Released: 2015, UDR
Ten albums into a career that has seen steadily shifting styles, Europe returns with WAR OF KINGS. Sadly, younger metal heads, especially in America, probably know Europe only from sports stadiums and arenas. Mostly forgotten is the excellent self-titled debut and the follow up album WINGS OF TOMORROW. Since reforming in 2004 the band has been playing mature hard rock, with occasional dashes of metal. The last few albums were actually bluesy, with more than a passing nod to Led Zeppelin. There are still elements of that in WAR OF KINGS, but there is also more metallic crunch than we have heard in years from Tempesta and the boys.
Proof positive is the opening title track that marries a heavy Dio riff with Rainbow’s Hammond organ. Tempesta’s vocal performance is truly inspirational, while John Norum offers a melodic and tasty guitar solo. It definitely was the right choice to open the album. The template for the album is a strong focus on fuzzy riffs that alternate between shades of stoner and doom, with an occasional AOR run thrown in. Choruses are usually big, memorable, and melodic. “Praise You” features a bluesy main riff which is almost identical to Judas Priest’s riff on “Crossfire” from REDEEMER OF SOULS. “Nothin To Ya” sounds a bit like Zeppelin and Dio, definitely a positive combination. You could also throw old Whitesnake into the mix in several places, like “California 405.”
WAR OF KINGS mostly succeeds, particularly in the fuzz-driven riffs of Norum. Minor annoyances would be the overblown use of the Hammond organ, an instrument that I have never really enjoyed in small doses and these are quite large doses. The band is obviously trying to be creative and respected but they are not particularly good at slow blues, as “Praise You” and “Angels” (With Broken Hearts” reveals. Still, what we have is a more than decent album of 12 songs that shows Europe still has some creative mojo and the ability to get heavier when they choose. WAR OF KINGS should appeal to fans that have enjoyed the last few albums, but frankly Rainbow, Zeppelin, and Whitesnake fans will appreciate the direction that Europe has taken on this album as well.