Europe | War Of Kings
Label: UDR/JVC Victor
Release Year: 2015
Country: United Kingdom/Sweden
Genre: Hard Melodic Classic Rock
Mic Michaeli – Keys
John Levén – Bass
Joey Tempest – Vocals
John Norum – Guitars
Ian Haugland – Drums
It is 1987 and I had just bought a little known album called The Final Countdown by Europe. It was the song of Cherokee that MTV had in heavy rotation at the time that finally made me breakdown and purchase the album. I thought to myself here is another hard rock GLAM Band they are trying to commercialize especially of the catchy hooks in the title track The Final Countdown. That album had the hallmark formula at the time of several rocker tracks, a anthem track and two ballads. You could say it was the cookie cutter formula for success of its time.
This was at the time when everyone was looking towards the Sunset Strip in Hollywood California for the ‘next big band’. However on the contrary this particular band came from Sweden which gave it a little heavier sound of the time when the Poison’s , Warrant’s, Motley Crues, and Bon Jovi’s were always in demand in heavy rotation on MTV and radio stations globally. Soon the ‘Grunge Infestation’ out of Seattle would hit around 1990-1991 and bands like Europe in the Western Hemisphere were totally irrelevant from the general market formula record labels were going with and Europe were relegated to the Eastern Hemisphere of continental Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Fast forward to 2015 and the GLAM metal tag has been replaced with ‘Hair Metal’ and those bands seem like relics that only play the nostalgia circuits of casinos or state fairs. I have moved on in my taste in music as well with heavier more progressive oriented metal and rock. A friend of mine kept pestering the hell out of me for a while to listen to the new Europe War of Kings album. In all honesty I was hesitant at first. After a full listen I was taken back and astonished by what I heard.
This was a much darker, heavier, more serious band than I had experienced a few decades before in my youth. Europe in sound and even appearance has made every effort to distance themselves from that Glam Metal/Hair Metal stigma. You can say they grew up and matured where most of their contemporaries have yet to do. What has really impressed me about the album is the way it pays homage to the pioneering sounds of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Cream and elements of Led Zeppelin. Lush candy coated glossy keyboard’s have now been replaced with heavier more bottom sounding hammond organ sounds. The finger tapping scale progressions on guitar are more rhythm and tritone based progressions.
War Of Kings starts out with a Deep Purple’s Mandrake Root meets Black Sabbaths Iron Man with modern melodic sensibility. Joey Tempest sounds better now than he did say in the 1980’s. Whereas some of his peers range has subsided over time Joey Tempest seems to have gotten stronger. Even John Norum’s guitar playing has gotten more bottom serving even in the solo’s. Mic Michaeli has even modified his keyboard sound to mirror Jon Lord than the high glossed polished progression as he used in the 1980’s.
Hole In My Pocket opens up with a sick raunchy progression. This progression reminds me very much of Highway Star meets Space Truckin‘. There are appropriate breaks and the track continue rolling along. Hole In My Pocket would have appeal to fans of early 1970’s straight away power rock.
Second Day opens up much like Child Of Time where there is a heavy hammond organ progression and isolated vocal in harmony. About the :30 mark the track takes a more conventional hard driving rock signature. Second Day is one of the more progressive based track on War Of Kings.
Praise You explodes with almost a proto – doom progression before settling down with a deep bottom heavy bass work of John Levén in dark harmony with Ian Haugland – Drums. Lyrically many people can see a little of themselves within the track. Praise You even has elements of stoner metal/rock.
Nothin’ To Ya has a sweet little drum roll towards the beginning. This track opens very much like Ronnie James Dio era Black Sabbath with the song ‘I’ . It takes on heavy rhythmic guitar passages with a ghostly type keyboard to give accent.
California 405 has more of a Bad Company Ready For Love meets Rainbow Stone Cold progression. This track definitely takes on more of early West Coast AOR with power hammond organ replacing a cleaner more polished keyboard. The guitar give the listener the appearance it is pumped through a bass amp more than a Marshall stack.
Days Of Rock N Roll opens with a rolling guitar with a hammond organ in harmony with the tight rhythmic progressions. This is one of the more up tempo tracks on the album. Europe has even sprinkled old 1960’s to 1970’s Scorpions into Days Of Rock N Roll. Lyrically it talks about nostalgia.
Children Of The Mind shows the band with a more old school doom sludge progression. Children Of The Mind reminds me a lot of 1980’s era Trouble. The rhythymic progressions are really tight by now and you begin to notice the bands metomorphosis into a vintage sound with very modern sensibilities.
Rainbow Bridge starts with a more mellotron based keyboard progression with a slow heavy rhythm section. It is as if the vocal is echoing the keyboard. The drum fills are totally built around the bottom bass drum. The track plays to this progression throughout its duration.
Angels (With Broken Hearts) is definitely Lazy meets Child Of Time. This is a very heavy blues oriented progression. The blues I speak of is more New Orleans meets Memphis blues almost getting into a mild jazz fusion signature. This track is full of emotion and stalks the mind of the listener to a more mellow feel. If their were a ballad on War Of Kings this track would be the closest. This is more a Deep Purple Mark Three line up with Coverdale/Hughes blues type mirrors Mistreated.
Light Me Up & Vasastan are basically tracks that give a overview of the previous tracks in the arrangement. Vasastan is part instrumental part verse run from the title track War Of Kings.
Some critics will say that a leopard can not change its spots or snake shed all its skin to manage with the changes of life. Well I believe Europe have certainly made a statement album shattering the old Glam/Hair Metal stigma they were lumped into. Both in appearance and in sound this is the strongest Europe album to date. It will certainly win over a older guard that wanted to dismiss them at the same time attracting a newer crowd getting into the older more vintage sound. I give both band and album a 4/5 for the courage to go against the typical expectation placed on them.