|They've come a long way, these boys from the Stockholm suburbs where Joey Tempest and John Norum first started a band in 1979. Back then, they called themselves Force, but after entering a nationwide rock competition, they changed the name to Europe. They went on to win the first prize a record contract - and recorded their self-titled debut album in 1983. The boys were still teenagers.
After selling millions of records and embarking on numerous world tours, they decided in the early 1990s to take a break after years of constant touring in order to focus on solo efforts. After living in the West Indies for a time, Mic, Ian and John Leven returned to Sweden. John Norum had already moved to Los Angeles and Joey to Dublin - and later to London, where he still lives. You cant help but wonder to what extent their music and lyrics have been influenced by all those years of living in the U.K. and America. They were invited back to Stockholm to perform their show-stopping classic The Final Countdown during the city-wide millennial celebration. There they were - just before midnight, in front of half a million people in their hometown of Stockholm. Its difficult to imagine a more appropriate way to usher in the new millennium, and its hardly surprising that after that experience, they decided to start up the band again, being joined once more by John Norum, the original guitar player who left the band for a while to record his own solo albums. Joey comments: "I know now how Steven Tyler must have felt when Joe Perry returned to Aerosmith after leaving to record his own stuff. When John came back, it all just made sense, something just kicked in and we were feeling it again. For a taste of what an important contribution Norum makes to this band, check out the guitar riff on Love Is Not the Enemy, the blues-inspired solo on Wish I Could Believe or the incredible end solo on Devil Sings the Blues. According to John himself, this was the final solo that he recorded for Secret Society, and the whole solo is taken from just "one take".
In 2004, Europe recorded their comeback CD Start from the Dark. The album had a raw edge to it, giving it a different tone compared to most of their earlier music. As John Leven explains: "We wanted to make a statement, and make sure that everyone knew that we meant business." To our surprise, there was a lot of interest in the band out there. We ended up touring the planet again with over 100 shows. Our fans were really supportive and we couldn't wait to get back into the studio again." The band has an avid fan following, and stays in constant touch with those fans through their web site: europetheband.com. While most of the guys in the band make the effort to stay in touch with visitors to the site, drummer Ian Haugland has gone the extra mile in building bridges between the band and their fans posting regular messages to keep fans in the loop about the bands activities.
In the summer of 2006, Europe began recording Secret Society. Joey reveals that the title can be traced back to a conversation he had with Robert Plant in 2005 the term stuck with him, and ended up becoming the title of the new CD. Although the band members chose to produce the album themselves, they relied on the support of highly experienced studio professionals. Lennart Östlund, long time engineer at the legendary Polar Studios in Stockholm, recorded the sessions in his new Stockholm studio, Kingside. Lennart has worked with countless international artists over the years, including Led Zeppelin, The Scorpions, just to name a few. When Stefan Glaumann, who has mixed albums for Rammstein and a score of other major bands, agreed to work with them and mix Secret Society, the band was overjoyed - all of the pieces were beginning to fall into place.
They chose to master the CD with George Marino at Sterling Sound in New York. George is one of the top names in his field, having mastered countless successful albums for everyone from AC/DC to Coldplay. The band didn't want to leave anything to chance, so they enlisted the legendary Storm Thorgerson to design the artwork for the next Europe cover. As a member of the design studio Hipgnosis, Storm worked on all the classic album covers by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Peter Gabriel, to name just a few. John Norum reminisces: "Growing up, my favorite covers were done by this guy. The cover of UFO's Obsession and the Michael Schenker Group's first album cover really blew me away. Storm has recently created the CD art work for bands like Mars Volta and Muse.
This is Europe's seventh album and it seems like theyve finally arrived. To my freely admitted surprise, theyre evolving and still willing to take risks. This CD is modern and contemporary, without losing sight of traditional rock influences. At a time and age when there are so many hard rock tribute bands around, and many others who are simply copying this style of music, its a relief to actually hear the real thing. Theyre set even further apart from those aforementioned bands by the fact that theyre actually starting to write lyrics with some substance. Europe today reminds me more of bands like Audio Slave and U2 in their lyrical content, touching on subjects like birth, mortality and reflections on 9/11 and other experiences that have made a powerful impact on their generation. Theres a line in Always the Pretenders, the powerful first single, which goes: "Something's lost but for what it's worth, you and me, this is our church. There is still some love round here. . The song is inspired by a phonecall Joey received on 9/11. There seems to be a common theme which permeates the entire album: if youre questioning your faith because the world has become an insecure place, you can always find faith in your loved one, your family or a friend. Like their fellow Scandinavians, Norwegian pop icons Aha, Europe also incorporate that melancholy note in their songs that we have heard so often from successful Scandinavian bands over the years.
While their 1980's contemporaries Def Leppard are making cover albums and Bon Jovi are increasingly beginning to sound like Bryan Adams, Europe have delivered an inspirational and daring rock album with some surprising twists. The track Let the Children Play features a boys choir and the opening track, Secret Society, is constructed around a single guitar riff all the way through (and they actually pull it off!). Its evident throughout the album that the band is pushing beyond their former limits and exploring new frontiers, and tracks such as Always the Pretenders and Wish I Could Believe and Let the children play reflect this fresh, contemporary musical journey. Then, of course, we have the kick-ass rockers themselves. As Ian Haugland explains: "When Joey and John get together to write, the sparks just fly. And when the rest of us join in, it's like setting off a stick of dynamite. Tunes like Love Is Not the Enemy, The Getaway Plan and Human After All are going to be great to play live." On this new album, keyboard player Mic Michaeli has been more actively involved in the writing process, coloring the music with his synthesizers and keyboards. In collaboration with Joey, hes created songs that have truly broadened the musical scope of the band, such as Wish I Could Believe, Let the Children Play and the Devils Sings the Blues.