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The Flower Kings - Look at You Now CD (album) cover


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

3.67 | 96 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Flower Kings, it's fair to say, are a prog institution by this point. To put it in context, it's some 29 years since they formed as the touring group for Roine Stolt's The Flower King solo album; if you jump back to 29 years before that you reach 1965, still a few years before anyone recorded anything you could plausibly call prog.

In other words, the span of time when prog was a thing but the Flower Kings didn't exist yet is now smaller than the span of time when their music has been part of the prog landscape. Are there still Yes, Genesis, and Gentle Giant touchstones in their music? Yes, of course there is, but it feels like for a while now the group have primarily been working on the basis not of "Does this sound like our influences?" and more "Is this right for a The Flower Kings track?", and generally speaking that's led to good results. Is it really retro-prog any more when the primary thing the music reminds you of is the performers' own work?

That's certainly interesting to ponder here, an album recorded with a reduced lineup due to the band's personnel shifts since By Royal Decree. Zach Kamins, who's been on keyboards since Waiting For Miracles, and longstanding bassist Jonas Reingold are out, and in fact the full-time band is as narrowed-down and lean as it's ever been, consisting just of Roine, his brother Michael, Hasse Fröberg on vocals, and Mirko Demaio on drums.

As with Roine Stolt's Manifest of an Alchemist solo album (which was arguably a "Flower Kings by other means" project, coming out under the "Roine Stolt's The Flower King" name), I'm reminded of the solo work of his Transatlantic bandmate Neal Morse (albeit there's much less of a penchant for epics here), in part because of the influences from musical theatre and gospel, in part because this largely boils down to Roine being a multi-instrumentalist and the other core members and a plethora of guests providing key backing tracks.

This go around it works, but I don't know how long it can be sustained, especially if the gang want to do much in the way of touring. It's notable that whilst the brothers Stolt handle the bulk of the keyboards in Kamins' absence, Lalle Larsson does provide synths on two tracks (Dr. Ribedeaux and Scars), both of which benefit appreciably from Lalle's touch, and Larsson has now joined the group as their full-time keyboardist, so I will be interested to hear what comes of that particular adjustment. Larsson, of course, is the keyboardist from Karmakanic, part of the Flower Kings extended family, so it's perhaps no surprise that he's able to make useful, Flower Kings-y contributions fresh out of the gate.

For the most part, the album continues the tendency in the most recent run of Flower Kings material (from the end of the 2013-2018 hiatus onwards) to focus on shorter tracks, though the closing title track breaks the 11 minute mark - the first to do so since Tower One on Desolation Rose. Perhaps a return to the epic is in the offing? We'll just have to see then - but if I "look at you now", Flower Kings, I see a group which seems to be keeping up a healthy steam of momentum.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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