Back in 2004, one of the very first reviews I got to do for this website was EUROPE’s
“Start From The Dark.” At the time, I seem to recall referring to it as “the band’s finest release to date”… and I meant it… then! But this is NOW and I am about to eat my own
words with the release of their follow-up CD “Secret Society.”
It’s nice to actually be able to hear and acknowledge a band that just keeps getting better and better as the years go on… a quality that most bands lack. EUROPE is one of those bands that can pull it off and “Secret Society” is the next step in this bands natural progression. While it is very apparent that this is not as heavily an influenced Norum release (as was “Start From The Dark”), “Secret Society” still maintains all the edginess, down–tuning and modern sound of its predecessor… even though the ball
seems to be a little more in TEMPEST’s court this time around.
Just listening to a few seconds of the title track, “Secret Society,” it won’t take you long to realize that there’s a hell of a lot going on. Layers upon layers of guitars, a powerful
rhythm hook and some extremely synthesized vocals (which make it hard to tell that it’s
actually Tempest singing) mold this track into something that almost reminds me of what Hank Williams Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends” has morphed into for Monday Night Football! If EUROPE could somehow link this track to American Football, I’d be looking over my shoulder if I were you, Hank! Just kidding, Hank… we love ya and Monday Night Football would never be the same without you. Besides, with “The Final Countdown” still being blasted through the PA at just about any and every sporting event you can think of, I think Joey and the rest of the band are pretty satisfied with that.
The first single, “Always the Pretenders,” soon follows and like most of the tracks off “Secret Society,” has some very heavy base elements to it featuring some amazing guitar work and solos, compliments of the always-extraordinary John Norum, but still maintains a very melodic and powerful chorus, which Tempest excels at. Other songs like “The Getaway Plan,” “Brave and Beautiful Soul” and “Let the Children Play” continue on in this vein. Making it even more interesting and adding to it’s already
full and aggressive chorus, on “Let the Children Play,” Tempest is backed up by an entire children’s chorus for the last few verses giving it those haunting over-tones… ala PINK FLOYD.
“Human After All” and “Love Is Not the Enemy” almost sound like they could have been outtakes from Don Dokken’s solo release “Up from the Ashes.” Who knows?
Maybe they were or there were pieces of them tucked away since Norum co-wrote both the songs AND actually played on that release. Hmmmm…coincidence?
Some other tracks of note include my favorite track on the release, “Wish I Could Believe.” This is just an amazing track and probably the most classic-sounding EUROPE songs off the release. It’s a bit toned-down as oppose to the rest of the CD but is one of the better arrangements featuring some very well written lyrics and an outstanding chorus.
“A Mother’s Son” is the only true “ballady-sounding” song… but be forewarned; this ain’t no “Carrie!” Its somewhat foreboding undertones are extenuated by some very macabre acoustic guitar work and hints of an orchestra accenting the melody and guitar solo.
“Forever Traveling” is probably the most commercial sounding and melodic track off “Secret Society” and the album finishes off strong with “Devil Sings The Blues.” Again,
sounding very Dokken-ish , this is just an incredible song which builds to a peak with some of Norum’s best guitar work on the release (as well as my favorite solo) and then
just simply fades to black.
Ok, ok… here it comes. “Secret Society” IS EUROPE’s finest release to date! If they keep putting out albums like this over the next few years, I have a feeling I’ll be eating those words once again before long. If you liked “Start From The Dark,” you’re going to absolutely LOVE this.
- Joey Tempest - Lead Vocals
- John Norum - Guitars
- John Leven - Bass
- Ian Haugland - Drums
- Mic Michaeli - Keyboards
- Secret Society
- Always The Pretenders
- Love Is Not The Enemy
- Wish I Could Believe
- Let The Children Play
- Human After All
- The Getaway Plan
- A Mothers Son
- Forever Traveling
- Brave And Beautiful Soul
- Devil Sings The Blues