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Europe - War of Kings Award winner

War of Kings
by Daniel Fox at 26 January 2015, 10:35 PM

Surprisingly, my first hearing of the transcendental EUROPE was not through the eponymous "The Final Countdown", but through ARCH ENEMY's cover of "Scream Of Anger", and such my search began (as did my placing of the band name to the aforementioned anthem). Keeping roughly the same lineup for almost 29 years, 2015 would see the unleashing of "War of Kings", the band's 10th album and first under UDR Records. Whereas the past two albums were rather mellow in comparison, the new release has seen them come back heavier, more technical and, essentially, bigger.

The Northern Kings of Hard Rock wage a war in the title track, opening the album.  Cutting through with a heavy, driving, bass-driven riff, it promises to deliver the more Metallic vibes that the 'heavier' fans have been waiting to return since "Secret Society". As one could expect, the songwriting is spectacular; great thought obviously being put into choosing this piece as the album's first shot fired. I was once again blown away by Joey Tempest's indomitable vocal talent, showing no audible signs of aging. Similarly displayed in the feel-good "The Second Day", a mid-paced, AOR-like track that capitalises on its catchiness, the instrumentation lightly arranged to thicken the chorus and dissipate, adding breeze and flow to the verses; but then, if you would like to remind yourself of how EUROPE performs those killer, enormous, Euro-style choruses, this is the track to turn to.

"Praise You" is, and I had this feeling from the onset, my favourite track on the album. The transition from a thick, groovy, almost Stoner-like intro riff (think late CORROSION OF CONFORMITY?) to a lilting, Bluesy and spacey series of verses is both jarring and relaxing; a strangely functional juxtaposition. As I would expect, this track also contains one of the album's best choruses and, as I would hear it, the best example of songwriting on the album; the sonic 'sweet-spot', if you will, where glorious riffs and powerful vocals intersect. "Children of the Mind" also deserves to be boldly highlighted; easily one of the more Metallic tracks, it's riffs a powerful mix of technicality, groove and catchiness, Joey's voice also takes leaps and bounds, holding powerful notes long and high. "Angels (With Broken Hearts)" is the 'lighter-raiser' of the album. The slowest track, and arguably the quietest, minimalism is used to sublime and seminal effect; lyrically prominent, with melodies guitars and keyboards used to colourful and emotive effect.

This is definitely EUROPE's strongest record in years. Normally gravitating to the more technical and 'ridiculous' of the metal universe, I found myself surprised at the fact I wasn't anywhere close to bored with a single track; not only a tremendous release for the Metal and Rock world, but a testament to the band's career, and an excellent, explosive start to the year.

5 Star Rating

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
12. Vasastan
Mic Michaeli - Keys
John Levén - Bass
Joey Tempest - Vocals
John Norum - Guitars
Ian Haugland - Drums
Record Label: UDR Records


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