Hair Metal Mansion correspondent DAWN OSBOURNE checks in with the following:
War of Kings Special Edition with bonus disc Live at Wacken 2015 - Europe
This, the tenth studio album from Europe, originally released in March 2015 has been re-released with an additional 17 live tracks to coincide with their US tour. The re-release is available in various different packages, DVD, Bluray and for those who already have the studio album, but don't want the DVD, an audio only download of the bonus disc of the band's performance at Wacken 2015 which forms the 17 extra live tracks. There's also a purely instrumental track 'Vasastan' (the name is a distinct in Stockholm) which was released on special editions of the original album and reflects the band's legitimate desire to be recognised as first and foremost great musicians. This review is of the audio elements. This is a fine album and it is arguably a canny move to make sure it reaches its full potential in the States. And all formalities aside it is a brilliant return from the original 80s rock vikings in grand style with knobs on!!!!
We saw the band return in the US in glory at the Monsters of Rock Cruise 2015 and for those thinking of getting the DVD, while we are not reviewing it here, the good news is that they are still looking great! Joey Tempest, vocalist, still pulls off the heroic stare into the distance of the great frontman to rapturous applause. Important though image is, the important thing is that the music does the talking on this album and so it stands up on its own without the necessity for the eye candy, although we are sure no one who buys the DVD version will be complaining, the audio version of the live tracks is a worthwhile addition to anyone's portable music device. As we found out on MORC they sound great live too! In fact, while Tempest does not always tackle the very highest of notes as on recorded versions, it's easy to forget you are listening to a live album at times such is the quality of the performance and recording. Leading with tracks from the new album shows a well placed confidence in the new material, indeed perhaps not surprisingly since they are fresh to the band, they are amongst the best renditions on this live opus, however classics such as 'Superstitious', 'Sign of the Times', 'Ready or Not', 'Let the Good times Rock' are all present and 'Final Countdown' takes the crown as always. 'Carrie' or 'Cherokee' would have been good rather than lesser known tracks such as 'The Beast' and 'Scream of Anger" but suppose you can't have everything and the set list reflects the fact that the band have a lot of good songs and they are not going to sideline newer material to play all great tracks from their past. All bands are entitled to move on and not be caught like a spider in amber. Audience participation reminds us regularly that the recording is live and the German audience didn't let the band down. Great to see the band releasing a live record while they are back in force and top of their game!
For those who didn't get the original disc first time around, 'War of Kings' is an anthem with a big sound, designed for the arena and to literally take on the world. Nice keyboards provide a good counterpoint to the full-on vocal and while the guitar sound is at times pendulous and heavy the song is still melodic and accessible and there's a nice mellifluous guitar solo to leave us no doubt where the band's eighties' roots lie. 'Hole in my pocket' continues fast and furious. Tempest suffered some hard times since the band's eighties' heyday and this song shows he is unafraid to tackle such subjects while, assuredly, the band is back to reclaim past glories. The material is energetic and engaging and, sometimes it's necessary to have some down time to come back reenergised and refreshed. The heavier sound on most of the material helps to counter the accusation that this band are bubblegum pop after they hit number one in many countries with the 'Final Countdown'. Much water has gone under the bridge since then and this is a mature sound and very far away form the manufactured boy band associated with pop charts.
'Praise you' while starting off with a rich feel like a Kings X record, but has some beautiful blues guitar breaks. 'Angels (with Broken Hearts)' has some beautiful guitar work reminiscent of Clapton and some purely delivered vocals with a counterpoint rock vocal reminiscent of Gillan. ''Nothin to you' is an all out heavy rock record with a great keyboard hook in the chorus and original melody. 'Days of rock n roll' is a stand out track on an overall good album. It's a great return and a serious album from serious musicians. No, it's not really a party album, but for that there's always Trixter. Sometimes it's time for some shock and awe. Prepare to be impressed!
Photo - Joe Schaeffer Photography
Courtesy of Hair Metal Mansion, www.hairbangersradio.ning.com