Hasse Froberg is the voice of the Flower Kings. This is his debut solo album with a lineup of band members that includes Anton Lindsjo on lead guitar, Kjell Haraldsson on keyboards, Ola Strandberg on drums, and Thomsson on bass. At 72 minutes, it shows Hasse had a lot more to say beyond the Flower Kings.
This is a good album full of musical treasures. A harder rock album than his work with the Flower Kings, but not too heavy that it would scare away any fans. The epics are full of great inspiration as are the lyrics. Days of Future Past it's not, but it's a good start for Hasse and his Musical Companion.
"Sounds from the Empire" kicks things off with the laughter of children playing near a train station. The busy world of modern society summed up in a minute and twenty seven seconds.
Then, the heavy guitars take over and we have lift off. The Yes – like acoustic melody that follows will bring back memories as "Fallen Empire" opens. The lyrics included describe the global financial crisis and decay of the Earth, which seems to be on everyone's mind and consciousness these days. "My feet are standing on barren ground. The Earth is finally closing down." The refrain sums up the feeling of finality well, "Is this a fallen empire? A kingdom for no man. A castle made of sand."
The orchestrated instrumental section begins loud and strong, but soon quiets as some hope is revived in the lyrical message. The intricate guitar and keys will bring back memories of Steve Hackett and early Genesis. The synths, then drums, work well to pump that spirit of hope back into the song before the mellotron keys enter to remind us of the glorious past. At 10:21, one of the big epics on the album.
"Song for July" is one of the best songs on the album. It's a great lift up after the opener's darker side of the human experience. A song of summer memories and the best time of the year in Sweden, which gets awfully cold in winter. The feeling of summer is fully appreciated and the piano helps to bring back memories of the spirit of happiness Bruce Hornsby brought to the keys.
Then it's back to power prog guitar and keys with "Piece of the Sky". The opening is very well constructed with cool synths and power electric guitars. You can give up on the world and the frustration of things around you or you can try to reclaim what we are losing. Hasse answers with his choice. "Sick and tired, feeling useless. I realize I really have to stand tall not drown in a big black hole." The power guitar, slamming drums and keys capture the mood of the song so well. After the instrumental section we get the transformation. "Listen to your heart. Express how you feel. Prepare yourself for a new start. And don't look back. No don't look back." The instrumental section runs the gamut of genres from reggae, ala Dreadlock Holiday, to electronic jazz.
The closing piano will bring back memories of Queen. It was either influenced by Queen or Muse's last album, complete with a Jon Anderson - like background vocal. The best and longest of three epic songs, at 14:18, on the album.
"I Wouldn't Change a Thing" starts off with a cool bass line and jazzy tropical/ocean keys. A very positive song full of great lyrics. "You're in charge of your own soul. No one can tell you where to go." This is the album's rocker, but it starts off with a Michael McDonald – like vocal with supporting instrumentation. "Be proud of who you are. I wouldn't change a thing." A great powerful and uplifting song.
Remember the static sound of the needle touching a vinyl album? You will be reminded of it at the beginning of "Above". The power guitar, keys, and drums launch out of the headphones or speakers soon after, providing an exciting opening to this song, before a Pink Floyd organ slows things down. The guitar chords and keys are wonderfully relaxing. The power and passion of this one is all over the lyrics and music. "I am, I feel, I love, I hear, I bleed, I cry." Yes, the music that accompanies these words on the refrain is full of electricity and power. That piano is back and it along with the strummed guitar helps guide us into the instrumental section of this epic. The drums near the end bring back memories of "Supper's Ready" and Unitopia's "The Garden". Another great epic at 10:27.
If you can imagine Hasse Froberg singing the Supreme's "You Keep Me Hanging On", then you may hear a similar melody in the opening of "Everyday". He's stuck in a "Groundhog Day since I don't know when." But no, Hasse is going to conduct his life differently, "I don't want no ordinary day. Go for the best. Leave out the rest."
"The Ultimate Thrill" is a wild ride with a cool lead and bass guitar opening supported well with drums. This one launches straight at you as a power rocker. "I've been flying across the sky. I've been crossing the ocean. I've been traveling many roads." Another cool heavy rocker augmented well with nice synth work.
The final track "Only My Blood" opens full of mystery and a quiet stillness filled with piano. I am reminded a little of Karmakanic's "Eternity", and this may be Hasse's answer to his fellow Flower Kings band mate's epic. At 13:01 it is full of great guitar and keys. The drums keep great pace as Hasse and Anton Lindsjo fill the space with great electric guitar meanderings. Thomsson's bass and Kjell Haraldsson's keys add so many flavors to the mix. The album closes in a garden full of birds and trickling water.
Rating: 4/5 – Recommended. "Piece of the Sky" is definitely a keeper. One of the best epics of 2010.
1. Sounds From The Empire 1:27
2. Fallen Empire 10:20
3. Song For July 4:59
4. Piece Of The Sky 14:18
5. I Wouldn't Change A Thing 6:49
6. Above 10:27
7. Everyday 4:57
8. The Ultimate Thrill 6:34
9. Only My Blood 13:01