Europe Stirs The Drama On 'War of Kings'
Since you’re reading a review of a new Europe album, you’ll already know that the band survived the 1980’s and have since redefined their legend as a hard rock act with constant releases of solid albums, with 2012’s 'Bag of Bones' being a particular standout. On their tenth album 'War of Kings', frontman Joey Tempest made a promise that this was the record the band have always wanted to make. But does their dream record live up to the standard that has been set before it?
In terms of musicianship, they pull off a performance any rock fan can respect, but that’s a given. Europe have constantly showcased it, and 'War of Kings' is certainly no exception. The melodies they craft capture the exact emotional sensibility the tracks are intended to have, from the sinister slithers of grooves that make up the title track, to the sensitive balladry of "Angels (With Broken Hearts)". John Norum also has plenty of moments to shine, as he shreds fanatically on "Children of the Mind", which gives the song the extra edge that tops it off.
While it is a darker album, 'War of Kings' is also a fairly standard effort from Europe, which needs to be taken at face value. This doesn’t make it exempt of flaws, such as countless moments that lack originality. Their classic rock influences aren’t so much worn on their sleeves as they are tattooed. Tempest’s vocals have become recognisable by many rock fans, so why does he need to do the Robert Plant impersonations heard throughout "The Second Day" and "Praise You"?
It’s also easy to take umbrage in how seriously the band takes itself. While it’s important to take pride in one’s own music, they need to realise what they’re doing isn’t groundbreaking, and when the lyrics about souls and hearts begin plummeting into clichè territory, the album becomes a pastiche work, masquerading as a miraculous record.
At times, "War of Kings" can become tiring with it’s attempts to be overly dramatic on a standard hard rock album, but for all the times it feels it’s dragging, the musical skill seen throughout is a redeeming factor, this is what has made them so legendary. And if they can keep up the skill that they show on album number ten, Europe still have a long way to go before their career reaches the final countdown. Sorry.
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Words by Andy Davidson