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Flower Kings, The: Banks of Eden

The Flower Kings are back! After a five year absence they have reformed to record a stunning album titled Banks of Eden. Roine Stolt felt at the time when they decided to take a break that it was necessary so everyone could go do what they wanted and then come back refreshed. He is glad they decided to do that because there was a concern that they would be getting too comfortable with their sound and fans would not hear anything different or any variations in their recording process. This release promises to deliver a few new wrinkles that are noteworthy but then again that is exactly what I would expect.

Well make no mistake this is The Flower Kings in all of their undisputed prog rock glory. I would encourage all listeners to check out the band member's solo work, all of it is exceptional. And if you are prog fan you know what Roine has been up to.

The thing about this band is that they leave their egos at the door and entertain each other, thereby giving their audience a thrill a minute. The very first track "Numbers" kicks of the proceedings in true prog rock style clocking in at a gaudy 25:20. It is a superior amalgamation of advanced musical craftsmanship. I think the combination of Roine and Hasse Forberg (make sure you check out his recent Music Companion release) on vocals is magical and they play off each other beautifully. And as usual Roine's guitar work is exceptional. The only position in this band that is rotating is behind the drum kit but it always seems to work out. Felix Lehrmann pounds the skins this time out and every other member is in their proper place to round out the band's unique sound. The only track that comes in under four minutes is "Lo Lines" on the bonus CD. A few examples that come to you packaged as food for thought are "For The Love Of Gold" and "Rising The Imperial." On "Rising The Imperial" you get some real heavy things to think about with lines like "Rising the tide imperial, Leaving the world material, Enter a world superior, Leaving the world material." In one verse our world of over indulgence and technology seems like a waste of time and the false gods surround us. You realize in a flash that only the true spirit of man and what is inside us can be revealed once all of the muck and garbage on the surface is removed. I got that message as if Roine was standing beside me with a megaphone screaming it in my ear.

I must comment on the exquisite artwork which is included with the accompanying booklet that also includes band pictures, credits and lyrics. This is one aspect of The Flower Kings that has gone hand in hand with their music (as it does with any great prog band) but this time they have something very special from Silas Toball (www.silastoball.com). The spacey other worldly drawings help set the tone of the album before you even start listening, but then again that is whole idea isn't it? The recording is also available in a limited edition orange vinyl set with expanded artwork to enjoy, which by the way I am so tempted to get. This is an entire experience that should not be missed. I would recommend the bonus disc set because it is totally worth it to hear four more great tracks along with a video of the band and a tour of their studio showing their vintage soundboards and equipment. You don't need to be a qualified prog head to enjoy a package like this, being a general music fan is the only requirement. This is just great fun and it should be taken as such. This does not take away from the stories being told mind you, their music can be very dark and telling at times so it is not all fun and games in the message that waits in the music, you can be certain of that.

The Flower Kings have not missed a step with the release of Banks of Eden. Their music always turns me inside out and then back again. I am mesmerized with their sound and stunned with the quality of musicianship offered up on this set. Is this a triumphant return to glory for The Flower Kings? Wave your flag Sweden because that is an understatement!


Track Listing
1. Numbers
2. For The Love Of Gold
3. Pandemonium
4. For Those About To Drown
5. Rising The Imperial
6. Fireghosts (Bonus Track)
7. Going Up (Bonus Track)
8. Illuminati (Bonus Track)
9. Lo Lines (Bonus Track)
10. VIDEO Interview with the band in the studio - 20 min

Added: June 30th 2012
Reviewer: Keith Hannaleck
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4356
Language: english

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Flower Kings, The: Banks of Eden
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-06-30 13:40:54
My Score:

When it comes to modern progressive rock with a strong retro edge, The Flower Kings are typically your number one go-to band. These Swedes have established themselves as consistently excellent throughout their near-twenty year history, and with this in mind, it's no surprise that 2012's Banks of Eden is another masterpiece in a long string of modern classics. This album was a bit more anticipated than many other albums from The Flower Kings, however, because the band took a bit of a hiatus since 2007's The Sum of No Evil (an album that I consider a favorite in their discography). Since their formation, The Flower Kings have pumped out an album every year or two, so roughly five years between albums seems like quite a bit by their standards - rest assured, though, as Banks of Eden certainly lives up to its hype, and is (in my humble opinion) another masterpiece from this dream team of fantastic musicians.

For anybody familiar with The Flower Kings, the quintet's trademark formula largely remains in-tact on Banks of Eden. For those new to the band, expect a mix of classic symphonic prog, retro hard rock, and jazz fusion, all performed in the style of the seventies'. Calling Banks of Eden a meeting place between the upbeat symphonic prog of Yes, the lush atmospheres of Genesis, the heaviness of Deep Purple, and the quirkiness of Frank Zappa would be a pretty accurate description of the music here. The Flower Kings is a band that could've certainly existed in the seventies' without sounding out of place, but their mix of styles and influences from the era keeps them from sounding derivative of any other band. Rather than taking all their influence from two or three acts, The Flower Kings have an eclectic sound that borrows all of its influence from a particular era in music history - while the band has kept this sound for most of their existence without much in the way of innovation, their mastery of this style is simply unparalleled in modern prog.

With the standard edition of the album clocking in at under 54 minutes, Banks of Eden is also a slight departure from the notoriously long playing times of many Flower Kings releases. Although I do think that The Flower Kings are one of the best bands out there when it comes to pumping out ambitious double-CD albums, the manageable playing time on Banks of Eden makes for a much more accessible listen for newcomers and veterans alike. The songs here are also some of the most melodic (and, quite frankly, memorable) in the band's catalog, and both of these factors make this album a good starting point for those wondering what the fuss for these Swedish fellows is all about. If you like longer Flower Kings albums, however, rest assured as the band also is offering a limited edition with a 22-minute bonus disc of even more material. All four songs on the bonus disc are well-worth owning for any fan of the band (more on that in a minute), and it's definitely worth shelling out the extra cash in my opinion.

In true Flower Kings fashion, Banks of Eden opens up with a sprawling 25 minute epic in the form of "Numbers". This is one of my favorite epics from the band, with its smooth transitions and memorable hooks ranking up there with the best I've ever heard. This track also establishes a few themes that would be later revisited in the final track, "Rising the Imperial". "For The Love of Gold" is an upbeat symphonic prog track that especially brings Yes to mind; the strongest aspect of this song are undoubtedly the arrangements, with lush acoustic guitars and vast keyboard pallettes always keeping the music sounding full and complete. "Pandemonium" shows the band's influence from acts like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep with its hard rock-styled riffs, and "For Those About to Drown" also contains some powerful riffs and basslines from Jonas Reingold. The final track on the 'standard' version of the album is "Rising the Imperial", which may actually be my favorite track on the entire album. This song is just pure bliss; everything from Roine Stolt's tasteful guitar solos to the sheer beauty of the melodies is top-notch, and finding any complaints with a song this good is challenging.

The four bonus tracks may not be as exceptional as the aforementioned masterpieces, but they are all certainly worth owning. "Illuminati" is a really cool guitar solo-based piece with some very tasteful execution from Roine Stolt. This song actually reminds me a bit of "Watermelon in Easter Hay" by Frank Zappa - the similarity between these two players is clearly evident in a track like this. "Fireghosts" is a fairly standard Flower Kings track with strong melodies and impressive arrangements - this is probably the weakest of the four bonus tracks, though I do like the melodies quite a bit. "Going Up" is one of the most upbeat and positive-sounding songs in The Flower Kings' discography, and I like this one a lot. The band sounds energetic and refreshed, and new drummer Felix Lehrmann gets a nice opportunity to shine on this track. The album is concluded with "Lo Lines"; another memorable progressive rock track, this time in a slightly more somber mood - Roine lets his heartfelt guitar playing do some pretty amazing things towards the end of this song, and overall this is an excellent way to end an excellent album.

Of course, the musicianship and production are also held to incredibly high standards on Banks of Eden, and it's made immediately clear that The Flower Kings are a group of professionals. The production is sleek and modern, but with a nice organic touch that keeps the music from sounding cold and sterile. All five musicians here are very talented players, with new drummer Felix Lehrmann making a welcome addition to the band - he has a slightly different playing style than Zoltan Csórsz, but still manages to fit the tone of the music perfectly while adding in his own touches. You probably know what to expect from the other four musicians by now - brilliant leads from Roine Stolt, complex and clever basslines from Jonas Reingold, vast keyboard arrangements from Tomas Bodin, and warm vocals and guitar playing from Hasse Fröberg.

If you did actually read my entire novel about Banks of Eden, hopefully I've made one thing clear by now - if you even remotely enjoy the music of The Flower Kings, or you are wondering why so many folks love them, this is the album for you. Banks of Eden is a sheer masterpiece of modern progressive rock, and although some could criticize The Flower Kings for sticking to their guns a bit too much, the fact that the band creates this style of progressive rock better than anybody else in the 21st century means that I'm able to let that slide and just enjoy their terrific music for what it is. Banks of Eden is simply a must-have record for any progressive rock fan.

Flower Kings, The: Banks of Eden
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-06-28 18:12:06
My Score:

OK, cards on the table, for some this review will be sacrilege, as I know that many prog lovers will hear no bad words said about The Flower Kings. For me however, they have always been a band easy to admire from a distance, but one that close up are far too fond of rehashing ideas from the past (their own and their contemporary's) to merit the plaudits that so often come their way. In no way am I suggesting that the eagerly anticipated Banks Of Eden, the first TFK release for some five years, is not an album crammed with musical skills of the highest order, or that the talent on show doesn't transfer into what are four intricately crafted long songs and one superbly arranged, twenty five minute plus epic. However after an amount of spins reaching into double figures, my impressions of Banks Of Eden are remarkably similar to that I have of most of The Flower Kings extensive catalogue, which is that for all that their music is lovingly created and expertly played, in the end it all kind of washes over you in a completely unmemorable manner.

Take the lengthy "Numbers", which opens this album as a prime example of a song that has obviously had hours spent on it, blending heartfelt guitar solos to honed tempo changes and impassioned vocals. However unlike for example the meandering soundscapes provided by the likes of Transatlantic, who operate in a similar, epic, nod to the past area, there's just not enough to really draw you in and make you feel at one with the music. The shorter tracks fare better, with less meandering resulting in the more impactful, if intentionally slow- building "Rising The Imperial", or the light breezy "For The Love Of Gold", which even ventures into the melodic rock territory that the likes of Styx made a career out of, via some more obvious Genesisisms having more lasting effect.

Don't get me wrong though, if you've wallowed with a dreamy smile on your face in albums like Stardust We Are, or Paradox Hotel, then you are absolutely going to love this album and you should spend your hard earned cash, safe in the knowledge that The Flower Kings have delivered exactly what you were hoping for. For me, the all too obvious and intentional nods at the bands who inspired this music, Genesis, Yes et al, makes me, even taking into account just how unquestionably talented and dedicated The Flower Kings are, far more likely to dust off some classic albums from the past than return any time soon to the Banks Of Eden.



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