THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
80s Classic for October 2002
1. The Final Countdown
2. Rock the Night
4. Danger on the Tracks
7. Time Has Come
8. Heart of Stone
9. On the Loose
10. Love Chaser
|More Releases by
Wings of Tomorrow (1984)
Out of This World (1988)
Prisoners in Paradise (1991)
(Norum & Tempest):
John Norum - Total Control (1987)
Dokken - Long Way Home [Norum] (2002)
Joey Tempest - A Place to Call Home (1995)
Joey Tempest - Joey Tempest (2002)
|When speaking of the 1980s today in the 2000s, some details
standout while others are lost in a murky haze. When discussing the music, its usually the
pop one hit wonders or blockbuster solo artists that come to mind. Even when recalling the
glory days of metal and its feathered hair and makeup sporting glam counterpart, its the
'big' bands that come to mind, Poison, Motley Crue. The ones that are shoved down our face
as current nostalgia acts, the bands that kept trucking and never gave in to the pressure
to break apart and stay that way. But Europe... quite popular when in their element for a
few brief years in the midst of the middle of the me-decade have slipped from the
consciousness of the masses. Was it due to their hasty breakup in the heart of the grunge
craze? The band being subjected to being flukes, with a one hit wonder status despite
having multiple 'hits' off the same album? Who's to say for sure? However, the fact
remians that "The Final Countdown" is most likely one of the best selling and
most popular albums from the 1980s to come from a rock type band. While Europe's
accomplishments might be downplayed in the here and now, this disc was an absolute
blockbuster when unleashed upon the public in the latter months of 1986. Pop sensibilities
and a plethora of synthesizer tricks that fit in well with the era and a down right
gorgeous leadman with a stunning personality attracted the ladies while their rock riffs
won over the fellas as well. A winning combination was born and suddenly they went from
the role of the unheard of opening act to an arena headliner overnight. Being a star was
tough on some of them, most notably guitarist John Norum who was last seen splitting for
safer waters in the form of a subdued solo career (which took him on a one way trip to
nowhere that left a superb catalog of music in its wake).
"The Final Countdown" while considered their biggest moneymaker and ticket to rock stardom, is in all actuality, where nothing but the music is considered, the ordinary rock amongst a sea of diamonds. A quick history of Europe begins in 1981 with the self titled release, that flirted with power metal and was way ahead of its time, looked upon now as a crucical stepping stone towards the highway of power metal that would envelop the genre later along the line. 1984's "Wings of Tomorrow" was the breathtaking high point of their career and should be in any metal lover's collection. Raw and powerful, the play between the youthful pipes of Joey Tempest and the firebred guitar of John Norum results in pure metallic magic. '88's cool "Out of This World" continued the pop dream where "The Final Countdown" left off and their swan song, the lovely all-around disc "Prisoners in Paradise" made history by being the first QSound cd released in the US. Then they broke up and Europe was no more. Several members formed the backing band of Nikolo Kotzev's Brazen Abbot, Tempest found himself in Nashville recording country-esque cds for the Japanese only market including the well recieved "Azalea Place", and John Norum... well he jumped ship before "Out of This World" and to this day still records under his own name and sometimes with Don Dokken, solo and in Don's band.
Very 80s, but still alot of fun, "Countdown" has much to offer, not even counting the title song aligned with the Rocky movie. It packs a pop flavored whallop that while not on the same consistancy level as their other discs, compared to everyone else, its a damn good key heavy AOR cd. Norum's influences are few and far between, his instrument is not given the same kind of room to breathe and light fire as the more metallic previous discs. He's kept wrapped up in a tight box, only released from the chains of rhythm riffing now and then for some quick and snappy solos that throw pizazz into the mish mash of radio friendly songs. The raw fire between Tempest and Norum has been replaced by simple but effective hooks and bouncing choruses. There is no power to be found here, its all been removed as the tracks are primed and groomed for a takeover of the mainstream musical market. And takeover it did... it was a recipe for success that succeeded beyond their wildest imaginatons.
|01.] "The Final Countdown"
Ahh who can forget that extravagant synthesizer warped opening and spacily pompous chorus that flies to the heights of the outer realms of the universe? Its magnificent and mysterious, spacey and otherworldly. A demonstration of the chilly ominious atmosphere that only something like the Cold War could inspire. Wonderful performances all-around magnifies its personable elegance. While skeptics galore line up to hate upon the song now, they certainly were hiding under the rug during its initial release where it racked up the big number one in an amazing twenty six countries and pushed the album into fantastic sales numbers, something like six and a half million copies. The dramatic powerpack song is still known for its inspirational qualities and pop sensibilities. Everyone and their brother tried to copy Europe's power pop style and success, and while few managed to claw their way up the ladder with copycat sounds, most failed. Of course you can't leave enough of a good thing alone, as Europe ended up bastardizing the song in the name of the new millenium, remixing it for the dance club crowd. A confident approach and chockfull of keyboard antics combine with science fiction meets mainstream metal in the last moments of earth. The apocalypse now.
02.] "Rock the Night"
Simple music for simpler times. Created for the Swedish movie "On the Loose" along with the track that bears the movie's title and the impressive semi-ballad "Broken Dreams" which for some bizarre reason did not make the final cut for this album, despite the fact its a spectacular track. The keyboard occasionally gets in the way of this one but its rock anthem sentiments are strong enough to shine through reguardless. Points go to the band for lavishing on that popular synth pounding feel all the while not taking the rock out of the radio, so to speak. An enjoyable ditty with a spark fire chorus that's easy on the ears and equally easy to remember. It will come as no earthshaker that this was their third mega hit from the disc. Amazing eh?
It was the strength of songs such as this that rocketed Europe from Swedish newcomers to the international big leagues. This sure ain't Stockholm anymore... But this one is classic in every sense of the word. The chorus is based around the girlie's name sung with fevert emotion repeatedly with a few other lines thrown in such as "Carrie...things have changed...Carrie, Carrie, Carrie." A perfect example of radio's pop best: simple, easy to remember and most importantly, instantly addictive. Its impossible to get this sweet n' sorrow ballad out of your head, once it has setup shop in your memory banks, its there most likely forever. Gorgeous and heartfelt, this is a beautiful winner that urged on their popularity to new heights.
04.] "Danger on the Track"
This is the kind of rock fluff that's got so many lite'n'lovely "ohhhhs" in the chorus that it automatically disqualifies it from being any type of metal whatsoever. But AOR, oh yes, this most definitely is, subjected to a keyboard fodder beating. Not that there's anything amiss with such things, in fact, the plethora of keys and Joey's oh-so-saccharine voice make it a sugary winner. Its just amazing that in the span of two short years they went from the blistering metal of "Angry Again" to bouncy mainstream music.
Even 'back in the day' I had problems cottoning to this track. Its too much like well, everything else on the cd, and for me, doesn't tap into the kind of greatness they are capable of. A good song to put on for non irritating background music and I'm sure some 22 year old 'kid' living in his mom's basement has put this out in elevator format.
What does a band from Sweden know about American history anyway? Apparently a little bit. Joey Tempest was said to have been fascinated with the treatment of the Indians in the US and thus based this megahit around their days of suffering and isolation from their homelands. Bred to be a surefire, take no chances hit, and it succeeded tenfold. Short and catchy with lots of pulse pounding keyboards and guitars that ease along in an easy to swallow format, its pure radio fodder.
07.] "Time Has Come"
Not a proper lighter waving ballad but close enough for pompy comfort. The chorus is simple yet sweet, with lots of "ahhhs" resonating boomingly from the background as the song flies along on easily digestible wings. Big, pompous and melodic.. typical of the era.
08.] "Heart of Stone"
A swinging good time with another full throttle chorus that ensconces into the dark side of the brain and just pesters you there forever. John Norum's guitar is far too subdued, you can feel him holding back, but the electric whinnies and unobtrusive straight on rhythm riffs are the perfect compliment to Tempest's take charge vocal affairs.
09.] "On the Loose"
If you thought some of the others were too close to cuddly chick tracks for comfort, "On the Loose" will probably not change your mind too much. Its much more energetic than say "Time Has Come" or "Carrie" and is the heaviest song on the album, but there's still more sugar coated fluff to be found here than in ten bags of pink and blue cotton candy. The second of two tracks penned for the "On the Loose" movie, its one of the better tracks from the album however, and although sounding delightfully dated now, it hangs tight with its sparkling chorus and adorable vocals.
10.] "Love Chaser"
Tempest's wonderous voice is in beautiful form here, especially the way he hits the first word of that title, rich and dripping with Swedish accent that twists it into "Lah-ve" with an 'ah' sound rather than the American 'luh'. Its strange how little touches like this can make or break a song, and in this case these subtleties keep it spinning in the tray for far longer. More "ohhhs" and "ahhhs" generally leading to over emoting but such things are expected and even enjoyed in such music as this.
With songs that became a staple of "80s Best of" compilations, there's no denying that "The Final Countdown", album and song alike, were major hits and Europe the band, a major moving force in the music industry. Everyone copied their style and haters these days complain that the poofy haired Swedes help kill rock in general. Ah how ridiculous! This is what good rock music is all about, not all that posturing and angsty whining that populates the airwaves now. Beefy choruses, sizzling guitar, time keeping drums, and addictive melodies galore, its all here. The before and after their massive "Countdown" media takeover eras of Europe might have yielded much better albums, including the classic, glorious "Wings of Tomorrow", this disc is still a nice addition to anyone's cd collection.. I know it has a special place in mine.