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Europe: Secret Society

After the solid 2004 comeback effort Start From the Dark, Europe are back with the follow-up Secret Society. Mixed and mastered by Stefan Glaumann (Rammstein, Within Temptation) and George Martino (Velvet Revolver, U2), and featuring cover art from legendary artist Storm Thorgerson, who as a member of Hipgnosis worked on classic albums from Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Peter Gabriel, as well as recent releases from Muse and The Mars Volta, Secret Society is a great sounding and great looking CD. Sounds promising so far right? Well, yes and no. For the most part, this is respectable hard rock, but considering how Europe really slammed it home on their last one, and looking back at their vast amount of catchy rockers in their back catalog, there's just not a lot to get excited about here, as much of Secret Society is just flat out generic sounding riff rockers. Where's the muscular and tasty guitar work of Start From the Dark, or the symphonic keyboards and irresistible hooks of their 80's material? It's not here.

While there are a few decent tunes on the CD, like the clever "The Getaway Plan", which features some nimble fretwork from John Norum and a strong vocal from Joey Tempest, the crunchy groove of "Let the Children Play", the heavy rock of "Love Is Not the Enemy", and the mysterious and majestic "Devil Sings the Blues"(featuring a killer Schenker inspired solo from Norum), for the most part these are just standard rock tunes that quite frankly could have been recorded by just about any band. Norum, who generally delivers virtuoso performance after another, is stuck in downtuned hell here, laying down one beefy and "been there done that" riff after another, occasionally ripping into one of his trademark acrobatic guitar solos, but they are all too fleeting. His intricate and inspired riffs are few and far between, which is a big surprise as they were so abundant on the band's 2004 release. Tempest sounds tired and uninspired, as his normally vibrant and uptempo delivery is reduced to a flat , semi-husky attack that sounds so out of place here. Remember when Queensryche tried desperately to sound modern and fit in with the 90's rock scene? Well, I'm getting a similar vibe here. It's not that the music on Secret Society is bad. Like I mentioned earlier, this is serviceable hard rock, but most of the magic that you could always expect from Europe seems to be missing. The hooks are gone, the guitars are held back, and the keyboards are used sparingly. My guess is longtime fans will give a few listens to Secret Society and think that overall it's not bad, but might not warrant going back for repeated spins.

Track Listing

  1. Secret Society
  2. Always the Pretenders
  3. The Getaway Plan
  4. Wish I Could Believe
  5. Let the Children Play
  6. Human After All
  7. A Mother's Son
  8. Forever Travelling
  9. Brave and Beautiful Soul
  10. Devil Sings the Blues

Added: January 25th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Europe Website
Hits: 2629
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Europe: Secret Society
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-01-25 18:58:31
My Score:

Europe resurfaced to the Hard Rock community with "Start From The Dark", a rallying call of music that showed that the band had not suffered over time but instead improved like some fine wine. The release gave a number of killer tunes such as the title track and "Hero" most specifically. Touring for this album broke venue records and this was not bad for a band that had not performed together in well over a decade. Their new release "Secret Society" continues along with a lot of the same formula that was used on "SFTD" but I admit that it takes a few listens to appreciate it. Joey Tempest still rocks and truly knows how to win the listener over with his smooth voice and should he need to belt them out he does not have any problems. Tempest actually wrote most of the album this time around and while this is a solid disc, there is hardly any of the punch that we felt on "SFTD". I also felt that the album was lacking in the providing some kind of anthem along the lines of "The Final Countdown" which made this band a household name back in the glory days. There is some killer guitar riffing by John Norum as one would expect and on the whole, this is not a bad album. There are several rockers present with "Love Is Not The Enemy" and "Always The Pretenders" (the first single from the release) and I think overall that it will continue to please their existing fan base. The ballad for the album falls in "A Mother's Son" and that serves it's purpose fine and should have lighters or cell phones raised during performances going forward. Personally, I loved "The Getaway Plan" because that seemed to mix classic old school vibe with some of today's freshness. I have to say that it is great that Europe shows that they are refusing to rest on the past successes and grow too comfortable. They love bringing music to the people and it shows well in the production of the new release. It has an incredible sound and also offers some interesting art that was done by Storm Thorgerson. The only downside is that it might sound a little too polished for some listeners and instead of continual listens might only generate an on and off appeal. The recording was again performed by the classic/reunion lineup of Tempest (voice), Norma (guitar), Leven (bass), Michaeli (keyboards) and Haugland (drums).

It's a release from a band that has both matured and aged with their original fans as well but does not sound old in any sense of the word. Perhaps unleashing a couple of the held back reigns would have been a smart decision but we shall see what comes from them the next time around before I become a harsh judge. If you are a Europe fan, you will enjoy this and if you are casual then stick with the greatest hits or the recent live DVD releases.

» Reader Comments:

Europe: Secret Society
Posted by JOSE OJEDA on 2007-07-27 19:15:23
My Score:


Europe: Secret Society
Posted by Magnus on 2006-11-24 11:28:29
My Score:

I don't agree with the original review here. I think Europe has done their best album ever. Start from the Dark was good but this sounds like the natural follow up to Wings of tomorrow before "top of the pops" took the band as hostage. This is a great album if you like your rock hard and melodic.

Europe: Secret Society
Posted by Igor Norum on 2006-11-20 05:37:06
My Score:

How many times in their career Metallica did something like the "Black" album, how many times Queensryche made "Operation mindkrime I", how many times Dream Theater made "Images and Words", how many times can any creative person make a masterpiece? Comparing "Secret Society" with "The final countdown" is like comparing Ford Mustang with Ferarri....
"Secret Society" is probably the most complete record Europe made ever. It's fresh, raw, energetic, melodic, new. Haven't heard anything better for years in hard n' heavy music.
Europe are great instrumentalists and excellent composers and they do deserve respect for providing us excellent hard rock records.
Stop comaparing something from the 80's of the 20th century with something from the 21st century. Times are changing!!!!

Europe: Secret Society
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2006-11-10 10:01:25
My Score:

I disagree.I hear more virtuoso soloing from Norum this time and Tempest is giving it all singing to his full capacity.The production is punchy and clear and i find the songs mostly excellent (with the dreadful title track the only exception).At the very least, equally as good as Start From The Dark.Highly recommended.

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