The Flower Kings: Banks of Eden
  • Production
  • Composition
  • Musicianship
  • Freshness
  • Mouth watering for the upcoming tour

I think I just about leaped out of my seat when I heard that The Flower Kings were getting back together after a lengthy break. Obviously there has been no lack of productivity from the individual members of this legendary Swedish group via fantastic albums from the likes of Karmakanic, Agents of Mercy, Hasse Froberg and Musical Companion, etc.; however, there’s some special magic that happens when these musicians get together to write music under the banner of The Flower Kings.  Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t really care. Whether or not I always get it the first time around, experience has taught me that TFK produces prog of the highest quality, with the special ability to deliver music that walks an interesting line of catchy and profound. Each of their albums has taken me repeated listening and devouring to truly appreciate; while some other bands tend to knock me off my feet on the first listen, TFK has crept up in my list of favorite bands, little by little, eventually ousting out the competition and making it to the top.

The choice to break the silence of their 5 year break with an opening track of 26 minutes shows that Stolt and co. want to make one thing absolutely clear from the get go: they mean business. “Numbers” ends up being a track that you can seriously rock out to and provides TFK’s intelligent signature use of leitmotif and doesn’t forget to put their money where their mouth is with fantastic instrumentation. Between the timpani roll that kicks off the piece, Felix’s aggressive drumming, and some extremely dark, heavy, and thick moments, these Swedes aren’t ashamed to add a few new shades to the band’s already diverse palate of sounds. Don’t expect TFK to abandon their traditional sound though. Here we have everything that we’ve come to love about the band. Mr. Bodin gives us some great symphonic moments along with great Rhodes playing and some of his signature eclectic patches, Jonas shows us once again just how capable he is of laying down some really melodic and slamming grooves, and Hasse and Roine deliver the goods on guitars and vocals as we can expect. For such a lengthy piece, this actually goes by incredibly fast. I would have to say this is one of their most precise long compositions; the main themes are delivered and reworked in ways that make them instantly recognizable but never repetitive, and vocals are used abundantly and effectively. One thing that struck me as distinct about this particular track is that it seems like it’s not quite so keyboard heavy as some other TFK long tracks, perhaps it’s a bit of Roine’s experiences in Agents of Mercy playing into this new sound, however, that is not to say that this isn’t symphonic. There’s definitely lots of keys to please synth happy geeks like me.

While “Numbers” really shows off the new elements that TFK are bringing to the table, “For the Love of Gold” really takes us back to the classic TFK sound, drenched in synthesizers that are mixed right up front, just how I like ‘em. This tune really puts out a positive and uplifting vibe, plus the 3/4 groove at about 3:30 really makes you nod your head and smile. I should also mention that both Hasse and Roine do a fine job on the vocals on this very enjoyable piece. In the end this one really put me back in that Flower Kings spirit and reminded me that these guys know how to have fun.

The last track I would like to mention specifically is “Rising the Imperial,” written by none other than the stunning bass master, Mr. Reingold. Let’s just say that this guy knows how to write the most perfectly melodic bass parts that will bring you to tears. The chord progression feels very introspective and dynamic, coming in and out like the swaying of waves until it reaches high tide and you’re drowning in a sea of wonderful, musical texture. While I tip my hat of to Jonas for the amazing piece, everyone did a brilliant job performing on this song. For example, Roine’s vocals compliment the lyrics perfectly, emphasizing the somber nature of the piece, and his guitar solos will melt your heart. After the first one, I said to myself, that would have been the perfect climax to the song, why did they keep going? But then they added some strong vocals sections and brought Mr. Stolt back in for another round of breathtaking guitar-work, backed perfectly by Tomas Bodin’s wonderful Hammond playing. Good move; I definitely couldn’t complain after a section that was that good. To put the icing on the cake, Hasse’s wonderful voice and Tomas’s dense keyboard arrangements grace us once more, and the regular album comes to a close. “Rising the Imperial” really wrapped the album up with a bang. At 55 minutes of fantastic composition and performances over five songs, the main album certain left me satisfied. For those who can’t get enough of TFK, like me, the band has given us a little extra treat with the special edition which includes a fun video interview and four bonus tracks on a second disc; a little bit of extra fun for everyone.

In short, if you liked The Flower Kings already, you’ll love this album. If you aren’t that into them or are a fence sitter, I doubt that this will change your mind. In my opinion, this is a finely executed album and will sit very nicely in my Flower King’s collection and get regular rotation among their other masterpieces. Where it ranks among their albums, I couldn’t say. All I’ll say this early on is that it’s good, real good, and I hope and pray they’ll come out to San Francisco as they tour this gem of an album.