The Flower Kings- Banks of Eden
A review by Don Cassidy of Delicious Agony Progressive Rock Radio
Since 1994, there have been few modern symphonic progressive rock bands that can equal the quality and quantity of music that has been released by Sweden’s The Flower Kings. Starting when former Kaipa guitarist Roine Stolt released The Flower King in 1994, a new wave of modern progressive rock was released upon the world with the positive feel of Yes that featured complex musical structures, heartfelt melodies, and spiraling epics. For the next thirteen years, The Flower Kings released twelve amazing albums, four of which were double disc releases. The fact that Roine Stolt and long time members Tomas Bodin, Hasse Froberg and Jonas Reingold also were also involved with their own other projects and solo releases makes this accomplishment even more impressive. After the 2007 album The Sum Of No Evil, the band decided to take a hiatus from The Flower Kings. The band members certainly did not rest on their laurels and they continued forward releasing albums and touring with their various musical projects such as Transatlantic, Agents of Mercy, 3rd Word Electric, Karmakanic, Kaipa, Hasse Froberg’s Musical Companion, and Eggs and Dogs. After a five year break, the band has returned with the anticipated new album, Banks of Eden. Not surprisingly, The Flower Kings have exploded back on the prog scene with one of their most exciting and impressive releases to date.
Banks of Eden is a single disc 55 minute focused release, which is highlighted by the presence of new drummer, 27 year old German sensation, Felix Lehrman. Following in the footsteps of former great Flower Kings’ drummers, Jamie Salazar, Zoltan Czorcz, and Marcus Lilliquest, Lehrman brings an enthusiastic, hard hitting, drum style to the band. The album starts with a spiraling 25 minute epic Stolt song, Numbers, which begins with Lehrman’s drums announcing to the world that The Flower Kings have returned. This song contains all the classic twists and turns of classic Flower King epics like Stardust We Are, The Truth Will Set You Free and Love Supreme. Stolt has described the song as “not easy listening but very rewarding”. I would agree and after the third listen it has become a favorite of mine.
The rest of the songs on the album all fall between six and seven minutes long, and contain various elements of the classic Flower Kings sound. One of the constants of the new album is the amazing guitar playing of Roine Stolt. The classic Stolt guitar sound is all over this release and proves again why Stolt is one of the top rock guitarists in the world. In addition, I have always believed that Stolt possesses one of the warmest, unique voices in progressive rock. The fact that Stolt sings lead on the majority of the songs, harkens back to the early days of the band. That warmth is balanced out with the majestic vocal style of Hasse Froberg. Together, they give the music a feel that can only be described as “classic Flower Kings”. Bass extraordinaire Jonas Reingold brings his masterful playing to the album and forms a formidable rhythm section with Lehrman. Tomas Bodin’s keyboard genius is again on full display and his playing complements Stolt‘s guitar perfectly. For The Love of Gold is an instant Flower Kings classic, with a great solo by Bodin and the album ender, Rising the Imperial, features a Gilmour influenced solo by Stolt that is emotional and majestic. In addition, the fretless bass sound of Reingold and vocal power of Froberg add to the emotion of the song. Pandemonium, which was originally written by Stolt as an Agents of Mercy song, contains distorted Stolt vocals that give the song a unique flair.
The album is also released as a special edition which features four more great songs, along with an interview with the band in the studio. None of these songs are “throwaways”, thus I would highly recommend buying the special edition. The production of Stolt is outstanding, as is the artwork and design by Silas Toball. After having the pleasure of seeing the band live on several occasions, I would anticipate the new material translating to stage very well. Banks of Eden should be a favorite of the fans of the band and hopefully attract some new ones. This is a fantastic release by one of the most prolific and important progressive rock bands that sound rejuvenated after a five year break. After all, The Flower Kings have become so influential in the world of progressive rock that they are the subject of the four disc tribute album, A Flower Full of Stars on Musea Records. Banks of Eden is indeed a triumphant return for The Flower Kings, and an early contender for album of the year.