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EUROPE War Of Kings

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Thursday, March 26, 2015 @ 5:51 PM

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War Of Kings

UDR GmbH - 2015

If you haven't listened to EUROPE since the band's revitalization (the Start From The Dark CD), you might be taken aback to hear that the band's trademark melodic rock sound has taken a big turn towards a more bluesy and classic rock feel.

While I am one of those who both loved and admitted that love for the band's more prominent albums (The Final Countdown, Out Of This World), I have generally enjoyed the more mature sounding take the band's musical direction has taken. Producer Dave Cobb (who co-wrote three tracks on the album as well), does a nice job at balancing the band's ability to rock out and maintain that important sense of the melodic at the same time.

The strengths of the album are immediately apparent when the album starts off with two strong tracks back to back. The title track has a mid-to-uptempo groove that also merges in with a more ominous sounding soundtrack. The guitar solo from John Norum is superb. I also particularly enjoyed the slightly rougher or edgier vocal performance from Joey Tempest. His vocals being stripped of the more overindulgent sense of artifice help show off his singing far better.

The term "pulse-pounding" was my immediate reaction to "Hole In My Pocket". The fast paced rocker helps to shine a light on the band's balls-to-the-wall sense of musical adventure. The songs with a quicker pace on War Of Kings are easily the best of the material.

Unfortunately, after these two songs, the weaknesses of the album are brought forth with substandard tracks like "The Second Day" (which bored the hell out of me with it's one-note feeling) and "Praise You". The latter song actually started out well with a nice uptempo open but once the first lyrical verse started, the song slowed down. There's a nice bit of guitar work in the middle of the song but overall this song is a perfect encapsulation of "missed opportunity."

Meanwhile, despite a very DEEP PURPLE-ish intro to "California 405", the song never kicks into a higher gear for me. Similarly, the one song that could be termed a ballad, "Angels (With Broken Hearts)", is completely one dimensional and will never be able to justify as to why it took six co-writers to craft such an abysmal song.

But all is not lost, the band does actually turn in some rather fine tunes throughout the rest of the disc as well. The closing track "Light It Up" has an outro that goes on a bit too long but is otherwise a solid way to end the album. But the meat and potatoes of this album comes from a trio of songs that are arguably some of the band's best work.

The song "Children Of The Mind" might sound like some 70's prog rock song based off the title but the track alternates between mid and uptempo movements and features a nice extra aggressive vocal take from Tempest. For pure and simple rocking out, check out "Days Of Rock 'N' Roll". It is the only song on the album credited to a solo writer (Tempest) and I think it does a marvelous job at capturing the rock and roll ability to just let yourself go and ride the crest of the musical wave the song takes you on.

But for my money, the best song on the disc and the one you would use to try to get someone else into the band, is "Nothin' To Ya". It is a high energy rocker that finds both the music and lyrics/vocals melding into one moment of sublime musical unity.

Upon first listen, I was a bit disappointed in this album. But a couple more spins of the disc and I have to say that I did find a couple of extra songs that grew on me more than I thought. I am still a bit down that there's just a bit too much filler on the album for my tastes though. The band has obviously upped their game in the songwriting department and the lesser tracks could've been weeded out for something stronger.

Leaving that particular note of complaint aside, I ended up enjoying the majority of the album more than I thought I would. I'm glad to see the band has found a way to reinvent themselves since starting things back up 10 years ago now. And for those who would dismiss them as hair metal holdovers, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Check out War Of Kings and you'll find that EUROPE, despite a few misfires, is well worth investing some time with.

3.5 Out Of 5.0

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