Released: 2006, Sanctuary Records/Sound Pollution
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall
Here we have the long-awaited album from one of Sweden’s biggest exports. Europe is about to follow up their first reunited album START FROM THE DARK which came out in 2004. Europe’s musical style today is guitar-based melodic hard rock with the focus on Joey Tempest’s lead vocals and John Norum’s varied and talented guitar playing.The band produced the album and Stefan Glaumann mixed it. There’s nothing to argue about when it comes to the production - it’s a slick, standard production that focuses on the best parts of the music.
Even if the album only contains 11 tracks and the actual playing time is only 45 minutes, it feels like it’s double that. It may be because of the varied quality of the material; many of the songs blend into each other and are hard to separate, for example the ballads “Wish I Could Believe”, “A Mothers Son”, and the up-tempo ballad “Forever Travelling”. The same goes for the U2-influenced “Brave and Beautiful Soul” and “Devil Sings the Blues”. Another thing that I think is totally forbidden in any kind of harder music is incorporating a children’s choir into a song, and Europe did just that. It’s called “Let the Children Play”, and you’ do best to avoid it.
But in between all those boring songs there are a few highlights, such as “Secret Society”, “Always The Pretenders”, “The Getaway Plan”, “Human After All”, and “Love Is Not The Enemy”. Those tracks save the album from a total meltdown and in several songs Tempest shows us that his voice is in pretty good shape. Norum still knows how to handle a guitar, which he is eager to show off and he is still a true guitar hero.
As mentioned in the EP review I can’t really pinpoint to whom Europe appeals. I don’t think that the older fans are going to recognize the “new” Europe, and they’re not going to gain any new fans with SECRET SOCIETY either. Unfortunately, I can’t give the album a higher rating because it’s too standard and flat. However, there are a few highlights in the album even though I had to work pretty hard to find them.