Review Summary: A pleasant surprise by The Flower King's bassist, who provides us with the riveting 3rd chapter of his very own book called Karmakanic.
7 of 7 thought this review was well written
Sweden, the Scandinavian country where the taxes are high, forests cover 50% of the land, and a musician is born every 10 minutes. Well the last point would seem to be true given the plethora of talented musicians that the country possesses, of which the musicians in Karmakanic are a fitting example.
The boss in the Karmakanic music factory is bass extraordinaire Jonas Reingold, and the products that are manufactured here are primarily of the symphonic progressive rock category with some additional parts comprising hard rock and jazz fusion. This blend works well and creates some very infectious moments which you’ll be coming back to time and time again. Since this is progressive rock it is slightly challenging and will take multiple listens to fully appreciate the compositions. Fear not however as the album gets more rewarding with every listen as the songwriting achieves a good balance between the various genre influences the band incorporate, with the transitions being smooth, and the songs not overstaying their welcome for the most part.
No time is wasted as the band gets straight to business by placing the longest, most progressive oriented track right at the beginning of the album. “Send a Message from the Heart” is a song with which I instantly fell in love thanks to the endless supply of exquisite melodies on display through which the song effortlessly flows, with there being some great changes in tempo, a beautiful variety of rich tones, especially of the keyboards, dynamic bass playing, strong vocals, and an overall uplifting mood. It is very proggy and rarely bored me with the exception of the solo sections and perhaps the reprise of certain melodies, but you would expect that from a track of its length. The song sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album and displays most of the elements which comprise the remaining compositions.
Reasonable portions of the songs are of the symphonic progressive rock nature, with the crisp keyboards and the thumping bass being the major ingredients. There’s also adequate room for alternate music styles including blues and jazz, evident on “Who's the Boss in the Factory?”, and hard rock, sprinkled sparsley on this album, where the rich distorted guitar tone is given an opportunity to shine, primarily displayed on the incredibly enjoyable “Let in Hollywood”. Elsewhere the clean guitar tones are adding colour to the foundations of the music and doing a fine job. The guitar solos are also fantastic, focusing on great phrasing and emotion.
The first 4 songs are quite strong; however it’s the last 2 that mar the album. It is essentially one song, namely “Eternally,” split into two uneven parts, the first being a short classical tinged piece played solely on the piano, and the second being a mellow ballad. They aren’t bad per say, but pale in comparison to the quality songs preceding them. Unfortunately this leaves a faintly bitter taste as the album draws to a close.
That being said the overall musicianship is splendid, and the band chemistry is remarkable. Jonas Reingold has found an outstanding group of musicians, who aptly complement his prowess and songwriting abilities, especially in the shape of keyboardist Lalle Larson. The vocalist is Goran Edman, famously of Ynwie Malmsteen’s band in the early 90’s. He doesn’t reach the pitch that he’s well-known for but rather decides to remain in the lower to middle frequencies, focusing on emotive delivery whilst still retaining the power and energy from his younger years. Numerous guest musicians also grace the album, but the 2 most distinct ones are the venerable Theo Travis on the saxophone, whose contributions in “Two Blocks from the Edge” are some of the best parts of the song, and Lelo Nika on the accordion. Guest musicians really add another dimension to the music and serve to effectively enhance the musical experience, as is the case on this record.
If you’re a fan of good old fashioned progressive rock with memorable melodies, great musicianship, strong vocals, and tasteful solos, then this is definitely a record I recommend you check out.
• Send A Message From The Heart: Keyboard playing, bass playing and guitar solo
• Who's the Boss in the Factory?: Bass playing and chorus
• Let In Hollywood: Guitar tone and keyboard solo
• Two Blocks From The Edge: Saxophone
I always meant to write a review for this, but obviously never did. I am glad too see you did, this is a great band. Just a little question: why do you call them "symphonic prog rock"? The sometimes grandiose compositions may give the impression of being symphonic, but to me this is just great melodic prog rock. When I hear the word "symphonic" I thing of the addition of strings, or something.
Prog rock is not my forte, so this is an honest question. Nice review.
Zettel I hear what you're saying, and I also have issues labelling this symphonig prog. Symphonic prog focuses on lengthy songs with a lot of classical influences and orchestral elements, with the keyboards playing a larger role. It is also the genre that a lot of the old school proggers fall under. There's quite a bit of that influence here as well, and a lot of major prog sites label them symphonic prog so I thought I'd use the tag.
@Omair: Thanks for your response. That is what I thought about the term "symphonic", just felt some people may have the wrong impression about what this sounded like. Probably not a big deal anyways.
I actually liked "Eternally" a lot, and do not believe it is a weak closer, but I do feel the second part of the album sounds lacking in comparison to the first half. I think the opener should have been the closer, and even a middle piece. Basically a problem of sequencing. Still, this album is great, and it introduced me to this band, The Flower Kings and The Tangent.
No problemo, yeah I understand what you mean, thanks for pointing it out. Yeah it's a great album, but I've listened to it way too much and it's wearing off, so I'm saving it for special occasions :P. "Eternally" bored me, it's not very special, but I do like the use of the accordian, I think they should've used the guest musicians a little more.
My discovery was actually the other way round, TFK then Karmakanic, but I've enjoyed both bands music. TFK can get too keyboard oriented and cheerful for my liking at times :P.
I do not like keyboards too much, so that is probably why I like Karmakanic more than TFK, and cheerful music like that is not my cup of tea either. Karmakanic is at times, but I like their sense of melody and execution. Great music to truly enjoy musically and instrumentally. I got their last album a while back, but I have not explored it in depth, but I liked it too.
I do not listen frequently to prog rock, but when in the mood, I like to spin some Karmakanic album, their previous stuff is solid too.
I love keyboards, but I prefer a good balance between all the instruments. I wasn't a fan of their latest album, it doesn't really do anything new, though the musicianship and songwriting are still pretty solid.
You should listen to more prog, there are quite a few good bands out there.
There are a few huge prog heads around here, Jethro42 and his ProgJect collaborative effort come to mind (I am sure you know them), and I try to follow his recommendations as much as I can. But I've always preferred, overall, louder guitars and monstrous riffs. So prog rock has limited airplay for me, but I do not doubt there are some great current bands around, although some people say "why bother doing prog rock these days, when it is already done, and probably much better?", hahaha.
Yup I know of Jethro42, plus menawati on this thread here is a pretty big prog nerd as well. Haha yeah
people do say that, but its such a diverse genre that incorporates numerous other styles that it can
still be interesting after 40 odd years. Hey it's not like rock or heavy metal haven't "already been
done" ;-). Prog metal is heavier and more riff oriented if that's what you prefer, but whatever floats
your boat :-).
For those who dig modern proggers such as Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Arena, Marillion, The Tangent, Spock's Beard and Neal Morse, but also for those who are fond of certain 70s symphonic prog acts such as Yes and Genesis.
Also, best thread ever and great review, posd.
No, I think I came back from the dead like a couple of weeks, I believe. I was literally away for months, so I was very sorry to leave you hanging on your shoutbox message, I did not see it until I returned.
I am glad you are still here, because this site is quickly degenerating, we need wise people to shed lights to some of these kids.
Thanks for the kind words, Zettel. I think the site is still in good health. It's just that we miss the presence of couple of good users in BigHans, Nagrarok, RedSkyForMiles, Inveigh, Irving, you Zettel =] and couple more.