Europe - Bag of Bones
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After the hugely successful Last Look At Eden album in 2009, which lead to several tours and live releases all the way through 2011, the remarkable resurgence of Europe, still making sure they don't repeat their '80s sound and trying to sound fresh, is showing no signs of subsiding. All three of the albums they've released since reforming in 2003 have been the sound of a new band, heavier, groovier, and tighter. Last Look At Eden was probably the best of the three up to this point, and it might have seemed unlikely they could better it with the next one, but somehow they have with what is probably the perfect Europe album in the 21st century. Quite simply this one has it all; heavy riffs, solos, catchy sing-a-alongs, a heartfelt ballad, even an acoustic blues track. Rocker Doghouse, which borrows a lot from Led Zeppelin, was the only preview to the new material aired on the last UK tour, and it appears on the resulting live DVD, but it's actually not indicative of the whole album as they touch on a lot more variety here than they have on the previous three discs. Fans wanting the chunky, grooving riffs they've gotten used to on Start From The Dark, Secret Society and Last Look At Eden will find them here on tracks like Mercy You, Mercy Me, Riches To Rags and the deceptively excellent My Woman, My Friend (which starts off like it's going to be a ballad - it isn't), but by only having the one ballad (Bring It All Home, which isn't quite as good as New Love In Town, but is still a good Europe ballad) there's more room for some different things, like the acoustic blues of or My Woman, My Friend's orchestral opening. What must also rank amongst Europe's biggest achievements with their new-era material though is how they've managed to use Mic Michaeli's keyboards in a way which doesn't sound like either their '80s material, or AOR, but in a fitting and contrasting way. Check out his melody lines on Mercy You, Mercy Me for a perfect example. The good news is that Bag of Bones is a fantastic album. The bad news is it now looks quite unlikely it can be bettered.
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