EUROPE – Start From The Dark


Release Date: September 22, 2004

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If Europe in 2004 wrote the most catchy rock song ever written, would you care? Is it too late for them to establish themselves as anything else than a million-selling Hairband of the eighties? … a band that used to be big. Will they be able to wake up anything else other than nostalgia within people’s hearts?

A new Europe album is upon us. Europe is making quite a brave attempt towards re-conquering the world; thirteen years after the release of their previous album. Is it possible for them to be the talk of the town once again?

No, the world has changed too much. And … Start From The Dark doesn’t include any songs good enough that will draw enough people’s attention away from their glorious past, a past that brought us compositions like “Rock The Night,” ”Carrie,” and of course ”The Final Countdown,” to mention a few. At least with this album, they will never manage to get associated with anything else than their achievements back in 80’s.

Does this mean Start From The Dark is bad? Not at all. Joey Tempest has still got a great voice, and the rest of the guys sure know how to weild their instruments. Keyboard player Mic Michaeli is still one of the genre’s best at knowing when not to play, and John Leven sure has taught his bass to articulate its message explicitly. Guitarist John Norum’s contributions to the song writing has given the band a heavier approach, which is a good choice for 2004.

But the songs in general are not strong enough. The worst thing about the album is the number of slow tunes that are provokingly cliche. Let’s have a look at the album track by track:

“Got To Have Faith”: This is the first song released from the album with a music video. It sounds quite a bit like a Bon Jovi rocker. It starts out promising, with heavy guitars and punching drums, but gets lost in a soft/laid back bridge that totally spoils the party.

“Start From The Dark”: If you’ve heard Europe live this summer, you’ve heard this song already. Then you were thinking: “All right, they are getting heavier!” Unfortunately the studio version lacks the same edge as they managed to bring to the song live, but it’s still a good track.

“Flames”: On this one the band gets honest about what they are doing as the lyrics go: /There is no going back, this is what we know, we’ve come to entertain asking you to follow/. Tells it all, right? The message is wrapped in heavy guitar work, yet not very inventive. You get another mellow bridge, but this time it works a whole lot better than on “Got To Have Faith.”

“Hero”: A Bon Jovi-ish ballad; nothing more, and nothing less, which means it won’t add anything to your life unless you’re a heartbroken fourteen year old …

“Wake Up Call”: One of the more alternative tracks on the album. It has a certain dirty feel to it. This is as close to grunge as Europe gets. The guitar solo is one of the album’s best.

“Reason”: A bit anonymous but good. It sounds a bit like Queensryche in a relaxed moment, and shows that Joey Tempest still has a dynamic and heartfelt voice. The guitar solos in this tradition are to be found in a heap of Gary Moore albums.

“Song No. 12”: One of the album’s best tracks. It is quite alternative, and I bet it will sound really big and heavy live.

“Roll With You”: Yet another ballad sounding like it was penned by Jon Bon Jovi, but this one also has got an Aerosmith-feel to it … which is not good when it comes to ballad. (At least they’ve stayed clear of using a symphonic orchestra.) Anyway, Tempest has been trying real hard to write a moving slow tune for this album, but hasn’t noticed that the power ballad has been dead for a decade. Sorry.

“Sucker”: Lyrically this is the comic relief on the album. Tempest sings about a desperate groupie: /She’s a suh-suh-sucker for a guitar hero/ The tune is catchy, and should hopefully make it to their live set.

“Spirit Of The Underdog”: Piano intro … is it another ballad? Ah! … Norum arrives with a heavy riff; it’s a rocker! No wait! Tempest starts to sing, softly … so it is a slow tune then. Then there’s more heavy guitar. This is definitely a hybrid song. It lacks direction and never fulfils the potential it could have had … cool chorus, though (but Europe songs used to be about so much more than just a fancy chorus!).

“America”: An anonymous rock song with a very bad chorus and another balladish bridge.

“Settle For Love”: The album ends with another ballad, but unlike the others this one is likable. While the previous slow tunes are provokingly cliche, this one is harmless and eases its way inside of you in a pleasant way. It won’t stick to you, and you won’t miss it when it over and gone, but it is a clever piece of work … notably nice guitar work.

Start From The Dark is an uneven effort. Still, this is an album that won’t make you love Europe less. Unlike a lot of all the other recently reunited rock bands from the past, Europe has had the courage to put out new material. And not only that, they have dared to change their style in a surprising direction, turning towards a darker approach.

Everyone who has been lucky enough to see the band live this summer knows that the old songs performed in 2004 don’t sound like they did in the 80’s. Live, the songs sound far from dated Hair Metal recorded and mixed in some studio more than fifteen years ago. They represent great rock music with strong melodies and strong musical performances. Whatever Joey Tempest & Co chooses to add to their live shows from the new album, the whole set surely will celebrate absolutely everything that was positive and serious about rock music at its best … and then some for all those sentimentalists out there …

Follow these links to read Metal Express live reviews from Europe’s summer tour:

Vallset, Norway (their first show after the reunion)
Sweden Rock Festival
Sandefjord, Norway


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