Thursday, 23 July 2009

1986 Europe: The Final Countdown

They like their metal in Sweden. So much so they started their own sub-genre in the 90's - Swedish Death Metal, a movement that took itself very seriously indeed. All corpse paint and Satan, if you took the piss they'd more as likely come round and set fire to your house. Or the local church. Yes, that seriously.

Before all that carry on though, Sweden gave us Europe (which is ironic given that Sweden wasn't in Europe in 1986. But I digress). But far from the black clothes and blacker heart of death metal, Europe were firmly schooled in look by the glam metal bands that emerged from and centred around Los Angeles in the early 80's like Motley Crue, Ratt, Poison et al.

Led by suitably metally monikered Joey Tempest, Europe certainly looked like they'd just wandered out of some dive bar on Sunset Strip with their scarecrows in spandex get-up, but whereas the best of the glam metal acts had an edge to take your head off, 'The Final Coutdown' is junior metal, rock for the sort of people who found Bon Jovi a bit too raucous.

True, it hits most of the right metal buttons - it has a strident pace and a baroque guitar solo that you have to move your fingers very quickly to when playing air guitar (a very important attribute for a metal song), but it also has that (in)famous opening and recurring keyboard riff that was no doubt meant to sound like a dramatic overture akin to Gabriel blowing his horn on Judgement Day, but ends up sounding like the wheezy rasp of a troupe of Brownies playing on kazoos. It's pure cheese and has no place in any tune aimed at the mean metal mutha market.

And that about sums it up, 'The Final Countdown' is a wet and gutless affair that seems to have no means of justifying it's own existence. It's too limp to headbang to, too lumbering to dance to and it
doesn't make you want to run around the world waving your arms the way the best metal does, the way the soon to emerge 'big four' of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer would, putting glam rock to the sword in the process.

And yet for all this, 'The Final Countdown' is like the unruly puppy that rips up your slippers and shits on your carpet; yes it's bloody annoying and yes you want to kill it stone dead, but you don't - one look from it's pleading, trusting eyes is enough to melt the hardest of hearts and in the same way, that opening riff and Tempest's histrionic delivery of:

"We're heading for Venus and still we stand tall
Cause maybe they've seen us and welcome us all"

always makes me smile in a way that the over earnestness of a Bon Jovi never could and which means at least 'The Final Countdown' is good for something. Which is more than you could ever say about Ratt.

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