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Flower Kings, The: Paradox Hotel

It's simply unbelievable. Whenever The Flower Kings releases a new album, it becomes an instant favourite of mine. Such was the case with their 2004 release Adam & Eve, perhaps their darkest work. With Pain of Salvation frontman Daniel Gildenlow doing the lead vocals on a couple of tracks, the album was simply different with its exquisite rhythm work, excellent guitars, and rich vocal harmonies. Though the album wasn't received as well as some of their earlier releases, it managed to be the only Flower Kings release that I listened to for over eight months straight.

Now, the Swedish prog rockers are back with Paradox Hotel, their new album. Unfortunately Daniel Gildenlow is no longer part of the band, and also gone is the band's long-time drummer Zoltan Csorsz who has left for personal reasons. The new drummer is the equally amazing Marcus Liliquist who you may remember from his exceptional performance on keyboardist Tomas Bodin's last solo album I Am. Liliquist's drumming is decidedly less busy than Csorsz' and he also has a less jazzy approach to rhythm. He is more direct and likes to keep it simple, still adding in some of the finest rhythm work, such as the nuanced percussion on "Pioneers of Aviation", complete with a multitude of sound effects including church bells; or the excellent brush drums on "Hit Me with a Hit", a relatively catchier and vocal-driven piece. Stolt's lead tone on this track is at its warmest and most arresting, while Jonas Reingold lays down a funky bass line throughout.

The album is divided into two CD's, and contains songs from four members. Although Roine Stolt is still the primary writer, there are several pieces penned by Tomas Bodin, such as the weird intro track that introduces a concept; some tracks written by Stolt, Bodin, and Reingold together; and even a track by solely Hans Froberg. Needless to say, the result is a very diverse yet perhaps slightly laidback album. For a start, Paradox Hotel is no where near as dark as its predecessor, but it is progressively rich in powerful arrangements, riveting strings (give "Bavarian Skies" a listen with excellent vocals by Froberg), and elaborate guitar work. The vocal harmonies are still first class, while the band's love for Yes is still evident in much of their songwriting attitude. The second track from Disc One: Room 111, "Monsters & Men", at over 21 minutes, is bound to become a future classic for the band. The piece goes through several movements, each haunting in a different way, and sees the band juxtaposing elegant piano melodies and slick guitar riffs; Bodin adds swells of analog synths to the mix and Stolt's bluesy guitar work recalls his recent solo album Wall Street Voodoo. So diverse is the song that every imagineable genre is brought into the track, starting with classically inspired orchestration and concluding with wild fusion guitar that also bleeds into folk music before returning to its blues leanings.

One song that stands out for its interesting lyrics on the first disc is "Jealousy", portraying an ironic look at the devil envying the suffering of human beings. The song is graced by a distant female choir whose vocals are so fragile yet also vital to the track's success. There are so many aspects to this disc it would be impossible to mention each of them. But I believe the acoustic guitars that open the rocking "Selfconsuming Fire" do deserve a special mention.

On the second disc Room 222, which is a bit more improvised and drawn-out in it expression, the band continues to expand on their retro-prog sounds, with adventurous synth layerings and multiple vocal parts on "Minor Giant Steps"; or Bodin's heart-breaking piano song "Touch My Heaven" (complete with passionate vocals and sparse guitar notes); or "The Unorthodox Dancing Lesson" with its monstrous rythmic anchor in 13/8 timing. "Man of the World" is another track that allows some bass ownage, perhaps because Reingold is one of the guys who wrote it. This track is also a nod to the band's earliest works, touching on jazz and utilising cool acoustic guitars as well. Last but not least, Stolt's vocals on "The Way the Waters Are Moving" are some of his most emotive and moving I've heard, be it with Flower Kings or solo.

Perhaps the reason why each song on Paradox Hotel flows so well is that the material on it was all recorded in seven days before the band added their vocal harmonies and edited the tracks accordingly. This album is one of the most spontaneous Flower Kings releases ever, and there's no reason why it should let any of their fans down, unless they were strictly expecting the band to follow the dark route opened up with Adam & Eve. Two discs, over 135 minutes of music, Paradox Hotel is another album that will rank high in prog rock circles' 2006 lists.

Track Listing

Disc One: Room 111

  1. Check In
  2. Monsters & Men
  3. Jealousy
  4. Hit Me with A Hit
  5. Pioneers Of Aviation
  6. Lucy Had A Dream
  7. Bavarian Skies
  8. Selfconsuming Fire
  9. Mommy Leave the Light On
  10. End On A High Note

Disc Two: Room 222
  1. Minor Giant Steps
  2. Touch My Heaven
  3. The Unorthodox Dancinglesson
  4. Man of the World
  5. Life Will Kill You
  6. The Way the Waters Are Moving
  7. What If God Is Alone
  8. Paradox Hotel
  9. Blue Planet

Added: May 15th 2006
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: The Flower Kings website
Hits: 4176
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Flower Kings, The: Paradox Hotel
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-05-15 17:34:54
My Score:

Albums by The Flower Kings are getting increasingly harder to review, and that's not because the CD's themselves are not enjoyable. On the contrary, each release is always an anticipated journey into prog rock heaven, as the band has been and remains one of the stars of the modern progressive rock movement. There's just so much material here that even after numerous listens it's hard to really grasp the album as a whole. Much like many of their past releases, Paradox Hotel is a sprawling 2 CD set, (honestly, this band either releases double disc sets or single albums maxing out at 79 minutes) but actually the music contained is slightly less aggressive than in the past, still symphonic, but there is a looseness that I haven't heard much from the band in the past. Along with a few personell changes seems to have come a slight change in direction, as there are less prog-metal and fusion influences here, and in their place an added sense of jazziness, more pop leanings, and an overall more laid-back attitude. The lushness of the bands vocal harmonies, matched with the excellent keyboard work of Tomas Bodin, works so well on the epic "Monsters & Men", while the band shows their funky side on "Hit Me With a Hit". Honestly, there's plenty of strong tracks here (well, there is a lot to choose from!) that show the talents of the entire band, from Roine Stolt's crisp guitar work, to Bodin's superb keyboard textures, and Jonas Reingold's gymnastic bass grooves, not to mention the excellent vocals of Hans "Hasse " Froberg and the steady drum work of newcomer Marcus Liliquist.

Overall, Paradox Hotel is perhaps not as tight and focused as Adam & Eve, but it's certainly less dark and much more uplifting, which I think in a way harkens back to the bands earlier material. While slightly on the bloated side, there are still numerous songs on this double album that are destined to be fan favorites and find their way into The Flower Kings live set for years to come.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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