New Music Review: EUROPE “War Of Kings”

REVIEW – EUROPE is continuing to ride their musical wave with their 10th studio album, “War Of Kings”, released December 4th, 2015. It’s the first since 2012’s Bag of Bones, and they’re making it obvious that they still have plenty of music to give us.

Forming in Stockholm, Sweden in 1979, the core of EUROPE formed with Joey Tempest and John Norum.  Originally named Force (after the classic UFO album, “Force It”), the band forged ahead playing dates and releasing their eponymous debut album in 1983.  The lineup of Tempest, Norum, bassist John Levén,  keyboardist Mic Michaeli, and drummer Ian Haugland, have mostly remained together since 1985, so this is the same band that recorded “The Final Countdown”.  A power-ballad “Carrie” soon followed and was another hit-single.  Guitarist Norum, influenced by Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy, became unhappy with the poppy, keyboard-laden sound, and boy-band image that Europe had adopted, left the band in 1987 to pursue more guitar oriented, heavy rock, ultimately joining Don Dokken’s solo band in 1990.  EUROPE asked their one-time producer Kee Marcello to fill the guitar shoes left behind by Norum. Marcello accepted and was with the band until their hiatus in 1992.  EUROPE was asked to play a hometown show on the eve of the new millenium.  They accepted and remains the only time that EUROPE’s two guitarists ever appeared together.  The reunion went so well, that they announced a full-time reunion in 2003 with the classic lineup, and has been holding steady going, and strong ever since.

Norum hasn’t lost a thing, giving us more wonderful rock guitar mastery.  Joey Tempest’s voice is showing slight signs of maturity, but it actually works for him, as it takes even more away from the glammy, bubblegum side of EUROPE that they’ve become known for.  The band are music veterans now, and they continue to display and perform their craft with precision and integrity, as shown on the bonus disc I received which was recorded at 2015’s Wacken Festival in Germany.  It’s evident by the well-received new tracks, that band are still a force to be reckoned with, not just in the studio, but in a live setting as well.

Part of the album is classic EUROPE with keyboard licks dominating some songs, but mostly, the keyboards are relegated to a background instrument only, sometimes only utilizing a simple Hammond B3 backing.  “War of Kings” has a little hard-rock, a little blues, and a little rock n’ roll, ending the album with a very goose-bumpy, Gary Moore inspired instrumental, “Vasastan”, and the obligatory “gotcha” false-ending with a reprise of the title track. There’s no “The Final Countdown” on this album (unless you count the bonus live version), and I know that I, along with many fans, and with the band, are just fine with that.

EUROPE “War Of Kings”

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
12. Vasastan (Instrumental)

• Joey Tempest – lead vocals
• John Norum – guitars
• John Levén – bass
• Mic Michaeli – keyboards
• Ian Haugland – drums

• Produced by Dave Cobb
• Engineered by John Netti