Released: 2nd March
Released By: UDR GmbH
Genre: Hard Rock
Joey Tempest – Lead Vocals
John Norum – Guitars
Mic Michaeli – Keyboards
Jon Leven – Bass
Ian Haughland – Drums
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 Me Up
I have always felt aggrieved for Europe. Despite their breakthrough album The Final Countdown achieving monster sales, they were unfortunate it was released the same year as another monstrer selling album.
That album being Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet. The Swedish rockers i felt always came off second best compared to the Jersey boys, who became the poster boys of 80’s rock. All the teen mags ran with Jon vs Joey pieces, including who had the best hair, i was in the Jon camp on that one, i always felt low maintenance was the way to go.
But as Jovi’s success soared, Europe’s dwindled in comparison. So much so, that in 1992, that band went on to what was to become a 12 year break. But a resurgent Europe regrouped in 2003, to record the Start From The Dark album alongside original guitarist John Norum. Fast forward to 2015 and the band are to release what will be their fifth studio helping since reforming. The David Cobb produced War Of Kings ignites in epic fashion with the title track. I have to say one of the great things about this band is their awe inspiring ability to combine monumental storytelling with astounding melody. And this track conveys that in every way.
This is also a band who never hide their primary influences. And the Thin Lizzy impact is proudly belted out on Hole In My Pocket, three and a half minutes of pulsating rock that bears a fine resemblance to Lynott and Co’s Cold Sweat. Joey Tempest has never been given the full credit he richly deserves for his multifaceted vocal range. His performance on The Second Day is effortless and thoroughly compelling.
If Robert Plant ever gets the chance to hear Praise You, I’m pretty sure he’d love to wrap his chops around it. And i’m bloody sure Jimmy Page would tell him to do so. Once again gold plated vocals, but John Norum’s incomparable blues tones are sheer bliss. Ian Haughland’s trademark thunderous skin beating introduces the angry and volatile Nothin To Ya. Europe remove the gloss for this one, and replace it with a large coat of F.. K You.
If your an enthusiastic night driver, California 405 should rattle your dashboard nicely. The soothing cruising rhythm and Norum’s mouthwatering guitar solo are a stone wall truimph. A well shaken can of 12 bar boogie is cracked open on Days Of Rock N Roll, before they get their Dio kissed Rainbow /Sabbath influence out on Children Of The Mind. Another massive song that will both grip and haunt you at the same time.
For something completely different, a touch of middle eastern promise flows through Rainbow Bridge, Mic Michaeli’s provocative keyboards providing a captivating backbone to a song that oozes sex appeal and melodic delights.
It’s now 29 years since the honey dripping ballad Carrie had mullet wearing couples locking their body parts, and a fine tune it was too. But one listen to Angels (with Broken Hearts), a ballad of divine beauty, and you’ll see the leap in class their songwriting has taken.It’s moody, atmospheric and even if you possess the coldest of souls,this will stop you in your tracks.
If you want to revel in the elegant mastery of John Norum’s playing, look no further than his closing piece on penultimate track Light Me Up and instrumental closer Vasatan. His grit, soul and sincerity cascade on every chord struck. To call it a master class would be doing it an injustice. The man is a modern day maestro who’s genius has not yet been fully treasured.
I’ve always counted Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak, Whitesnake’s Slide It In and Deep Purple’s Perfect Strangers among the finest hard rock albums ever made. I can safely say with my over zealous bias that this flawless collection can proudly dine at the same table.
Written by: Brian Boyle