We’ve all heard it a million times. It has an intro that wheedles its way into your brain and never leaves. ‘The Final Countdown’ is Europe and no matter what that band do, it will always be that way. But should it be like that? These Swedish rockers have just released their 11th album. Surely there has to be something beyond that keyboard?
War of Kings opens up with its title track, a slow, stomping rock and roll song full of widdly guitars and howled choruses. Joey Tempest can sing and John Norum can damn well play, so that is those two boxes ticked. The truth is that this album is great and if you are a rock and roll fan and have never actually given Europe more than a cursory glance, then it suggests you have been cheating yourself.
‘Hole in My Pocket’ is a full-blown rocker, while if you can listen to ‘California 405’ and not want to be driving down a wide opened road with the wind in your hair, then you are a stronger man than me. Europe don’t do anything we haven’t heard before, but damn do they do what they do well. The best rock and roll is timeless, it may play to a formula and it may do something you have heard a million times, but it still makes you want to drink a beer and punch the air and Europe have that in abundance.
They’re also not afraid to go a bit over the top. ‘Praise You’ slowly builds up to its Bon Jovi esque chorus, while also slathering you with a good helping of blues guitar. While ‘Days of Rock ‘N’ Roll’ follows a grand tradition of rock and roll songs about rock and roll bringing home the gravy, as it feels like a Thin Lizzy like anthem. It wouldn’t be a true rock and roll album without the obligatory slow track and Europe make sure they deliver on that as well. ‘Angels With Wings’ is a melancholic, lighter in the air moment which Tempest sings with soul. Once again, it’s nothing new, but when things are being done this well. Who gives a shit?
Europe may well never leave ‘The Final Countdown’ behind and to many they will always be that band. It gets them a lot of flack and stories of them opening and closing with it certainly don’t help. However, that doesn’t change the fact that behind that one track, they are one hell of a rock and roll band. War of Kings isn’t going to change your world or turn your water into wine, but if you want big, fun rock and roll it will deliver on nearly every count and to be honest, I will take that nearly every day of the week.