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Album Review: Europe – “War of Kings”

War of Kings is the 10th studio album from 80’s hair metal icons, Europe. Reaching a new generation from their appearance in an insurance commercial, Europe is poised to to get a boost in sales from their appearance. Though their new record might lack the bombastic synthesizers they’re known for on their previous albums, War of Kings sounds like a hidden gem you found in the corner of a record shop.

The album opens with the title track, War of Kings. A march steady drum beat from Ian Huagland, and John Norum’s steady guitars; leading the towards the crescendo Joey Tempest’s soaring vocals screaming their battle cry, Europe are charging full-on, ready for war. It becomes very clear early on that Joey’s voice is still in top form. The song’s vivid lyrical content paints strong imagery, very reminiscent of Zeppelin and Sabbath, with the repeating chorus, “On that night, under the raging northern sky/The seeds of legend lie/Slaughtered almost to a man/The War of Kings began.”

Another standout track from the album is The Second Day. Starting off with a slow, subdued volume, before reaching a crescendo and slowly retreating back to a mellow tone. These hills and valleys play well to the overall theme of the song, which seems to be about what it means to be human. “On the third day, well, where do I start/The sorrow, the breaking of the human heart.” The song is one that really should be listened to with the lyrics on hand, to fully appreciate it.

Also of note is the song, Praise You. Though the title would make it seem like this was a gospel track, the lyrics give no indication of that, however. The Zeppelin influence is strong in this song as well, with the guitar and vocal harmonies strongly reminding me of  The Battle of Evermore, off of Led Zeppelin IV. Starting off with a simple, ballad-like melody, and understated vocals, the song reaches its peak with screaming guitars, and vocals, before sharply returning to the ballad.

If this were a concept album, the song Angels (With the Broken Wings) would fit perfectly with War of Kings, and be a nice track to bookend the album with. The song does make more use of Mic Michaeli’s synthesizer, though it’s not the primary instrument. While the opening song is a cry of war, Angels could well be the aftermath, a soldier’s lament as he looks over the fallen. “Out of the night/Come these angels with their broken hearts/They watch us tear this world араrt”.

The danger with older bands recording new material is that they’ll either try too hard to adapt to a modern sound, or remain stuck in their decade, becoming a parody of themselves. Europe manages to sound modern, while retaining their sound, producing an album of classic, hard rock, that can be enjoyed by older fans, and their children. Their reception at Wacken this year demonstrates this.


Europe_War_of_Kings_album

Track listing

  1. War of Kings
  2. Hole in My Pocket
  3. 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. Vasatan (Instrumental)