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Title - 'War of Kings'
Artist - Europe

As we all (should) know by now, Europe is a Swedish hard rock/heavy metal band formed in Upplands Väsby, Stockholm in 1979 under the name Force by vocalist Joey Tempest, guitarist John Norum, bassist Peter Olsson and drummer Tony Reno. Since its formation, Europe has released ten studio albums, three live albums, three compilations and nineteen videos.

Europe rose to international fame in the 1980s with its third album The Final Countdown (1986), which became a substantial commercial success and sold over three million copies in the United States. Europe went on hiatus in 1992, reunited temporarily for a one-off performance in Stockholm on New Year's Eve 1999 and announced an official reunion in 2003. Since then the band has released five albums, Start from the Dark (2004), Secret Society (2006), Last Look at Eden (2009), Bag of Bones (2012), and just this very month, War of Kings (2015).

We begin the album with a dockside ship horn, before storming into the title track, 'War of Kings.' Now, trust me, this ain't your mother's Europe! The same Europe that gave us 'Final Countdown,' 'Carrie' and 'Cherokee' has left the building and as much as you'll claim that original lead singer Joey Tempest surely cannot be singing any more, well, you'd be wrong! Yep, that's him on lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and even keyboards. It's just the overall sound of Europe that's gotten harder, faster seemingly with every subsequent album since 1991's Prisoners in Paradise album (the last before they broke up).

The fast paced 'Hole In My Pocket' is backed by the mid-tempo 'Second Day,' before the John Norum guitar jam session that turns out to be 'Praise You.' The hard rock, guitars blazin' "ballad" 'Nothin' To Ya' is next, and is backed by the softer rock of 'California.' As mentoned before, this is Europe's tenth studio album, their fifth in the "nortys" since they reformed, and with War of Kings having been produced by Dave Cobb, someone more associated with American rockers Rival Sons, it seems his Americana vibe has definitely rubbed off on the boys from Sweden.

The Norum-led 'Days of Rock and Roll' and the guitar-led 'Children of the Mind' are both next, with the Indian-flavored rock funk of 'Rainbow Bridge' along next. The rawness that has been prevalent throughout the album is then sent into the solitude of the studio corner as an "old school" Europe is brought forth in the only true ballad on the album, 'Angels (With Broken Hearts),' before 'Light Me Up' wraps the whole album up neatly. [Unless you own the Japanese edition as there is the wicked instrumental bonus track, 'Vasastan,' which is a gentle, easy-breezy, sweepingly delightful piece.]

Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk