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Roine Stolt - The Flower King  CD (album) cover

THE FLOWER KING

Roine Stolt

 

Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 198 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I already knew that Roine Stolt is a helluva guitarist but until I heard this album I had no earthly idea how incredibly multi-faceted he is. I've collected quite a few of The Flower Kings' CDs over the last year and really like what Tomas Bodin contributes to that band on keyboards so when I read that he's nowhere to be found on this disc I had some trepidation about how it would sound in that department. Well, knock me over with a feather! I didn't miss him a bit. In fact, this recording is on a par with the best that Roine's subsequent group has ever created and that's saying quite a lot. And if you're a guitar player or even merely a fan of the instrument you owe it to yourself to indulge your senses in what I consider one of the finest displays of axe virtuosity I've ever witnessed. "The Flower King" is an inspired, well-thought-out presentation of work that never becomes predictable or devoid of feeling. I am amazed.

The album's namesake tune starts out simply but soon blossoms as it settles into a strong rock groove consisting of only Stolt and his gifted drummer Jaime Salazar, yet it comes off as cohesive as a tightly- knit combo of individuals that have been honing their craft together for years. Roine's thinly veiled homage to the Son of God is admirably amplified in the stirring, positive lyrics of the verses and the highly memorable chorus topped off by Hasse Froberg's distinct tenor. A fiery guitar riff opens the solo segment of the song and here you're treated to the first of many fantastic rides from Stolt that you'll encounter along the way. The tune travels through an exciting evolution that culminates in an awesome, suspense-filled passage that will make the hairs on your noggin bristle. Roine truly understands the overall concept of and how to carefully construct a symphonic progressive rock epic as he transports you to a towering climax that leaves you breathless. Wow and double wow.

"Dissonata" follows and it's far from being a let-down after that extravaganza. The number's tight and intense 5/4 time signature roars down the road with you in the sidecar as densely layered keyboards create a backdrop for Stolt's penetrating vocals. He speaks as one who has learned to be harmless as a dove but keen as a fox when dealing with the record industry fat cats when he sings "Smile when you face suspect, corrupt, degenerate merchants of melody" and "You can count me out from your silly games 'cause I'm not your stupid toy." The song includes another stellar guitar ride that doesn't overstay its welcome as it draws you into an extended melodic interlude that never gets boring for a nanosecond. The expert arrangement couldn't be better. What follows is "The Magic Circus of Zeb," an instrumental that not only introduces percussionist Hans Bruniusson as he takes a turn on the drumkit but treats you to a bright, upbeat melody line. When the song breaks down into a half-time section Roine delivers a gut-wrenching guitar solo that is so emotional that it literally brings tears to my eyes. (I was a guitarist for many years and I can tell you that this kind of fervent, heart-to-fingers playing is truly a rare talent that few are blessed with.) It is devastating and it exaggerates what distinguishes this mostly one-man show from most others of that ilk in that he allows spontaneity to thrive within his meticulously structured compositions.

After experiencing those three monster tunes, a calming change-of-pace is in order and Stolt delivers with a restful few minutes of serenity in "Close Your Eyes," a graceful love song that could be directed toward either his messiah or his lady love. "The Pilgrim's Inn (Part 1 & 2)" is another instrumental piece that starts off with smooth Mellotron flutes before politely ushering in Ulf Wallander on soprano sax, providing a new dimension to the proceedings. Part 1 sports a lively, jazzy atmosphere and more superb guitarisms from Roine's fluid fingers while Part 2 features gorgeous acoustic guitars leading to a crush of sound that swallows you up in the song's grandiose exit. "The Sounds of Violence" has a distinct ELP vibe about it with some respectable organ playing as Jamie Salazar returns to dazzle you with his stick work. As always, the song is melody-driven and the beautiful resolution at the end is a joy to behold.

The nearly 21-minute, 6 movement suite called "Humanizzimo" is the album's most ambitious undertaking and it succeeds often on many different levels. "Twilight Flower" opens things up with another dose of Mellotron flute, a tight rhythm track and Stolt issuing a subtle warning that you must be mindful to "hold on to your love/'cause suddenly it's all over." (Truer words were never sung.) "The Messenger" employs a somewhat annoying polka-like beat that's a little too brittle for me (it doesn't go on too long so no permanent harm results) as he relates that "deep down you know well/when you're doing wrong/you'd rather be a saint/but then temptation is too strong." Next comes "The Nail" which is big and enveloping in scope, is the most impressive demonstration of his skill on keyboards so far and contains the loftiest of spiritual sentiments you'll encounter. "Only Human" has an unmistakably Yes- ish, full12-string aura about it and the depth of field he builds is astounding. "Even if the spirit fly/and voices of arc angels passing by/we're puzzled by the speed of life." he sings. "This is the Night" starts out with a cavernous cathedral organ (Roine knows exactly how to tug at the strings of my prog heart) that interacts with Wallander's soprano sax in a stately dance. "The River of Love" features a deep bass resonance that rattles your bones as he wraps up this epic with a surprisingly quiet ending. It's not without some sand traps in the fairway but you've gotta give him props for attempting such a challenging endeavor.

"Scanning the Greenhouse" is a rockin,' no-holds-barred track that serves as a brilliant closer in that it encompasses all of the elements that make this such a majestic album. When the final note decays into the ether you're left with absolutely no doubt that Stolt is a master musician who truly "believes in the love" with all of his being. This whole project is a sincere statement of personal faith and belief that is astonishing in its open, honest approach and very appealing whether you acknowledge his religious views or not. What it definitely ain't is preachy.

No wonder Roine was able to ride upon the swift momentum created by this CD and proceed to form a permanent group called "The Flower Kings" that would go on to produce hours and hours of high-quality progressive music for a long time to come. I can think of no better way to introduce one's consciousness to his inventive and unique aural art than by way of this impressive album of songs. You'll be hard pressed to find better symphonic prog anywhere in the world.

Chicapah | 5/5 |

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