Friday, 13 March 2015

EUROPE - War Of Kings [Digipak Version / Extra Track] (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock / Classic Rock
Label - UDR Records

Track listing:
01. War Of Kings
02. Hole In My Pocket
03. The Second Day
04. Praise You
05. Nothin' To Ya
06. California 405
07. Days Of Rock 'N' Roll
08. Children Of The Mind
09. Rainbow Bridge
10. Angels (With Broken Hearts)
11. Light It Up
12. Vasastan [Bonus Track]

EUROPE unleash "War Of Kings", the band's 10th studio album and first under UDR Records.
The new CD from John Norum & Co. is a comeback to the heavier, more technical sound of Europe's origins, still wrapped with their unmistakable melodies and, essentially, bigger than ever.
Vocalist Joey Tempest stated that "War Of Kings is the album we always wanted to make, ever since we were kids listening to bands like Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath. And after hearing Dave Cobb amazing production for Rival Sons we simply had to work with him. Our adventure is still ON!"
Oh yes, "War Of Kings" is a Classic Hard Rock album, and a great rocking one.
This is clear since the opening title track cutting through with a heavy, driving, bass-driven riff, which then ignites in epic fashion through melting guitars and a roaring rhythm section.
One of the great things about this band is their awe inspiring ability to combine monumental storytelling with astounding melody. And this track conveys all in every way.
As one could expect, the song writing 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.
Next, a Thin Lizzy influence is proudly belted out on "Hole In My Pocket", three and a half minutes of pulsating hard rock that bears a fine resemblance to Lynott and Co’s Cold Sweat. Joey Tempest has never been given the full credit he richly deserves for his multifaceted vocal range.
And then we have the feel-good "The Second Day", a fantastic mid-paced, AOR-like track that capitalises on its catchiness with the instrumentation lightly arranged to thicken the chorus and dissipate, adding breeze and flow to the verses.
If you would like to remind yourself of how Europe craft those killer, enormous, Euro-style choruses, this is the track to turn to.
If Robert Plant ever gets the chance to hear "Praise You", I’m pretty sure he’d love to wrap his chops around it. And I'm sure Jimmy Page would tell him to do so. Once again gold plated vocals, but John Norum’s incomparable bluesy tones are sheer bliss.
Ian Haughland’s trademark thunderous skin beating introduces the angry and volatile "Nothin' To Ya". Europe remove the gloss for this one, and replace it with a large coat of nastiness.
If you are an enthusiastic night driver, "California 405" should rattle your dashboard nicely. The soothing cruising rhythm and Norum’s mouth watering guitar solo are a stone wall triumph.
"Children of the Mind" proves this album Rocks: easily one of the more metallic tracks, they get their Dio kissed Rainbow / Sabbath influence with a powerful mix of technicality, groove and catchiness, where Joey's voice also takes leaps and bounds, holding powerful notes long and high. Another massive song that will both grip and haunt you at the same time.
For something completely different, a touch of middle eastern promise flows through "Rainbow Bridge", Mic Michaeli’s provocative keyboards providing a captivating backbone to a song that oozes sex appeal and melodic delights.
It’s now 29 years since the honey dripping ballad Carrie had mullet wearing couples locking their body parts, and a fine tune it was too. But one listen to "Angels (with Broken Hearts)", a ballad of divine beauty, and you’ll see the leap in class their song writing has taken. It’s moody, atmospheric and even if you possess the coldest of souls, this will stop you in your tracks.
If you want to revel in the elegant mastery of John Norum’s playing, look no further than his closing piece on "Light Me Up and this Digipak bonus "Vasatan". His grit, soul and sincerity cascade on every chord struck. To call it a master class would be doing it an injustice. The man is a modern day maestro who’s genius has not yet been fully treasured.
This is definitely Europe's strongest record in years, and one of the best of their career. Not only a tremendous release for the Metal and Rock world, but a testament to the band's history.
It's an explosive Classic Hard Rock album plenty of killer tracks and kick ass performances, showing their influences yet with a definitive Europe stamp.
Rating - 9/10

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