The Swedish progressive-rock outfit Karmakanic — which earned accolades upon the release of its 2002 debut, Entering the Spectra, for the involvement of no fewer than six current or former Flower Kings — apparently decided to take a different musical route on its spunky second album, Wheel of Life. While Entering the Spectra delighted in the seemingly free-form, jazzy instrumental interplay that characterizes much of the Flower Kings' output, Wheel of Life is more creative (the cascading "Where the Earth Meets the Sky") more accessible ("At the Speed of Light," an AOR-turns-Pink Floyd treat), more neo-progressive (the bouncy, feel-good "Alex in Paradise") and more adventurous (the flamenco atmospherics of "Do U Tango?," complemented by a rather sexy computerized female voice popping into the groove to ask the title question). Of course, traces of Karmakanic's jazz and progressive roots can still be heard in the instrumental "Hindby" and the epic "Masterplan Pt. 1," which desperately wants to be a Yes song.
While Flower Kings bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Zoltan Csörsz remain part of Karmakanic's core lineup, a major roster change has newcomer Krister Jonzon taking over guitar duties from top Flower King and one time Karmankaniac Roine Stolt, who has been relegated to the role of guest guitarist on just two tracks, with vocalist Goran Edman handling all singing duties. Edman's voice is stronger and more dynamic than Stolt's, so he's able to take the eight songs on Wheel of Life in many new directions.
Stubborn Flower Kings enthusiasts may find this a bit too different from Karmakanic's debut to comfortably recommend it. But for casual Flower Kings fans and open-minded progressive-music listeners (which we all are, aren't we?), Wheel of Life is worth more than just a few spins.
1) Masterplan Pt. 1 (14:39)
2) Alex In Paradise (5:07)
3) At the Speed of Light (6:28)
4) Do U Tango (7:44)
5) Where the Earth Meets the Sky (12:59)
6) Hindby (4:58)
7) Wheel of Life (8:28)
8) Masterplan Pt. 2 (5:10)
Total Time: 65:36