There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Europe, even if only with reference to one song and therefore you have some notion of what kind of album awaits you. It is this mindset that you need to step away from, because ‘Last look at Eden’ is a step above and beyond anything this band have recorded to date and it is, as singer Joey Tempest recently alluded to in an interview, a stunning classic rock album.
Opening with a short and brooding orchestral prelude, the album starts properly with the title track which kicks off with John Norum’s guitars raging and Joey Tempest’s instantly recognisable vocals which seem only to have improved with age. It is an excellent opening salvo and sets out Europe’s stall as unashamedly classic rock but with a modern twist that sees the guitars pack a far greater punch than in the past. John’s solo on the bridge is sublime and the song has a melody that will eat into your conscious for months to come (it’s not often I find myself humming one song in town, on the bus and even in the bath day after day) suggesting that Europe can easily move past that song and find a whole new group of fans to compliment their already massive existing fan base. ‘Gonna get ready’ ups the tempo from the bombast of ‘Last look at Eden’ and again you’re hit by how huge the guitars sound and the extraordinary confidence of a band who’ve taken their share of knocks but who know that they’ve recorded possibly the best album of their career. Certainly when Joey stated that the band have a passion for getting better at their instruments you can hear that in the precision of the music which is now lock-tight and the solos which are plentiful but never over-the-top or showy.
‘Catch that plane’ runs on a heavy groove that recalls the mighty Led Zeppelin with Joey crooning ‘just relax, enjoy yourself…’ which is easier said than done when the music makes you want to jump and down with the sheer rock ‘n’ roll joy of it all. ‘New love in town’ is a lush, string-laden ballad that takes things down a notch after the exuberance of the opening tracks. Written for Joey’s son it’s a heart-felt track which features a chorus that is a true lighters-in-the-air moment. Of course, it is unlikely to appeal to those who are into the heavier side of things, but then classic rock (for example Def Leopard or Whitesnake) has always been about the soaring ballads as much as rocking out and this is a classy example of the former with its lengthy solo and multi-layered backing vocals. ‘The beast’, by contrast, is indeed monstrous, with Joey and the band going all out on a track that is destined to ignite the crowd when they embark on their world tour later this year. ‘Mojito girl’ returns to the mid-tempo rock that Europe utilised so well at the opening of the album, again opting for groove over brute force and speed, and it works stunningly well, not least because the rhythm section pack a punch that has probably been driving my neighbours mad for weeks (this an album that has to be played loud). ‘No stone unturned’ comes a little out of left-field with its eastern-tinged guitars and string section that brings into mind the mighty heritage of ‘Kashmir’. It’s an ambitious track and sees Joey intoning ‘I walk this earth until I stagger and fall to my knees’ over an eerie backdrop before the drums come pouring in to provide a rock-solid back-bone and John Norum outdoing himself while attacking his wah-wah peddle with some glee.
‘Only young twice’ shows the Audioslave influences that Joey mentioned with a massive guitar riff opening that settles back into a more laid-back vibe before unleashing a chorus that could level small cities and which tests Joey’s vocals to the limit. ‘U devil u’ is pure old-school rock with tongue buried firmly in cheek, but which is pulled off with a panache that raises it above the level of pastiche. ‘Run with the angels’ is another departure from the norm with a smooth bass-led intro that slips into comfortable blues-y territory but with a hefty chorus and bridge section that sees the band veer again towards the type of music Audioslave wished they could play. Final track ‘in my time’ is the perfect album closer, recalling elements of David Gilmour’s solo album with its blues-influenced guitar and protracted solo and it leaves you astonished that the band have come up with something quite so good.
So, for those of you who’ve skipped to the end here’s what you need to know: This is a blindingly good album, hosting a powerfully modern sound, but harking back to the time when rock ‘n’ roll was plain good fun. It has depth and quality in spades and, having lived with the album for the best part of a month, I can assure you that it doesn’t lose its appeal with time. It’s a testament to the passion of these five musicians that they have chosen to forge ahead proving that not only are they fine musicians but also that they are still extremely relevant in today’s overcrowded and often lamentable music scene. Exciting, bold, inventive and just plain bloody good this is an excellent album which is well worth anyone’s time checking out.