Review Summary: Thirty years late to the party
When a band first forms, it is usually in the shadow of a bigger star. A popular band creates a spark; the group of kids jamming their favorite albums in their mom’s garage end up deciding to write new material in vein of what they’ve been annoying their neighbors with for the past few weeks. And if this scenario held true for the boys who came together to write Space Revolver
, they were originally baffling their parents with learning to play King Crimson, Yes, or maybe even some Gentle Giant on guitar. As a result, The Flower Kings sound like a 70's orchestral prog band stuck in modern times. Using the third millennia’s astonishing jump in production and recording technology, they write massive epics of dynamic progressive rock, coupled with the obligatory time signatures that even mathematicians couldn’t rationalize. The whirlwind of sounds they unleash on Space Revolver
would have been just as enticing as any of the other bands doing it at the height of the scene come the mid-70's, were it not thirty years late to the party. And before you start question why the *** a release date would have such an effect on how good an album is, let us digest what The Flower Kings are doing here.
Nothing on this album is necessarily bad save for some awful song titles, and this is nicely complimented with a surplus of very sweet and beautiful melodies. Throughout the assault of shifting meters, you can’t help but smile when one hits home and it’d be hard-pressed to make it through the overstretched run-time without finding your cup of tea. But hey, that’s one of the biggest faults of the album… its way too damn long. It doesn’t help that it’s bookended by two massive tracks that have me glancing at my watch halfway through each, not because I don’t like what I’m hearing but because I have an attention span like most living things do. Sadly it’s no longer the 70’s, and in an age where the average single runs shorter than a walk to the nearest bathroom, Space Revolver
gets to be hugely demanding.
This is where many will argue “but SpaceMan, prog songs are supposed
to be long”. Well the problem is The Flower Kings seem to believe that too, and forsake actual album flow in order to meet that criteria. It bothers me how much potential this album actually has, because songs like “A King’s Prayer” are absolutely fantastic; vocals that sit miles above most in the genre coincide beautifully with the musicianship that is holding them in suspension. Yet once the longer passages of songs like the first track begin to unravel, I’m left questioning whether or not they’ve actually progressed past the mistakes of 70s prog: unjustified wankery is almost impossible to swallow. It’s made even worse when the band seems to rely on the gimmick of shock value of proficient instrumentation, as this is the kind of stuff that blew your parents away thirty years ago. Just like how the teenage grandkids who have watched The Blair Witch on their iPhones in the middle of the woods won’t be scared by a movie like Nosferatu, The Flower Kings can’t expect to win us over when we’ve presumably played Close to The Edge on a surround-sound stereo.
Despite the issues that surround time and timing, this album is still impressive. Some pockets of writing are just awe striking and everyone plays their role unrivaled in today’s rock. The gorgeous harmonies of singing are clear standouts and will ultimately be what keeps your patience. If you are a fan of prog then you’ll appreciate what Space Revolver
has to offer, but it’ll be overshadowed by the classics you hold close in your heart. If you are new to the genre then back away slowly, there are much better albums to lose your virginity to.