There has been so much already written about The Flower Kings. They have set the standard for the proficient contemporary Progressive Rock band, and continue to record music at a breathtaking pace. How the hell do these guys do it? The band’s critics would most likely suggest that they merely release track after track of void hook-less jamming and that every single song sounds exactly the same. With the most recent release, however, I think they have proved that they are in fact song writing masters.
When I first got the new album in my hands I was a bit surprised. The album art is a radical change from any of their previous releases. I was wondering if this meant that they were signalling a new musical direction. I was slightly disappointed when I played the first disc and was struck by the ‘at-first-listen’ dull sounding stereotypical epic opening track (not including the silly sound effect ‘track 1’). My first reaction was this: “Oh, now they’ve done it. This is horrible!!! Boring! No Dynamics! I hate you Roine Stolt!!! BLAAAaaaaa”. It was tragic. Maybe all those critics were right about the Flower Kings all along? I didn’t touch the album again for a week. Then I remembered that this is how every Flower King album sounded to me on first listen! Hope!
Putting on a brave face I placed disc one back into the CD tray for my second attempt at the album. Wow! What a FANTASTIC album! I’m going to state officially right now that this is my favourite FK album. Even more so then my previous favourite Space Revolver. How can my feelings about this album change so quickly? Here’s how.
The 21 minute epic makes for a horrible first listen, and perhaps it wasn’t such a great way to start the album. If you give it two or three spins, however, you’ll notice that it’s full of some of the best melodies in Flower King’s history. You’d think that after as writing as much music as Roine Stolt has in his long career that he’d begin to run out of ideas. No way man! This is great stuff. The third track, Jealousy, shows that he’s also becoming a better singer with age. The way he sings lyrics like ‘your pain brings me joy’ with such a sweet ironic tone will surely amuse you greatly. In tracks like Hit Me With a Hit Stolt spells out he has no interest in commercial success with one of the albums most catchy melodies. Great stuff.
The rest of disc one is all excellent stuff. From the soaring instrumental Pioneers of Aviation, where the feeling of flight is achieved through melody, to dark Beatles-like Lucy Had a Dream. Self-Consuming Fire reminds me of a slower tune from Wetton era King Crimson. Powerful and beautiful. The last track on the first disc does exactly what it says it does, and End On A High Note. It’s inspired by Yes’ And You And I and does a great job bringing back that feeling.
Minor Giant Steps and Man Of The World are both so good that they may be my two favourite tracks. Mr. Hans Froberg has really taken his singing to new levels. On the last album he might have been outdone by Pain of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlow, but here his voice is soaring. He also got to write a song on this one. Life Will Kill You is a great rocker that shows of Froberg’s excellent vocal abilities. In fact him and Gildenlow may be the best modern Prog vocalists currently active. The Unorthodox Dancinglesson might as well be right of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, and I mean that in a good way.
I’ve had the hardest time keeping the length of this review down. I could have written so much more! It’s really that good. Is it the best Flower King album? Probably not. Is it my favorite Flower King album? Heck yes! I don’t know if that makes sense, but if you’re a fan of well written melodic Progressive Rock you can’t help but love this album. The first few listens are going to bore you to death, but if you stick to it you won’t be able to get enough of it. I can promise that. The only thing missing from making this album is originality, which the Flower Kings never really attempt in any of their releases. Regardless, this album is about excellent song writing. If that’s what you’re interested in I would not hesitate in getting this album. Way to go Mr. Stolt, this is truly a remarkable album.