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The Flower Kings - Desolation Rose CD (album) cover


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

3.99 | 531 ratings

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Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Swedish prog rockers The Flower Kings are at it again! This group has been together since the early 90s, but they have recently come soaring back into the prog scene. Last year, they released the critically acclaimed "Banks of Eden", but have decided to release another album in just a one year span. This might be worrisome to fans of the band, but The Flower Kings have delivered once again, both musically and conceptually.

The Flower Kings like to call their music "symphonic rock". This is appropriate, as there are loads of influences present, from classic music to 70s metal. However, their sound is surprisingly unique. They tend to have really cinematic melodies that are supplemented by riveting drums and gritty vocals. The result sounds somewhat vintage, but strangely new, too. Indeed, I find the band to be breath of fresh air, even in this masterpiece-laden 2013. "Desolation Rose", then, is different than anything else released this year. The band opted to use several vintage keyboards and amps to record the music, so that the feeling is certainly nostalgic. Yet, the music sounds modern, energetic, and focused. The band opens this album with the epic "Tower One", thirteen minutes of skillfully crafted prog rock that really set the expectations high. But, then they take some different paths, with gorgeous ballads (Silent Graveyards), groovy tunes (Sleeping Bones), and even some rather vulgar, but on point tracks (White Tuxedos).

However, there are three specific observations I have about this album. First of all, the album is very connected and whole. We hear some of the same lyrics and melodies a few times through the album. Some might call this lazy, but I say that it is a mature approach to creating a cinematic piece. The Flower Kings have a point they want to make, and they make it, but also provide summaries along the way. Secondly, this album has a very ominous feeling to it overall. Especially on "White Tuxedos" and "Dark Fascist Skies" (obviously), the music is dark, dreary, and weary, but mysteriously energetic and nostalgically groovy. I think much of that has to do with Roine Stolt's vocals, as they are gritty, raw, and varied. They do sound vintage at points, or sometimes they are heavily distorted. Third, both the connected and ominous feelings are there for a reason, as the album has a defined concept. According to their press kit, the concept revolves around an angel in a tower that is looking down on the desperate state of man and the mess they've made. It specifically focuses on the people that have caused the mess with their greed, power, and evil hearts. In the end, this comes off as a pointed social commentary with which I happen to identify and agree.

Now, all of this wouldn't matter a bit if the album weren't performed well. Stolt's vocals are great, though he is a bit limited in the higher ranges. However, he is well complemented by the fantastic rocking drums that are full of super fills and great hooks. The guitars are dramatic and almost sing like harps at times, a testament to the skills here. The plethora of vintage keys in play are also a welcome sound, as we get Hammond organs, but also synth. It's a great mix that provides lots of variety. Lastly, I must comment on the bass guitar. I am getting so excited about the level of skill bassists are showing nowadays. Gone are the days of inaudible, simplistic bass lines. The bass on this album has been added to my list of amazing bass performances of 2013, and may even top it. The bass is pulsating, always driving the music to greater heights, climatic moments, and sweeping and powerful transitions. I can't even imagine the finger work involved here.

The Flower Kings have indeed scored again this year. Two albums released within a year of each other, but the music is still incredible. I personally find this release more focused, more collaborative, and more sensitive to subtlety and deftness. It's incredibly heavy mood- wise, but will certainly win over the prog rock crowd with its instrumental fireworks.

Second Life Syndrome | 5/5 |


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