactly what they did.

Europe went on hiatus around 1992 after the decent Prisoners in Paradise, but after over a decade of compilations and a temporary reunion, the official reunion finally came about in 2003. But once their comeback record Start from the Dark was actually released, people knew this wasn't the same Europe they listened to years ago. The overall sound was much more subdued and dark, and the elements of glam metal that popularized the band were replaced with a more straightforward metal/hard rock mix. Little did we know that Prisoners in Paradise would be the last glam-oriented album to date by Europe; ultimately, their new album War of Kings doesn't change this fact.

Joey Tempest stated that the band's biggest influences for this album were Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, and he definitely means it. The entirety of War of Kings is slathered in bluesy midtempo metal anthems with crunchy guitars and a dark overall vibe surrounding each tune. Right from the strong title track that opens the album, the riffing is much more thick and slow than in your usual Europe record, and even the faster songs like "Hole in My Pocket" and "Light Me Up" maintain the same groovy guitar work and Whitesnake-esque blues-based songwriting. As for the vocals, though, Joey's work sounds closer to Ronnie James Dio during his 70s/80s heyday. It's actually really nice to hear his rawer side when combined with his typically charismatic power metal-influenced wails, and gives some nice variety to each performance.

However, it's not long until the problems start to crop up. War of Kings is very consistent, but perhaps too consistent. I know this is the band's tenth album, but are they just going to play it safe for the rest of their career? Do they expect their fans to believe that not taking any risks or experimenting with a few other sounds would be just fine? And that's the problem. There's no denying that things get very homogeneous and boring around the middle, the blandness pretty much peaking when "Praise You" and "California 405" rear their heads. It's sad too, because the album's best song "Nothin' to Ya'" is sandwiched right in between these tracks so some individuals may not even end up listening to it. But "Nothin' to Ya'" represents what this album does best, and that's the mixture of metal and blues that's characterized much of Europe's later work. They come off as their most inspired when
playing in that style, and it's also the reason that their softer and more toned-down songs tend to fall flat. If you do want to check this album out, I'd suggest the title track, "Hole in My Pocket," "Light Me Up," and "Rainbow Bridge" as the best listens here. The other stuff is fine, but generally ranges from middling to flat-out boring. But this isn't the worst thing Europe's released… consider it a mild success, I guess.

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