Album Review: Europe – “War Of Kings”
Once upon a time they were prince pretties of poodle rock, invading eardrums with illicit key changes and abundant use of Roland synthesisers, but let’s make this clear, the Europe of today are a markedly different band.
War of Kings represents the band’s fifth new release since reuniting in 2003, and like their surprisingly spunky comeback album Start From The Dark, it’s a record you won’t see coming. This time around the Scandinavian high rollers have gone full circle, with a sound inspired by their childhood heroes Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.
On an initial listen, War of Kings passes by largely without note, an enjoyable record, but a fairly derivative and unmemorable one. Give it a couple more spins, however, and “an amazing transformation occurs”. The album’s blues rock roots reveal both a spiritual and emotional link to the album-oriented approach of its elders. These are songs constructed not for instant gratification, but intended for the long play.
Kudos must go to super-producer Dave Cobb, perhaps best known for his work with Rival Sons. His work there deconstructed the sound of a bygone era, and saw him pursued by Europe with a similar brief. Here he achieves a sound drenched in the traditions of the great guitarist/vocalist partnerships, the roles of Page and Plant played by John Norum and Joey Tempest.
The bombastic glory of The Final Countdown might be (mostly) behind them, but in its place has come a more considered and seasoned sound – less cock rock, more coq au vin. War of Kings alone isn’t quite enough to establish a resurgent Europe as the top table of classic rock, but it’s not far off, and that alone is quite an achievement.