“War Of Kings” is the new, tenth, studio album from Swedish hard rock legends Europe, probably best known for their 1986 hit single “The Final Countdown”.
I have very fond memories of seeing Europe performing as headliners at the Birmingham N.E.C. in 1988, and then as special guests to Bon Jovi at the Milton Keynes Bowl in the summer of 1989, on a bill also featuring Skid Row and Vixen. To my mind they were easily the best band that day, having included a couple of new songs set for their upcoming album, “Prisoners In Paradise”, as well as storming versions of the Elvis number “Hound Dog” plus “The Flight Of The Bumblebee” as guitar feature. They certainly eclipsed Bon Jovi that day.
However, any momentum that had been built on the back on the successful “The Final Countdown” and “Out Of This World” albums had been lost by the time “Prisoners In Paradise” was finally released in late 1991, particularly as grunge was huge by then, with many of the biggest hard rock bands of the 1980s suddenly finding life very tough! Splitting in 1992, no more was heard from Europe until late 2003 when the band announced their reformation and the recording of a new album, “Start From The Dark”. Whilst that album featured a detuned guitar sound, the band have been steadily developing a classic hard rock direction since then with a string of solid releases.
This new album continues in that vein. It is very much a classic sounding hard rock record, with echoes the great rock bands of the 70s to be heard. The use of hammond organ and a massive drum sound add to this perception. Front man Joey Tempest’s vocals are as powerful and soaring now as they ever were and guitarist John Norum delivers some seriously tasty lead guitar solos. The highlights of this record, for me, are “War Of Kings”, “Nothin’ To Ya”, “California 405”, “Rainbow Bridge” and “Light Me Up”, but in truth this is a very good album from the opening sound effects through to the reprise of the title track at the end of closing instrumental number “Vasastan”. Excellent stuff!
“War Of Kings” tracklist: 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. Vasastan