by Alle Royale
Since their 2004 comeback, with the enthralling “Start From The Dark”, Europe has been raising the quality bar of their output, always adding some new spices to their brand and trusty recipe, morphing their 80’s melodic hard rock into a more contemporary rock ‘n’ roll beast but without losing an ounce of their identity and style.
It’s been a process of going forward and, at the same time, back to their roots for Joey Tempest & co., since the same groups that inspired the band in the first place are pretty much the same ones that inspire them now again; after the hair metal years and the almost contractual obligations to seek fame and fortune in the States have been buried in the sands of time (but don’t get me wrong, 1988 “Out Of This World” is still one of the best AOR albums this side of the Atlantic), Europe are free to look back at the strengths of their legacy and keep on growing on them, perfecting one of the hottest classic rock sounds you could find in today’s business.
If previous album “Bag Of Bones”, with American producer Kevin Shirley at the helm, was a declaration of pure love and full rediscovery in sound of their seventies hard rock influences, the new “War Of Kings” keeps on in the same track except for the fact that the resulting album is even more focused and natural sounding; Dave Cobb (producer of our friends and rockers extraordinaire, Rival Sons) was able to capture on tape the real essence of the five-piece, without mitigating the force of a guitar riff reminiscent of Michael Schenker in his UFO years, or the evocative power of a chorus in the mighty vein of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. This is probably the way instant classics like “War Of Kings”, “Rainbow Bridge” or “California 405” were born, just letting it loose, letting the inspiration flow free.
The exquisite tone of John Norum’ guitar solos has never been so impressive (just have a listen at his performance on “Praise You”) and makes you wonder why he hasn’t decided yet to make a full-on blues record; and if Tempest is still the main creative force behind the songwriting (and one of the finest rock vocalists around), reading the writers credits makes you figure how Europe has finally grown to a band where every member brings some personal contribution to the overall picture, and for the better.
In conclusion, even if it’s just February, “War Of Kings” should be considered a serious contender to the scepter of classic rock album of the year, and the definitive shout at those fans still wrapped in 80’s nostalgia and those (very few) critics that still consider them just that final countdown bunch; simply one of the best efforts of a brilliant career still “raging across the rainbow bridge”.
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