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The Flower Kings - Desolation Rose CD (album) cover


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

3.98 | 559 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I've decided that it's a good idea not to write reviews after only a couple of listens to an album. Not that I usually do, but I am always in the mindset of writing a review these days when I listen to a new CD, and first impressions are not always so favourable, nor do the favourable ones always last.

I was having a tough time getting into this one. It's my fifth FK purchase after "Banks of Eden", "Space Revolver", "Back in the World of Adventures", and "Stardust We Are" and I was really experiencing a feeling of diminishing returns. After "Space Revolver" the debut sounded good but it seemed that most new ground had been broken in the beginning and there was not much that could be called progress on subsequent releases. "Stardust We Are" is to me not very exciting with only three or four tracks getting repeat plays. Much of the album sounds like the band is just treading water. The PA rating for "Desolation Rose" is pretty high and the album is one of only three FK albums to clear 4.00. So, it had to be good, right?

Well, certainly there is a lot of good music on the album. The Flower Kings are no slouches. Listening to the album for the fifth time as I write, it's starting to sound pretty decent. The problem was that at first I felt that there were no songs that truly stood out. Perhaps every song is very good but there was no lasting feeling of euphoria for me. I've been preparing a playlist to burn to CD, choosing my favourite songs from 2013/2014 releases, and it's been no problem picking choice cuts from IQ, Spock's Beard, Opeth, Haken, and others. But after four complete listens to the whole album and the double disc plus several individual songs, I still wasn't able to find a track that begged to be on a favourites list.

The album and bonus disc include the expected FK ingredients such as hard rocking guitars (which sound the same as they do on the debut, "Space Revolver", and "Banks of Eden"), pop-sounding parts, more complex music, dominant keyboards, and slower lounge jazz-tinged moments along with slow and pretty instrumentals for lead guitar soloing and the odd spacey bit, plus some emotive vocals at times. You can expect to find three or four of these aspects together on many of the songs, creating the impression that the Flower Kings just continue mixing the same ingredients without trying anything new. It seems to me that the band is simply content to repeat the same sounds and styles that they introduced to their albums in the 90's.

That doesn't mean a first time buyer won't be impressed. There are many fine moments throughout the album and most songs have their moments of heightened enjoyment. "Tower One" is perhaps THE track to spin though there's nothing new here, and "White Tuxedos" deserves mention for being the most different-sounding track on the album, mostly because of the distorted vocals and the spy-movie-like guitars. In fact, this was the first song off the album to make a spontaneous play in my head at work, demanding a replay on my music player for my ride home.

I noticed some songs include lyrics from others, indicating a concept in the works. The line about "silent graveyards" shows up on three different songs! This repeating of lyrics in different songs doesn't help to diminish the notion that much of the album sounds similar to other parts or indeed the majority of the Flower Kings' catalogue. Could the main album have been like another Transatlantic "Whirlwind"? Is the bonus disc just a collection of mostly short numbers that couldn't be stitched together into longer tracks? It's taken time for me to properly digest everything.

If you decide to get this album, buy the double disc. It'll be like casting a bigger net and catching more fish. You'll still get more of the FK-run-of-the-mill music but there are some highlights on the bonus disc as well. Certainly a very good album for the devout fan and newbie to the Flower Kings. At least that's how I felt this morning when beginning the fifth listen. But now it is starting to take hold in my brain and I am finding "Desolation Rose" is turning out to be actually pretty good. It still doesn't deliver anything new to the FK repertoire but on its own it is rather a fine piece of work. I was going to give it just three stars and then four minus one for lack of progress in sound or adventurousness. But now I think I can push my rating to four stars without reluctance or grudge.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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