Review Summary: The Flower Kings take a small step in the right direction.
The Flower Kings were on good track when they first made Back in the World of Adventures. All they had to do was improve their sound and add some much darker and moodier elements into the equation. Without their own knowing that mission, they took one step further to success a year after their first album with their second studio album, Retropolis.
The material that was delivered in this album had already begun to sound a little darker and prophetic, taking more of a concept approach to the album. Some of the songs began to take to the futuristic device, which worked exceptionally well with King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King. The new question would be this: would it work with this album? It certainly didn’t hurt the album much. In fact, it benefited the content of the album quite a bit. It gave the darker material more flavor, mood, and uncertainty while it uplifted the brighter tracks even higher in attitude. However, there was a little less traditional content in this album than their 1st effort, which could have helped Retropolis be a little more interesting.
Another great factor about this work in comparison with the first Flower Kings album is that some the elements used in the first album have stayed. What’s even better is that they have started to be refined and textured, making the album sound more magical, enjoyable, unique, savory, and worthwhile. Some of the continued themes in this album include modern prog ballads, impressionistic solos, and highly diverse journeys. Another newcomer to the equation of musical content is jazz. Although it’s obscure, it should still be slightly noticeable throughout the album.
In certain cases, there are times when the album’s content is once again questionable, the same it was in the Back in the World of Adventures. Examples include Rhythm of Life and Silent Sorrow. With Silent Sorrow, it sounded as if Roine Stolt was taking a little less effort on the vocals. In that case, it wasn’t as fun or as great as the rest of the album. As for Rhythm of Life, I am still not so sure what happened during the making of that song. It’s just a bunch of random sounds and the phrase “rhythm of life” said three times, which is just plain weird. Hopefully, they don’t much more of this, for that matter. It simply explains that the Flower Kings are not the suitable artists for psychedelic prog rock.
Not much has changed about each of the band members. They still play relatively the same way they’ve usually played from Back In the World of Adventures. However, there is still room to back off a little more from playing solos. It’s not that they sound bad, but that they are almost overpowering the essential elements of the music, which is the general background music. There was a slight lack of balance there, so if they hold back on guitar, drum, or keyboard solos, and focus a little more on the overall power of the music itself. However, if there’s anything better about what any certain member did in this album, it would have to be Roine Stolt’s guitar playing in this album. He has refined his playing and puts more zing, brilliance, radiance, and revelry into his work. He also sounds more vocally stable than in the last album.
In terms of each song, there are less signs of reminiscence than in the last album, and more new sub-areas of prog rock incorporated into each of them. Songs like Retropolis, Flora Majora , and Rhythm of the Sea start to dive deeper into the boundaries of Avant, Symphonic, and Neo-Classical prog with the addition of more Jazz Fusion, areas that the Flower Kings didn’t discovered earlier in their band career. The best part about this is that it’s only benefiting the album and not negatively affecting the album. In other words, it gives the album a little more flavor.
In the end, most of what the Flower Kings did from their first album into the second had a pretty smooth transition and sounded better than before. They continued the proper usage of new modern prog elements and added new ones. They also lost some the traditional prog content that was enjoyable from their previous work, along with the addition of some odd sounding music. And what was lost would be gained from their ring leader, Roine Stolt, who also improved his leadership and musicianship, which would become even more noticeable in the future Flower Kings installment, Stardust We Are. To conclude, what the Flower Kings did in Retropolis was a small step in the right direction.