THE DEMO CORNER
Unfairly relegated to the hair metal bands era with The Final Countdown back in 1986, Europe has always been a band that fans are wholly divided on. One camp calls them a keyboard-driven band of minimal resonance or staying power, while the other, more musically aware camp remembers well the power of the first two albums, the brilliant heavy metal anthem in “Scream of Anger” and the otherwise incredibly rich ballad in “Carrie” and smiles at the etching Joy Tempest and company carved into the sidewalk of hard rock history so many years ago.
What I immediately hear in the first tracks of the band’s latest opus in Bag of Bones is a heavier, more intense Europe that has not only matured but left the naysayers behind in a swirling mist of desert dust. “Riches to Rags” is about as bluesy as it gets for a Swedish rock band long thought lost to throwback VH-1 shows or drunken karaoke wailers belting out “Rock the Night” to a bevy of overweight, overmedicated minions on any given bar stool in downtown districts. Once “Not Supposed to Sing the Blues” kicks in with that oh-so heavy Zeppelin feel ala “When the Levee Breaks” you know you’re in for something unexpected. While Europe’s second record has been in constant rotation in my CD player of late, this latest record is one I’ll be tracking down this week.
To say I’m pleasantly surprised it’s as good and, above all, integral as it is creates an understatement. That’s not to stultify or denigrate Europe by any means; the recent rash of 80’s band vying so desperately for past glories to resurface is both depressing and curiously abundant. Europe, while too-often lumped in with said 80’s glam boys, has always been a cut above the fold even at its most simplistic. Tempest still manages to lift the listener with that golden voice that now houses a slight rasp to its once-velvety delivery, but it’s still undeniably Joey and it fits the music to a perfect “T”. It’s also great to hear John Norum bending those notes again after leaving after The Final Countdown, as his contribution was always a key element to Europe’s sound. The reunion in 1998 was certainly one of the better ones in recent memory, because it’s still producing great music away from the teeny-bopper fold that once made triple-platinum heavies of the band.
With a thick and resounding air to the music here, Bag of Bones takes the best elements of blues and rock music and combines them in one pleasant mesh of Zeppelin / Deep Purple inspired tunes that only add to the band’s credible discography. “My Woman is My Friend” is a decidedly empowering track reminiscent of the late 90’s push for relevancy by many a forgotten 80’s band; the difference is that Europe manages to deliver the goods with a deadly undercurrent of passion and artful tenacity. The down-tuned tone of the record screams more post-grunge hard rock than the unfair labels assigned to them over the years. “Demon Head” has all of the early Whitesnake and even some Metallica Black Album riffs amidst the Moog-like organ, and that makes the record something to behold on all fronts. It is, by the most basic of definitions, a classic-sounding mesh of the best of the past masters and a modern tone to keep the band relevant and heavy.
I think a lot of preconceived notions and general misconceptions about Europe have been successfully laid to waste over the last decade or so, but if there were any lingering doubts Bag of Bones will lay them bare and strip and bleach ‘dem bones.
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1. Riches to Rags
2. Not Supposed to Sing the Blues
4. Bag of Bones
6. My Woman My Friend
7. Demon Head
8. Drink and a Smile
10. Mercy You Mercy Me
11. Bring It All Home
Total playing time: 40:55
Release Date: April 18th, 2012
Label: earMusic/Edel Records
Europe - Bag of Bones
June 19, 2012