The 80s were definitely not Europe’s final countdown. The band is still blasting off — this time into worlds of brash, pile-driving guitars that have sent synthesizers running for their lives. Secret Society is rough. It’s nasty. It’s jagged. And yes — it’s Europe. Europe! That revelation may drop your jaw to the floor, but it will be walloped back into place by the fiercely potent music Europe now plays.
On this CD, Europe wields astounding sledgehammer rock that will smash any stereotypes about them to smithereens. Secret Society sounds like Velvet Revolver, Buckcherry, and Audioslave having a three-way, and awakening the next morning unashamed and raring to go at it again. Europe’s original lineup, including singer Joey Tempest and guitarist John Norum, is intact; their music a much more confident and focused offshoot of 2004’s Start From The Dark. Tempest has said that with this album, they’ve finally arrived, and it’s hard to disagree. It’s all meat; no filler or by-products.
From start to finish, the self-produced Secret Society won’t allow listeners to hang on the ropes — each song lands punches solidly and relentlessly, from the slam-bang title-cut intro, straight through to the dusky shadings of the finale, “Devil Sings the Blues.” Yes, there are keyboards on “Secret Society,” but this go-round, Mic Michaeli tinkles the ivories with a deft understatement that complements the music, rather than dominating it. And an undercurrent of progressive rock still flows through some of the songs, such as the first single, “Always the Pretenders,” but that flow now churns like white-water rapids. There’s a ballad, too, but it’s not even a distant relative of “Carrie” — “A Mother’s Son” is majestic yet gritty, matching its equally strong lyrical tribute to unconditional parental love: “A mother’s son never walks alone/No matter what he’s become.” Even if you’ve been to Europe before, consider another visit. Same natives; exciting new terrain. It will be quite an adventure!
~ Merryl Lentz