The Flower Kings- Desolation Rose Review

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The Flower Kings- Desolation Rose Review

Postby FKYES » Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:42 pm

The Flower Kings- Desolation Rose-Limited Edition
A review by Don Cassidy of Delicious Agony Progressive Rock Radio

After almost twenty years and twelve albums that are highly regarded in the modern progressive rock world, how does a band do something different? The Flower Kings faced this question as they entered the studio in the spring in Sweden to work on their new studio album. A band that has become known for their 20 minute plus epics that often have a positive vibe takes the listeners down a different road on their latest release, Desolation Rose. In the process, the band has created one of their most rewarding and fascinating releases to date.

When Roine Stolt released the album The Flower King, back in 1994, he created a figure that represented “Love, Light and Kindness.” There has been changes in the world, many of them not for the positive, that has taken place over the past 19 years that modifies the way the world is perceived by us all. The Flower Kings realize that topics such as war, environmental threats, and famine dominates the media and our consciousness. In our interview with Roine Stolt, he spoke about the journey that is Desolation Rose and how he feels it may be the most important statement from the band.

Unlike many of The Flower Kings albums, Stolt did not enter the studio with well developed finished demos of songs and many of the tracks were written and arranged in the studio by the entire band. Although all the lyrics are written by Stolt, this is the first Flower Kings album that has several writing credits attributed to the entire band. This is a recording process that Stolt has become familiar with his other amazing progressive rock project, Transatlantic. After the recording sessions were completed, Stolt let Delicious Agony know that the band felt that they needed a few more songs. This led Stolt to contribute the opening track, Tower One, Silent Masses, and Desolation Road. The band’s thirteenth album was now complete and the listener’s journey was ready to begin.

When listening to the new album, there are both similarities and obvious differences to prior releases. The band was definitely going for a continuos theme throughout the album and the lyrics are incredibly important. Prior albums often have begun with a grandiose, symphonic prog epic, where the lyrics take a backseat to the majesty of the music. This difference is immediately obvious on the beginning song, Tower One, where Stolt’s warm vocal is present immediately. Thinking back, I cannot recall a Flower Kings album in which the vocals introduce the first song. As Roine Stolt sings, “She walk me slowly through burning spear,” the listener realizes that Stolt and the band have something immediate that they want to say. This is the longest song on the album at under fourteen minutes, almost short by the previous standards of The Flower Kings. As the song progresses, the symphonic prog sound that is unique only to them reels in the listener. This includes the alternating vocals of Stolt and Hasse Froberg, the dynamic rhythm section of Jonas Reingold and Felix Lehrmann, the colorful keyboard textures of Tomas Bodin, and the amazing guitar work of the royal gardener, Roine Stolt. However the big difference this time around is Stolt’s lyrics. During the opening song, Stolt speaks of “disturbing dreams,” “broken promises,” and “the state becoming the offender.” The Flower Kings had dark songs in the past with Disonnata and Monster Within. However, there appears to be a darker, more immediate theme developing here.

As with all the songs on the album, the song ends and fades directly to the next one. In this case, Sleeping Bones, begins with the sound of thunder and rain and Tomas Bodin’s keyboards softly in the background. This is the first track that is credited to the entire band, as Stolt handles the vocals. The next song, Desolation Road, begins again with Bodin’s quiet introduction before the entire band comes roaring in bombastic fashion. One of the most powerful songs on the album, this track features fantastic vocals by Froberg. We are first introduced to the lyrics, “In silent graveyards-we look for saviors.” This will soon become a recurring theme for the rest of the album. Also noteworthy is the powerful organ by Bodin that drives the song home.

The next song, White Tuxedos, begins with the voice of Richard Nixon stating that, “I want peace as much as you do.” This is one of my favorite songs on the album and features an extremely creepy vocal effect by Stolt, which is somewhat similar to Pandemonium from, Banks Of Eden. The vocal darkness of this song, which features music written by Reingold, is reinforced by Stolt’s angry and pessimistic lyrics. A little past four minutes the song undergoes a dramatic tempo change which features an incredible Stolt solo and drumming by Lehrmann. Making his second appearance on album with the band, Felix Lehrmann has taken a stranglehold on the often rotating drum seat. This section, which harkens back to In The Eyes Of The World, ends with Nixon repeating the lines about peace. A superb song and one of my personal favorites.

Judas was a popular figure in the early days of The Flower Kings, with Go West Judas and The Judas Kiss being early favorites of the fans. This time, Stolt is singing about The Resurrected Judas. This is another song credited to the entire band and the second longest on the album at 8:24. Some of Stolt’s most powerful solos are present throughout this song and the second half features Reingold’s driving bass and Bodin’s keys. As always, Hasse Froberg’s vocals can dominate a chorus and soundscape like no other singer in progressive rock. As this flows into the next song, Silent Masses, Stolt gives a nod to The Beatles with the lyric, “But your bird cannot sing.” If you listen carefully, you can hear Stolt following with the guitar line from the classic song from the Revolver album. Again, Stolt’s soaring guitar is on full display, as we are reintroduced to the Silent Graveyards theme.

The intro to next song, Last Carnivore, may remind the listener of the Chicken Farmer Song, until the band powerfully kicks in. The lyrics repeat from earlier in the album as we are reminded of “falling from the towers,” “hostage to machinery,” and “the bones of the predator.” The song also features one of the albums most rememberable choruses, an otherworldly Stolt solo and an amazingly powerful ending. The listener can take a slight breath as Lehrman counts off the introduction to Dark Fascist Skies. Another full band composition, the Zappa influence is clear in the first minute of the song. Stolt again contributes a blistering solo that matches the anger present in many of the lyrics. This includes asking, “What are the odds that you’’ll fight back the system, we are millions of Davids just looking for peace.” There is no question that the band wants the listener to think on this album!

The tempo slows down for the next Stolt composition, Blood of Eden, with Froberg taking the lead vocal. A short song that reminds the listener how good The Flower Kings are at short, melodic, songs. This transitions to the last song on the album, Silent Graveyards. This theme has been present throughout the album and the band brings it home in style with the presence of “The Mighty Choir.” Besides Stolt, Froberg, and Reingold, the choir includes Michael Stolt (Eggs and Dogs, ex Flower Kings bassist), Nad Sylvan (Agents of Mercy), and Andy Tillison (The Tangent), among other special guests. This powerful song ends the album with Froberg’s classic scream before quietly fading into Bodin’s keyboards. A perfect emotional ending to an amazing album.

As with most of The Flower Kings albums,Desolation Rose is available as a Limited Edition mediabook with a bonus disc. This bonus disc, which contains over 30 minutes of music, was described by Stolt to Delicious Agony as “probably their best bonus album so far.” This includes two vocal tracks, Runaway Train (lyrics-Froberg) and Lazy Monkey (Stolt/Bodin), and six instrumentals of varying lengths. Although the band didn't want to break the dark spell of the main album with these songs, they are all great additions to catalogue of The Flower Kings. Runaway Train, which Stolt described as a poppier song in the vein of The Police and Lazy Money, is characterized as the band’s Octopus’s Garden. As for the instrumentals, Interstellar Visitations, is over eight minutes and maybe the closest the band has gotten to space rock. I especially like the Stolt written instrumentals, The Wailing Wall and Badbeats. The limited edition is necessary purchase for any fan of the band.

To this reviewer and fan’s ears, Desolation Rose, is one of the bands finest releases and one of top albums of the year. The political statement that Stolt wanted to express on this album may take awhile to sink in, as will some of the songs. However, as with most progressive rock classics, Desolation Rose gets better and more rewarding with each listen. The distinctive sound of the band is certainly present but the darkness, and gloominess of the lyrics is very different. This is definitely an album that should be listened to in full, to appreciate the depth of the concept. The album is produced brilliantly by Stolt and the artwork from Silas Toball is fantastic. All of buying options for the album, including a stunning vinyl edition, are available at As we look forward to the twentieth anniversary of the band in 2014, I know this long time fan will be waiting patiently for the live rendition of these amazing songs.
Don Cassidy
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