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The Flower Kings - Back In The World Of Adventures CD (album) cover

BACK IN THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES

The Flower Kings

 

Symphonic Prog

4.04 | 441 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars It seems to me the group known as The Flower Kings started the day that Roine Stolt wisely enlisted the multifaceted services of the highly-talented keyboard man Tomas Bodin. Therefore this album is their official debut. And what an astounding debut it is! It's one of those CDs that just keeps on getting better and better with every spin and no band ever put together a better introductory showcase of their talents than these guys did with this recording. There's not a weak link in the chain of musicians involved and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this album to those who have yet to investigate the symphonic prog offerings of this Swedish juggernaut.

The album's namesake, "The World of Adventures," drifts in like a sneaky, dark shadow before spotlights illuminate the room in the form of Roine's sledgehammer guitar and dense, stacked vocals cleverly fashioned into a tongue-in-cheek 50s Sci-fi kind of nostalgic motif. Stolt's aptitude for melody becomes evident very quickly as the memorable verse/chorus that includes the tell-tale line of "we're children of the Woodstock nation/lost in peace and contemplation" rings out in three-part harmony. There's an effortless flow running through this song that incorporates the big bass tone of Michael Stolt, screaming guitar rides from Roine and the incredible soundscapes being created by Bodin. It's a fun tune and the grandiose finale doesn't disappoint. "Atomic Prince/Kaleidoscope" follows and they're complimentary instrumentals that are masterful. The former features a very enlightening synthesizer theme and fluid Alan Holdsworth-ish guitarisms layered over Jaime Salazar's crisp drumming. The number emphasizes the band's skillful manipulations of dynamics in their arrangements and Tomas' Mellotron and flute towards the end creates a gorgeous effect that inspires visual images of snowflakes falling through naked trees. The latter air is a serene acoustic guitar gem that shows just how versatile Roine Stolt is. Short but very, very sweet.

My favorite prog time signature is 7/8 so it's no shock that I'm crazy about "Go West Judas," a true hard rocker that has a driving guitar/bass riff based on that foundation. Once again Salazar shows his prowess on the drum kit, Stolt delivers a blistering guitar solo that will rip your head right off your shoulders and the sharp-edged, acrid lyrics never let up in their pointed incriminations. After that roiling stampede one could use a break and the softer ballad, "Train to Nowhere," is the perfect stress- reliever. Roine delivers a heartfelt, emotional vocal here backed by thick harmonies and Bodin's understated mix of Mellotron, piano and organ gliding underneath would be a shame to overlook. What follows is a trio of instrumentals beginning with the jazzy "Oblivion Road" that introduces the velvet tones of a soprano sax to the proceedings performed by future member Ulf Wallander as he soars gracefully over a very subtle jam session. At times this group can get a little "out there" when they step into the jazz rock/fusion realm but this time they resist the urge to overindulge and the result is just right.

"Theme for a Hero," with its Chris Squire-like bass riff charging out of the gate, is yet another example of why I consider these guys to be one of the "masters of melody." There's a stream of musical ideas steadily rushing by here like a river in spring that never ceases to thrill me. It's just one of many highlights on the album. Next, Tomas gets his own moment to shine on the impressive "Temple of the Snakes," a blink-and-you'll-miss-it piece involving nothing but synthesizers that leads seamlessly into one of the best examples of FROG (funky prog) music in existence, the dance-inducing "My Cosmic Lover." This is one smokin' hot cut with the rhythm section of Jaime and Michael laying down an unforgettable groove that won't quit. Roine turns in one of his strongest vocals on the disc and, just when you think it's getting to be predictable, Wallander wanders in with more flash from his soprano sax. If you were putting together a collection of prog dance tunes for a party this one just might have to be the opener. But don't worry, purists, disco it ain't.

"The Wonder Wheel" is a bit of a curve ball. Its beautiful but sad, melancholy mood is an unexpected musical gift that slowly builds to a passionate crescendo over a haunting, ominous drum beat. I glossed over this track the first couple of listens but eventually slowed down long enough to finally appreciate its delicate nuances. Another extended cut, "The Big Puzzle," brings up the rear with a bluesy atmosphere wherein Roine sings cryptic lamentations like "don't know where we're coming from/don't know where we're going to/another trick of evolution/into the cosmic revolution" before the band nudges the tempo upward for a lengthy instrumental segment where they tactfully go through near-constant changes without resorting to repeating the same themes over and over. There's a supercharged guitar ride that's not to be missed and a surprisingly peaceful coda that make this song, while not a classic, a worthwhile journey to go on.

I rate this album right up there with the engaging "The Sum of All Evil" and the inconsistent but at times absolutely brilliant "Stardust We Are" and that is saying a lot, my friends. Just a few of the many things I love about The Flower Kings is their boldness, variety and versatility and this CD is a fine example of those traits. I can't think of a better introduction for the adventurous newcomer to their brand of symphonic prog and it's an obvious must-have for all their fans. Not quite a masterpiece, but damned close to it. 4.4 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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