Europe: ‘War of Kings’ – 4 stars

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Europe formed in 1979 in their previous incarnation as Force, before changing the band’s moniker to Europe in 1982.  Since 1984 they have kept the same name and had a relatively stable line-up.

The Swedish band has released ten studio albums and three live albums in all, selling a total of 23 million copies worldwide.  Obviously it was their breakthrough album “The Final Countdown” in 1986 that saw them burst into the big league, with the disc reaching number eight in the U.S. Billboard charts and selling 3 million in America alone (15 million copies of the album have been sold worldwide).  The single, “The Final Countdown” was number one all over the universe and was quickly followed by the power ballad “Carrie”, which also charted highly throughout the world.

All this was great for the band members, after all, who does not want to be a superstar?  But anyone looking for the same kind of offerings on this album had better look elsewhere, this is purely a class rock album made by extremely talented musicians.

The advent of Grunge Rock and a shift in the ways of the record buying public saw Europe take a sabbatical from 1992-2003, but by the time they came back rock music had come the full circle and they were welcomed back with open arms.  Their 2004 album “Start from the Dark” was a massive hit and things have continued to climb upwards ever since.

“War of Kings” presents some great songs, for the most part written by all members of the band with each of them giving their full input of writing, playing and inspiration.  Joey Tempest is still the main man and must have a terrible Dorian Gray type photo of himself in some attic as he has kept his rock god looks over the years, and certainly gets more than his fair share of attention from the female sections of the audience.

But all of the others in the group also still have their rock star looks, all dressed in denim and leather with shades firmly in place.  John Norum gets to play some delightfully dirty guitar riffs and solos, there cannot be many better keyboard players than Mic Michaels, and the rhythm section of John Leven and Ian Haugland never drop a stitch.

This album ranges from all out rockers to beautiful heart pulling ballads and blues, “Angels (With Broken Hearts)” being particularly effective.  At other points the band do what any rock’n’roll outfit do best – they just rock. The aptly titled “Days Of Rock’n’Roll” pulls up well here while “Rainbow Bridge” is a short epic.

Performing live, Europe are still one of the best groups around.  Last time I saw them they were at a festival and were quite possibly the band of the day.  They still managed to play four of the songs from this their latest album which all slotted in wonderfully well with more of their older classic material like “Rock The Night”.  They even left “Carrie” off the set-list as it is probably not suitable for an outdoor event.  It was a fabulous show, and yes, of course they did finish with that song – “The Final Countdown”.  But don’t label Europe as one hit wonders, they are far more than that!

Track List:

War of Kings

Hole in My Pocket

The Second Day

Praise You

Nothin’ to Ya

California 405

Days of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Children of the Mind

Rainbow Bridge

Angels (With Broken Hearts)

Note: Written by Mott The Dog and Hells Bells. Mott The Dog and cronies are often to be found supping a few ales amongst frivolous conversation in Jameson’s Bar Nova Park Hotel, Soi AR, North Pattaya.