Review Summary: A step up from "Banks Of Eden", The Flower Kings' latest offering brings to the table their unique prog rock sound in a cohesive, dark but wonderful album.
As a relative newcomer to the music of Swedish prog-rockers The Flower Kings (TFK), I was thrilled to find out that they released a new album called “Desolation Rose”. I had seriously enjoyed their previous release “Banks Of Eden” (B.O.E.), discovering that their music has a lot of exciting features; very melodic songs with a beginning and an end with virtuoso musicianship without it getting in your face to much (like for instance Dream Theater). These guys seem to be able to write prolific songs that they perform very convincingly without it coming across as super proggy perse. The slick production definitely helps in this department; it makes the music pretty accessible and almost sound poppy in my ears, especially if you compare it to more alternative sounding progressive music like Opeth or Steven Wilson’s solo outings of the last few years.
The album is comparable to “B.O.E.” in both sound and the overall high quality of the songs. The opening song “Tower ONE” is again the longest song on the album but being darker and harder to fathom, it’s a less convincing start of the album than “Numbers” from “B.O.E.”. However, with the whole album being pretty dark it is a logical point to start. The next few songs are less challenging but still need repeated listens to fully enjoy. I like that sort of thing!
There’s a lot on show here with very dynamic songs (“Sleeping Bones”) and amazing riffs and melodies combined in well crafted compositions (“Desolation Road”, “White Tuxedos”). There’s some hints here and there to the previous album with the resonator vocal effect on “White Tuxedos” reminiscent of the vocal style of “Pandemonium” from “B.O.E.” and the layout of the title song somewhat comparable to “For The Love Of Gold”.
I’m a bit ambivalent towards the middle part of the album (at the moment of writing) where the progression in a couple of songs seems a bit forced. “Resurrected Judas” for instance, starts off with a slow and somewhat boring verse and chorus, followed by a more interesting, uptempo, instrumental midsection with a nice guitar solo, only to end again with the boring stuff. The track also suffers from some mediocre lyrics:
“Different kind of creatures”
“has entered state of play”
“In the kingdom of the great unknown”
“they move without a trace”
It sounds OK but as far as I know it’s incorrect English and I simply don’t understand it.
“Silent Masses” starts out fine with a nice uptempo verse which really breaks open in the start of the chorus. However, the track suffers from some corny melody lines here and there (especially in the repeated choruses) and again a seemingly forced build-up of the song.
The album really picks up again with “Last Carnivore”, an uptempo rocker with a nice mid section dominated by a fantastic guitar solo. “Dark Fascist Skies” is a hard rocking tune with again a great guitar solo, this time aggressive and, just like on the previous song, totally complementing the song and adding to the overall progression of the track. These songs work great and flow effortlessly into one another.
The album slows it’s fast pace and ends with a successful ballad and a reprise of the title track. TFK ultimately go out with a bang though, with a terrific all band crescendo ending, complete with choir and Roine Stolt screaming his heart out. This “grand finale” is nice because it reminds you that this is just a bunch of guys playing their instruments, very much adding to the organic feeling that the album already possesses.
TFK is a very interesting band with a unique sound that is not particularly special in terms of instrumentation or vocal style but the sound is still very much their own. It’s not easy to pin down what makes them stand apart so much and it’s hard to come up with another band that sounds like them. I think it has to do with the very original approach they have on song writing in general but it’s also got a lot to do with the super clean production and not in the last place with the obvious Scandinavian accent of the vocalist(s), giving the whole sound some sort of exotic “coating”
With “Desolation Rose” TFK have managed to please me again. I like the album a little bit more than “B.O.E.” mainly because the songs are a bit darker and the album as a whole is slightly more cohesive. The fact that the longest (opening) track is “only” 13 minutes long helps to keep the album more together and in my book that’s a good thing. The band can sound a little dorky here and there but in the end TFK are just a very likeable group of musicians; even their most bombastic pieces of music don’t sound like they’re showing off. The mere musicality that’s involved in their last two releases makes me come back to these albums again and again.