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Unless you were, or are, specifically a fan of Europe, it's probably a fair assumption to make that they're best known throughout the world as that band from Sweden with the big hair who did 'that' song back in the glam rock/metal heyday of the 80s. Never has a single song defined a band's global identity as much as 'The Final Countdown' did Europe's. It probably comes as a surprise to many, therefore, that following a lengthy period of inactivity during the 90s (apart from a one-off show in 1999 to celebrate the new millennium), the 21st century has not only seen the band reform to record new material and extensive touring, but also the more contemporary sounding direction they've taken with their compositional style (thus far witnessed on 2004's 'Start From The Dark' and 2006's 'Secret Society'). And so arrives their third post-reunion full-length release in 2009, 'Last Look at Eden', and what a beast of a modern-retro rock album it is. Opening instrumental music, the aptly titled, 'Prelude', a short orchestral piece utilising the services of Prague's famous Symphony Orchestra, segues effectively into the title track, a heavy, epic sounding composition that brings to mind 'The Silent Force'-era Within Temptation with its symphonic goth metal leanings. And this sets the tone for what follows....or does it? Actually, it doesn't as second number, 'Gonna Get Ready', commences with a groove-infused guitar riff akin to more of a 70s influenced sound la Led Zeppelin, and I can't helped but be impressed with the range of frontman Joey Tempest's vocals that have undoubtedly matured with age, and audibly powerful at both the low and high ends of his voice. The 70s Zeppelin-esque vibe is present throughout most tracks on offer, although Europe strike a fine balance between the retro and the modern in their song writing. Occasional tracks see the return of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, such as the melodically sublime 'No Stone Unturned', and the orchestrations are always used to accentuate the melodies rather than drive the compositions on which they appear, so are never used to excess as with certain bands. John Norum's distinctively warm guitar tone puts that classic Europe stamp on each song with some expectedly skilful soloing, and he's a man who certainly knows how to use wah in his lead sound with apposite expression. To be blatantly honest, Europe will most likely forever remain most famous for 'The Final Countdown' in the annals of rock music history but, with 'Last Look at Eden', the Swedes prove their worth as a contemporary 21st century rock act, and are perhaps on the threshold of once again experiencing their huge global popularity of yore. If they continue making music as good as this, then it will be well deserved.
Review by Mark Holmes
14th Sept 2009
1) Prelude
2) Last Look At Eden
3) Gonna Get Ready
4) Catch That Plane
5) New Love In Town
6) The Beast
7) Mojito Girl
8) No Stone Unturned
9) Only Young Twice
10) U Devil U
11) Run With The Angels
12) In My Time
"...a beast of a modern-retro rock album..."