Album review: ROINE STOLT’S THE FLOWER KING – Manifesto Of An Alchemist

Inside Out [Release date 23.11.18]

The last time Uppsala-born guitar maestro Roine Stolt released a solo record was eight years ago, when “Supernal Endgame – Touch The Sky” was first brought into this world.

Accusing the sixty-two-year-old musician of tardiness, however, would only really invite ridicule, as during this period the Swede was an active…no, an integral member of some of most high-profile Progressive Rock (super)groups such as Transatlantic and The Sea Within, and also offered his invaluable services to the legendary singer of Yes fame Jon Anderson.

Admittedly, Stolt’s decision to release a new studio album under a solo moniker rather than via The Flower Kings feels a tad strange, especially as Jonas Reingold (bass) is also heavily involved here, and it only really takes one good spin at this album for the said feeling to become further amplified.

You see, all the things which characterize the music of The Flower Kings such as sharp rhythmical changes, layered vocal harmonies and dominant bass lines can also be found here, as is the tendency to assign simple melodic themes the role of the foundation stone upon which the album’s fairly expanded compositions are built.

“Rainsong” being nothing more than a one and a half minute cosmic intro means that the first real composition of the album is “Lost America” – a song which combines rhythmically demanding Prog riffs with guitar-driven tunes that are normally found in any late-era Deep Purple record.

Seemingly straight forward, however intrinsically layered and expertly arranged, “Ze Pawns” is amongst the highlights of the album while both the twelve minute “High Road” and the follow-up “Rio Grande” hold enough twists and turns to justify Stolt’s love for all things Yes.

Introduced by a moody key melody but featuring an array of catchy acoustic guitar tunes, “Next To A Hurricane” is one of the best melody-driven acoustic guitar songs Kiss never wrote while “The Alchemist” finds the band making another trip to ‘Progland’ and is blessed with Rob Townsend’s brilliantly-arranged sax parts.

In “Baby Angels” you have a moving Beatles-style lullaby and both “Six Thirty Wake-Up” and the dark-themed ten-minute opus “The Spell Of Money” owe their very existence to inspiration emanating from the work of David Gilmour and the mighty Pink Floyd.

The press release provided with these ten compositions clearly stated that “Manifesto Of An Alchemist” is the product of a creative process that only took a couple of months to become complete – a truly impressive feat, considering the layers of music involved.

Fans of The Flower Kings will almost certainly love this release and so will people who are attracted to both the melodic and the technically challenging elements of Progressive Rock.

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)

Review by Ioannis (John) Stefanis

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