POP pickers and disco bunnies all recognise Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ but few would realise that on March 6th the Swedish rockers will release their 10th album, ‘War of Kings’ and if they fail to pick up a copy they are missing a slab of hard rock excellence.
As always the focus is on Joey Tempest and John Norum throughout, but to see this as some sort of star vehicle would be to miss the fact that Europe are very much a unit, tried, tested and true in their pursuit of excellence.
Jon Levén (bass) Mic Machaeli (keyboards) and Ian Haugland (drums) are all integral to the sound; and on ‘War of Kings’ there is a sense of purpose.
Building on their previous album ‘Bag of Bones’ Europe have not distilled their influences, instead they have gone back to what they love.
“War Of Kings is the album we always wanted to make, ever since we were kids listening to bands like Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath.”
Of course this begs the question about the previous nine releases, but we’ll skip over that...
Kicking off with the title track, a brooding mid-paced track, this is perhaps one of the most rounded album from the band. Stand-out tracks such as ‘The Second Day’, ‘California 405’ and ‘Angels (with Broken Hearts)’ swirl with delightful turns of musical phrase.
Yes, you can hear the Purple influence (California 405 could have been written with Ian Gillan in mind), but that does not detract from the fact that this is a triumphant hard rocking album.
Key to that could be that this is a line-up that has been largely together since the early 80s – bar the break from 1992 to 2003.
‘7 Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sounds from the title as if it is another clichéd romp through how rock is great, but Michaeli and Norum produce a layered sound and backdrop to the song, and lyrically it just says that they’re still rocking...
Tempest declared that they have “done it our way” since the re-union, and that is something no-one could deny, and he’s not going to be shy about his pride in Europe.
“Looking forward to tons of touring in 2015,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to be modest and humble about this band. It doesn’t get much better than this.
War of Kings is released on UDR on March 6th.
Europe play Belfast's Ulster Hall on March 3rd, with co-headliners Black Star Riders and The Amorettes as support. It is their first visit to Belfast in 25 years.
Review by Jonny