Album review: THE FLOWER KINGS – Desolation Rose

Inside Out – Out Now.

It was almost a year ago that I was granted a thoroughly delightful and highly entertaining interview with Roine Stolt during which I openly questioned his priorities by stating that having a band like The Flower Kings put on hold for half a decade is not something that either I or the rest of his fans were all too happy about.

I am not suggesting here that my word holds any weight whatsoever in Roine’s artistic decisions but I am, nevertheless, pleased to announce that, a little over a year since that conversation and the release of the amazing “Banks Of Eden”, Stolt and Co have graced us with yet another Prog gem – one of an equally melodic, but much darker nature, entitled “Desolation Rose”.

Stolt has been very vocal in the past in his belief that music nowadays is lacking muscle and dynamics and how his goal is to produce compositions that are products of a more organic nature. Well, just like its impressive predecessor, “Desolation Rose” is a pretty ‘natural’ affair, recorded on reel to reel tape with the assistance of vintage instruments, such as Mellotron M40 and the Minimoog – an instrument much-loved by all 70s Prog Rock enthusiasts.

Rather than being used in a traditional Prog fashion, however, these instruments have helped Stolt and Co to paint an emotionally strong and, at times, pretty bleak musical canvas which will both surprise and please the band’s long term fans, adding, in the process, another fine chapter to the band’s diverse musical history.

Having a lengthy composition opening a The Flower Kings album is more like a tradition rather than a statement and “Tower ONE” performs that function here – a thirteen minute piece which finds the band at its experimental best.

Introducing itself with a melodic theme that will appear in key moments throughout this album, this rhythmically ever-changing song provides enough space for all musicians to reveal their true talents and it is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of its many highlights.

Heavy in its appeal and supported by cleverly-crafted 70s influenced themes, “Sleeping Bones” is one of the many melodic/moody compositions of the album, followed by the truly impressive “Desolation Angels” whose melodic refrain is simply impossible to resist.

The first song that really impressed me with its uniqueness was the six and a half minute “White Tuxedos” – a song based on a sinister bass tune and which features heavily vocalised themes that add much groove and character to the proceedings.

Follow up composition “The Resurrected Judas” is another impressive amalgamation of different musical styles and themes based on an epic lyrical theme, while both “Silent Masses” and “Last Carnivor” come across as simple offerings but, in reality, hold quite a few pleasant surprises.

The last section of the album is dominated by the heavy riffed “Dark Fascist Skies”, a song that will certainly appeal to fans of bands like Dream Theater, with “Blood Of Eden” being an Eagles-style ballad and “Silent Graveyards”, a short lightly-orchestrated piece whose melodic theme is a variation of that of the opening composition, thereby completing the thematic circle first opened fifty eight or so minutes ago.

Having a new The Flower Kings album released so soon after “Banks Of Eden” (2012) is quite a surprising feat. What is even more surprising, however, is how much of a darker and more artistically challenging offering “Desolation Rose” is, not only when compared to its recent predecessor, but to any of the band’s past studio releases.

Retaining all the trademark elements of their music but still keen on pushing the limits of their creativity, The Flower Kings come across as an outfit with a really bright future at hand. Join them in their cause and rejoice with their success as it is much deserved.

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)


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