Europe came to fame with the album, and the song, ‘The Final Countdown’. I mean , come on, who doesn’t know that song as it has been played to death. Europe became lumped in to the “Hair Metal” title as they did all have big hair and they were MTV darlings for a few years. However, before the major record deal and all the screaming women, Europe was this hard rock, close to metal band that know one really knew about (at least here in the states). Their second album, and last released independently, was a gem called ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ which was released on February 24, 1984.
I was out doing some crate digging a couple years ago and I came across this album and thought what a beautiful cover and then I noticed that it said Europe. I never went back and explore their early catalog before ‘Countdown’, so I thought now was a good time and at $8 for the vinyl, why not. And I am glad I did as it is now one of my all time favorite Europe albums.
The band at the time consisted of the following members…
- Joey Tempest – vocals
- John Norum – lead guitar
- John Levén – bass
- Ian Haugland – drums
- Mic Michaeli – keyboards
The funny thing is that on Wikipedia, drums is listed as Tony Reno and Mic isn’t even listed as it has Joey on keyboards. I find that strange that the record jacket and wiki would be different so there must be a story there that I am unaware. And there is! Tony Reno was fired from the band and for the U.S. release of the album they removed his name and added Ian’s who toured with the band. Mic was added to the band as the keyboardist as well for touring, but neither actually played on the album. It was Joey on keyboards and Tony on drums. Drama!!
The album opens with a killer 1-2 punch starting with the track called “Stormwinds”. The band at this time was a little heavier than you might think. The song has killer riffs from Norum and he lays down a solo that ranks as good as the best of the shredders at the time. Joey’s vocals soar across the song and are in fine form.
They go even heavier with an almost speed metal track “Scream of Anger” and it blows out your speakers. Norum uses a talk box with his guitar to really distort the sound on several riffs. And Tempest just slays the vocals. The cool thing about this song is it was written by Joey Tempest and the late Marcel Jacobs who at the time was with Yngwie Malmsteen’s band along with Jeff Scott Soto. Those two later formed Talisman and is one of my favorite bands. Ok, let’s get back on track. The original title of this song was “Black Journey Through My Soul” which is a pretty freaking cool title. The last interesting note on this song is that the drumming on this was so hard that Tony couldn’t keep the proper time so they actually had to use a drum machine, but that doesn’t take away from any of the awesomeness of this song.
The next song you actually know is called “Open Your Heart”. The band later released an updated version on the outstanding album ‘Out of This World’. The song is a ballad and this version has a little less production than the later version, but it does layer in a lot of keyboards. Its simplicity is part of its charm. I’m a little torn as to which one I like better, but would probably lean towards the other version as it was heavier on guitars.
The band goes back to the heavy rock with “Treated Bad Again” which to me has a slight Whitesnake feel to it. That could be because I just came off the David Coverdale series. It is bombastic, has a driving beat and Joey attacks the vocals with such ferociousness. When the band goes heavy, they go awesome! The first side ends with a guitar instrumental written by John Norum called “Aphasia”. At 2:30 minutes, it is light and airy and gives you full display of the talent that is Mr. Norum. And Tony Reno’s drumming on this is no slouch either.
The title track kicks of Side 2 with “Wings of Tomorrow”. And it really kicks off with some guitar shredding and heavy drums. Another rock track that makes me wish they would’ve have continued down this track a little more. The heavy suits them. They don’t slow it down any with “Wasted Time” which continues the metal and the wizardry on guitar. Another beast of a track and these guys are fire. Norum is a monster on guitar and he is the driving force, musically, behind this band.
“Lyin’ Eyes” comes at you next and it is more of the same which is a truly appreciated and desired. The guys bring rock track after rock track and each song is full of energy, rawness and a hunger that every young band worth anything has. That usually later gets stifled when they start having success.
They’ve had numerous rock tracks in a row so it is time for another ballad and they deliver just what you need. “Dreamer” slows things way down and Joey kicks it off with tickling those ivories. There is a spacey, atmospheric feel to it and Joey sings much softer and with all the magic he can muster. The only thing it is missing is rainbows and unicorns as it is a little sappy. It isn’t a love song, it is about a lonely man with big dreams. It gets a little repetitive and would be least favorite track.
The album ends with “Dance the Night Away” and no it isn’t a dance song (or a Van Halen song). But it is a rocker with a super speeded up tempo that will get your head and your legs moving. John Norum’s guitar work is outstanding again and I forgot what a shredder he was, dang he is awesome. Albums should go out with a bang and this one does exactly what you want.
- Stormwind – Keeper
- Scream of Anger – Keeper
- Open Your Heart – Keeper
- Treated Bad Again – Keeper
- Aphasia – Keeper
- Wings of Tomorrow – Keeper
- Wasted Time – Keeper
- Lyin’ Eyes – Keeper
- Dreamer – Delete
- Dang the Night Away – Keeper
Track Score is 9 out of 10 or 90% which is really solid. Only one little blip as far as I am concerned. At this time in their career, Europe was young and hungry. Their sound was raw and rough around the edges and that combination was lethal as it created this total gem of an album. The pairing of Joey Tempest on vocals along with John Norum’s shredding was a match made in heaven. I actually wish they would have stuck with this harder edge, but they didn’t and I’m okay with it as I still have this album to fall back on and I do listen to it a lot. This to me is the Europe I want to remember. If you want solid 80’s hard rock and not any of the glam, then grab hold of this as fast as you can. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars. An often overlooked 80’s masterpiece.