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The Flower Kings - Banks Of Eden CD (album) cover

BANKS OF EDEN

The Flower Kings

 

Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 605 ratings

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lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The supreme protagonists of modern symphonic prog return with Banks of Eden, following a fairly lengthy hiatus instigated by founder and main man Roine Stolt. I love this band, and this release was one of the promised highlights of 2012. Of course, the question that always needs to be answered is: was it worth the wait?

Well, an emphatic yes is the answer. In fact, I would go as far as to state that this is the band's most satisfying work since my personal favourite, Stardust We Are, and, indeed, probably replaces that album for me as the recommendation I would give to newcomers to the band as to where to start to explore their catalogue.

There are two versions of the album. A single cd, and also a two disc version. I purchased the latter, but I will concentrate, in the main, on the single version.

There is the absolutely obligatory TFK epic track to start proceedings off, the twenty five minute plus Numbers. It is a mark of the quality of this great band that this flows beyond mere time, and is a track which ranks amongst the finest they have ever released. It is noticeably darker than much of what they have produced in the past, not that it is gothic or doom laden, but certainly has a cutting edge both musically and lyrically that I find fascinating. It is a symphonic masterpiece, with the urgent guitar work of Stolt and Froberg, especially, taking this piece to incredible heights, and to say that this is amongst Jonas Reingold's most important bass work for this band is merely to emphasise just how good the master is. To my mind, he replaced Squire as progressive rock's most important bass player a number of years ago. Lyrically, this is about a search for meaning, for truth, for the nature of our inner self, and this is, of course, a theme the band have addressed before. There are some lovely harmonies, and Froberg, especially, rises to the occasion admirably. The only real complaint I have is that it is over before you know it - how often do you say that about a track the length of an old vinyl LP?

The epic track, in addition to the whole album, also avoids the somewhat annoying noodling and jazzy experimentation that have, in my opinion, marred some of their other works. There has, clearly, been a conscious decision here to return to what they do best, and that is pulsating and sound laden symphonic prog.

So, as to the rest. A let down? Not a bit of it. For The Love of Gold is quite simply a joyous, upbeat, toe tapping track which should, if there were any justice in the world, be a hit single. Other reviewers have compared this to 1980's Yes. I don't quite see it myself. In fact, in spirit, and execution, it is far more akin to life celebratory tracks from that great band's heyday of Fragile or Close to the Edge, without ever being derivative.

Pandemonium, has at its heart a pulsating rhythm section, with keyboards swirling, and a gorgeous main guitar riff. All in all, a very heavy track, with vocals, in parts, rather reminiscent of some of Hackett's material, and a very political agenda too boot.

For Those About To Drown strikes me as a bit of a throwback to rather earlier TFK works, rather whimsical, but definitely featuring some of the most pulsating and urgent guitar work the band have ever produced, with Roine on top form vocally producing some beautiful lilts.

The final track of the "standard" CD is Rising The Imperial. If anything, this beats the opening epic as the track of the album for me. It was penned by Reingold, although why some regard the high quality as being a surprise because it was written by him strikes me as staggering. Listen to Karmakanic, folks, then you will know. Lush, melodic, and really quite sumptuous, I adore this track, and I know that all of you who like their prog to emote and flow will do too.

Okay, that is the main event. The bonus cd is not up to the same standard, I am afraid. Not that it is bad at all. It just suffers from not being as good as the first, and here is the one criticism that can fairly be levelled at this great band. Sometimes they just don't know when to stop. Having said that, the first track, Illuminati, is fantastic, a guitar based piece (and the playing is melodically sublime), backed by some really lovely sampled keys, all rather suggestive of a Stolt does Floyd moment.

So, to rating. This rating is for the main cd only, not the two disc version. This album is quite brilliant, and a real fillip for those of us who rather feared we would never, ever, hear from the band again, because I have to say that they really are better as the sum of their parts, rather than apart. Of course, this comment can also be applied very strongly to the band who influenced them the most.

If we had such a rating, 4.5 stars for this, a truly excellent album which is a joy to listen to. No flaws as such, it is just that the three other tracks do not quite match up to the bookend pieces - they are only excellent!

4 stars. An excellent addition to any prog collection, and very, very, highly recommended.

lazland | 4/5 |

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