Recommendation: Europe – Last Look At Eden

Europe – Last Look At Eden
earMUSIC, 2009

Being a metalhead, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of 80s rock. It’s not that I dislike it, but the genre is a bit too insipid for my liking. Ergo, the only tune that comes to mind when I think of Swedish rockers Europe is their ubiquitous hit The Final Countdown. For the most part, I associate them with the musical excesses and fluff that characterised a lot of bands of that era.

Boy, did I get a lesson when I heard their new CD Last Look At Eden.

The short prelude is as ominous and atmospheric as anything I’ve heard on a heavy metal record, and when the first riff of the title track kicks in a minute later, you can’t help but jump off your seat and pump your fists. This is a class apart because Europe have managed that rare feat in rock – write a song that is a melodic, stadium-rock anthem you can sing along to, but still has enough aggro to bang your head to. Everything about the song says I shouldn’t, as an extreme metal fan, be liking it – soaring vocals, relatively clean guitar tones, an uber-melodic chorus. I was expecting glam but what I got was closer to goth. And that’s brilliant.

There’s no let up for the next two songs either. Gonna Get Ready has a rambunctious rocker of a riff if I ever heard one, and even the short and slightly unnecessary breakdown can’t slowdown the thunder. Ditto with Catch That Plane, which opens with a bluesy guitar riff, with a groove so thick you could knock someone’s head off. “Just relax, enjoy yourself for a while” sings Joey Tempest. You bet we will Joey.

Things slow down for the first time with New Love In Town, a by-the-numbers power-ballad that will get the lighters waving at the concert, but is good for not much else. That 3-and-a-half minute diversion out of the way, the record gets back to business, and The Beast is quite literally that – like guitarist John Norum is trying to make up for the time lost on the previous song. Here’s something you should do if you get this album: turn your speakers up, stand next to them, put this song on and feel your head get blown away in the thunderstorm that is the main riff. Is this really the same band that wrote borderline glam-rock in the 80s? This is hard rock through-and-through and it’s bloody brilliant.

Mojito Girl carries on in the same vein, before No Stone Unturned gives your blood pressure a chance to stabilise. That’s a relative thing though, because it has enough moments of unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll swagger to keep your feet tapping. Only Young Twice is another highlight, with an opening riff that’s immediately reminiscent of the sleaze of Appetite-era Guns N’ Roses. The song itself is a very different proposition; it has a much softer, less acerbic feel. In fact, it’s U Devil U, with John Leven’s rumbling bass groove, that is more like the down and dirty song Axl and co. would have approved of. “I know you’re all alone on the speakerphone, with both hands free…” Tempest sings, and there’s never going to be any doubt what’s on his mind.

The only real disappointments are the last two songs Run With The Angels and In My Time, the latter a 6 minute semi-acoustic prog-ballad that bores rather than impresses. But you know what, I don’t care. As a whole, this album rocks. Hard. I may not have been a fan before, but these songs have made me a believer. And isn’t that a mark of a great album?

     

About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

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