Europe: War Of Kings review

Originally formed in 1979 as Force by vocalist Joey Tempest and guitarist John Norum, Swedish AOR titans Europe’s sound has undergone some serious changes over the course of their last few albums and their new album for UDR Music War Of Kings is no exception. War Of Kings is Europe’s 10th studio album and much like every release since 2004’s reunion album Start From The Dark, it sees the band kicking the AOR roots that made them famous to the curb in favor of a more bluesy, 70’s rock oriented sound. War Of Kings is really a war on perceptions of what Europe can sound like and is without a doubt the band’s finest hour since their breakout masterpiece The Final Countdown in 1986. The album was produced by Dave Cobb and engineered by John Netti and you need to go into listening to War Of Kings knowing full well that it is not 1986, this is most certainly not The Final Countdown and there is no “Carrie.”  In fact, if it wasn’t for Tempest’s trademark vocals, many fans wouldn’t even know it was Europe at all. The ominous hook of lead single and opener “War of Kings” sets the tone for what’s to come and should appeal to fans of Prisoners In Paradise, while the muscular grooves of “Nothin’ To Ya” are a different beast altogether. One listen to the textured keys in “Hole In My Pocket” and “Light Me Up” and you’re transported back in time to the glory days of Deep Purple, while tracks like “Children Of The Mind” and “Rainbow Bridge” channel the spirit of the late Mr. Ronnie James Dio. There are even subtle hints of classic Led Zeppelin, early Whitesnake and Kansas in the blues soaked guitars and 70’s church revival keys of “The Second Day” and “Praise You” and you can hear the influence of Thin Lizzy, UFO & MSG throughout “California 405” and “Days Of Rock N Roll.” Here’s the bottom line. The Countdown is over…War has begun. Rating: 9 out of 10 -Eric Hunker