|Europe Start From The Dark||Sony Music Sweden|
The subject of much debate already, the new Europe album is bound to keep fans and pundits of the scene talking indefinitely.|
Could the much loved hard rock band reform after all these years and actually keep everyone happy? Probably not, but on the strength of this album, they seem to have a narrow margin voting in their favor.
For the record this is a solid album for the most part. This is a good modern hard rock album. The question remains is this what fans wanted from Europe in 2004?
While many will answer yes, many others will answer no.
I feel I am in an ideal position to comment without bias. Europe as a band were never a personal favourite, yet I own a few of their discs.
However, I am a very keen follower of the guys individually and remain a big fan of Joey Tempest's solo work (aside from the last album) and John Norum's also.
And the remaining guys have all been a part of some very classy releases over the past few years.
So a reformation was of great interest to me what would the band do?
Like many, I was hoping for an album that showcases what the band did best in their past, yet with an updated feel. It seems for many, the updated sound goes to far, with the band relying heavily on current trends in down tuned guitars to stay fashionable.
One you get used to the sound and get over the fact the album isn't a hairspray commercial, there are some fine songs to enjoy. It's a pretty heavy collection of songs, even if the guys do sound a little restrained at times.
The whole album requires a lot of listening to get into it, but the effort is largely rewarded. However, the second half of the album is nowhere near as good as the first and the over feeling I have is the album is good, but not classic.
Track By Track:
Got To Have Faith is a personal favourite and a cool way to start the album. Not too heavy and a powerful rhythm section. The chorus is effective, but made even better by a mellow mid-song bridge, before kicking into a good solo. At least the guys didn't ditch the solos!
Start From The Dark is a crunchy hard rocker with another good chorus and some strong down tuned riffs from Norum.
Flames is a heavy modern rocker with a semi-industrial vibe. Completely out of character for the band, but it works thanks to some strong lead vocals and a chorus that grows on you each listen.
Hero is possibly the closest track to a more familiar Europe sound. No surprise that this will be a single and the lead track for the US release of the album. A commercial, yet modern mid-tempo ballad that isn't too far off recent era Bon Jovi.
Wake Up Call is another heavy and more aggressive number along the lines of Flames. Tough, hard edged and featuring a subtle bridge to chorus arrangement. Cool track
Reason is another enjoyable track which sees the band offering a very modern, updated take on the mid-tempo moody rocker genre.
Song #12 is sadly where things begin to slip a little and the songs begin to sound a bit same-ish. In fact, this track is bloody awful, with barely a discernable hook or melody evident.
Roll With You is a dark and moody ballad which is one of the few tracks to feature piano or keyboards. A good chorus which could have been better had it had a little more energy.
Sucker is much better. This is another album highlight and despite the guitar sound, is closer to the traditional Europe vibe.
Spirit Of The Underdog is another dark and heavy modern rocker. The guitar sound is just a little too modern for these guys and the chorus doesn't save the song.
America thankfully sees the tempo lifted and some solid riffing put into play. But the guitar sound employed throughout the album is getting a little tired and once again, the chorus doesn't save the overall song even though it's not a bad track.
Settle For Love is an semi-acoustic ballad and really seems out of place on the album,. More fitting of one of Tempest's solo albums, this track features some fine guitar work, but not too much in the way of memorable hooks.
On the positive, the band shows they are able to deliver some classy rock songs no matter what year it is. For the most part they have updated their sound successfully, but forgot a couple of extra killer choruses which could have made the difference here.
A little more emphasis should have been placed on reconnecting with their past and that would have delivered a more balanced record.
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