Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


The Flower Kings

Symphonic Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Flower Kings Retropolis album cover
3.75 | 609 ratings | 47 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1996

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Rhythm of Life (0:28)
2. Retropolis (11:08)
3. Rhythm of the Sea (6:13)
4. There Is More to This World (10:07)
5. Romancing the City (0:54)
6. The Melting Pot (5:49)
7. Silent Sorrow (7:38)
8. The Judas Kiss (7:39)
9. Retroplis by Night (3:06)
10. Flora Majora (6:49)
11. The Road Back Home (8:57)

Total Time 68:48

Line-up / Musicians

- Roine Stolt / lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Tomas Bodin / piano, Hammond organ, Mellotron, synths, effects, mixing
- Michael Stolt / bass
- Jaime Salazar / drums (except 10), percussion
- Hasse Bruniusson / drums (10), percussion

- Hasse Fröberg / vocals (4,7)
- Ulf Wallander / soprano saxophone (6,11)

Releases information

Artwork: Per Äleskog

CD Foxtrot Records ‎- FOX CD 016 (1996, Sweden)
CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 050 (1999, Europe)
2CD Inside Out (2006, Germany) Box release together with "Back in the World of Adventures"

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy THE FLOWER KINGS Retropolis Music

More places to buy THE FLOWER KINGS music online

THE FLOWER KINGS Retropolis ratings distribution

(609 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE FLOWER KINGS Retropolis reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars If the title track was not there this would be a farce of prog . This is well played but every bit seems to be borrowed from the 70's giants. Did you say plagiarism ? This title track is ELP-ish , the next two remind you of UK meets Yes but in the 3rd provincial league of progball! And so on....... Not one second of this album sounds as if it might be coming from them!

This got good reviews as it came out of this Swedish boom of the 90's . I wonder how this will fare twenty years later. One could call this reto-prog without a problem. What gets me the most is that they do not seem even enthusiaitic at what they do! they just seem to go through the motions.

I saw them in Verviers the first time they came around and they were not able to reproduce the title track correctly on stage , I had understood and suffered the rest of the concert. If I remember well , this was the very first prog concert at the Spirit of 66 in Verviers and now , this has been the temple of prog for Belgium for about 8 years.

Review by loserboy
5 stars Here was one of my fav's from '96 and remains to this day a household favorite with repeated plays in my CD player. Roine and the boys here "outdid" themselves blending some of the most powerful progressive rock ever compiled. Right from the very haunting ping pong introduction of "Rhythm Of Life" to the clever track "Road Back Home", The FLOWER KINGS will keep you simply amazed. Loads of guitar, incredible keyboards and the highest of skilled musicians are the top reason why you should not be without this recording. This is also essential prog!
Review by lor68
3 stars Well honestly I have to remark that FLOWER KINGS have never changed their "Retro-style", seventies oriented, and the sound has never been modern unfortunately. Even though the track "The Meltin Pot" alone makes this work checking out at least, but also the epic monumental intro of the title track, thanks to a remarkable Mellotron and an epic excursion as well by Roine Stolte on the electric guitar, much in the vein of "The Eleventh Earl of Mar" by Steve HACKETT, naturally within the album "Wind and Wuthering'" (the last progressive effort by GENESIS). Instead the track "There is More to this World" is the meeting between ELP and the early GENESIS, a mini-suite which is almost completely derivative. At the end "Flora Majora" is a typical accessible New-Progressive effort, enriched with a good keyboards' solo in the final section, while "Road Back Home" points out the attempt of Roine Stolte of singing in the vein of John Wetton. Recommended, even though it is not completely essential and you could even erase an half star at least!!
Review by progmonster
2 stars At first, a respectfull guy with a little culture and concern about prog might find Flower Kings' "Retropolis" insulting. One should then ask if Stolt thinks people are dumb. But one thing's for sure ; Stolt knows exactly what he's doing. He's a clever guy. He's the Modern Times Messiah for he was the first to notice that the prog community has been slowly transformed in a gigantic and pathetic circus full of strange polymorphic creatures that love to be feeded by the spoon of any kind of stranger, digesting the same food again and again. So, nobody would complain if "Rhythm of the Sea" sounds like John Wetton singing on an unreleased track from Genesis' "Wind & Wuthering". No one would point out that Frank Zappa's "King Kong" main theme as been stolen (on "The Melting Pot" or "Silent Sorrow", my memory fails..). Silence won't be broken even if everybody knows that "There is more to this world" is more Yes sounding than any Starcastle tune. To tell you the truth, with "Retropolis", Roine Stolt achieved what the prog circus really deserves ; more than a pastiche, it is the mirror's faithfull reflection of their ugly faces.
Review by Menswear
3 stars After purchasing Space Revolver, I was convinced that the Flower Kings were (close to) a perfect band. How can you lose with a combination like this? Tasty, agressive guitars, bass guitar lines to die for, extrodinary keyboard work and very pleasant vocals from Stolt....

That's what Space Revolver was...

Now for Retropolis, this is quite different. Here the Kings are wondering which directions they should take. Dream Theater? ELP? Yes? Hard to tell. Yet, I call it an interesting album for mature ears. Because this is going anywhere and everywhere, I could take a while for your ears and brain to acclimate.

Many times the keyboardist Tomas Bodin amazes and steals the show. On Retropolis by Night he gives a refreshing taste of post-acid trance music. The feel of a highway in the style of The Fifth Element could easily pop up in your head. It does in mine.

Apart from the oriental or circus tunes we can experiment, also the need from Solt to share about his religious beliefs can be heard. Is he a christian? We could think that by the hommage to the Mighty Son of Jehovah in The Judas Kiss. Which is quite catchy but overdone in the ceremonial feeling and churchish sounds. But anyway, I don't think Jesus could take that song for a praise to his too short trip on earth.

A real free for all that leaves you on your hunger for mind-blowing prog. Too few good harmonies but overall a bag full of knick-knacks that will please the person who feels to tame a wild and crazy beast.

Absolutely not essential.

Review by Muzikman
4 stars The FLOWER KINGS had a very busy schedule in the year 2000. "Retropolis" (1996) was one of three dazzling studio albums reissued (previously released on Foxtrot Records) by Inside Out Music America that year, the others were "Space Revolver" (2000) and the epic classic "Stardust We Are" (1997). That kind of output quickly garnered them attention as one of the premier progressive rock bands in the world. With such a tremendously solid string of releases in such a short span of time, people began to wonder who these guys were. The live recording "Alive On Planet Earth" (1998, 1999) also was reissued the same year. Inside Out Music America brought a new awareness to the TFK catalog. Anyone with a hint of interest in progressive rock would be drooling in the record bins when looking over the awesome catalog this group has. What makes it that much more unbelievable is the fact that every single album is a prog-rock classic in its own right.

What I found similar with this recording in comparison to others was the ever present consistency of quality musicianship and the appealing mixture of vocal tracks and instrumentals. The eleven minute instrumental opus "Retropolis" unmistakably defines the bands need to give the nod to their influences YES, PINK FLOYD, and so many others that blazed the trail for them to continue on. The futuristic cover art is in direct proportion to their thematic musical journeys (like Roger Dean's YES covers). What was at times subtle, and other times more than obvious to me were the middle-eastern influences in the guitar playing of Roine STOLT. Perhaps I missed that the first time around on previous albums, but it's definitely there. STOLT sounds like ZAPPA doing his best Steve HOWE impression at times. Tomas BODIN is given the green light and free reign with his Hammond and other keyboard effects; I found that aspect more predominant than on any other release. And that factor is due to the mix and sound quality being noticeably different on "Retropolis" as well. From "Stardust We Are" forward there was a change in the way they recorded their music. I am grateful for the opportunity to hear from whence they came and all the developmental phases they went through. You can experience this, too, but only if you work your way through their entire catalog as I have. STOLT's guitar is typically splendid but slightly lower profile than usual, and that in effect brings BODIN and the rest of the group more out front for a discerning listener.

I believe that a remaster of this album would make it brighter and cleaner regarding sound and sonics. Don't get me wrong, this is a great recording. I guess I have come to expect musical perfection in all aspects of a FLOWER KINGS' recordings. These guys are still an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. As the innovators that came before them, they set the standard in the year 2000 and continue to be the group that has been setting the pace for all others to follow beyond the new millennium.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ". and I woke up in the city of Retropolis, a place where the future and the past is constantly morphing into historic hybrids."

I have owned the CD since 1999 when InsideOut released this album that originally was a 1996 release. This album blew me away at my first spin of the CD. But when I look at this site and this album is NOT in the key albums list, I really wonder why? I know that I have to be open with differing views but for this case it seems like there should be no major differences as it's a masterpiece work. Well, as usual, I rarely read what colleague reviewers have put their thoughts here before I post mine. I just want to express my view based on what I think in my head. Once I post this one, I will definitely read what colleague reviewers have said.

This is my track by track review .

"Rhythm of Life" is nothing I can review as this is just a very short opening of human voice with no musical instrument involved, I guess. I just want to ignore it as it lacks its purpose to open the album. The album title song "Retropolis"s opening features symphonic style of guitar followed with a nice transition in the form of string orchestra. The music then turns into a solid passage with excellent bass guitar and stunning guitar solo. The organ fills in the music at background during guitar solo. The organ then takes the lead of solo. The music then turns into quieter passage in avant-garde style before it finally returns back to the original rhythm section. There is a significant jazz influence. The inclusion of Chinese music during transition at the ending part is fantastic. This is a SUPERB tune of the band that has become my all-time favorite since I heard it for the first time. Great composition with variety of moods.

"Rhythm Of The Sea" starts with an ambient sounds in the vein of avant-garde music. The acoustic guitar sound brings the vocal line enters in a mellow style followed with keyboard / piano that sometimes reminds me to Tony Banks (Genesis) but packaged with different style. The lead guitar enters nicely at the background of the music and singing piece. The music is a blend of jazz, blues and rock in relatively slow tempo. The soft piano work [5:09 onward] combined with a soft guitar work is really excellent!

The opening of "There Is More To This World" reminds me to the musical "nuance" of Genesis "Wind and Wuthering" album. (Don't get me wrong: I don't mean that there is any similarity with Genesis, melody-wise or composition-wise). But when the voice enters the music, it's definitely the sound of The Flower Kings music. It provides the right balance of guitar and keyboard solos with great rhythm section of bass guitar and drums (I like the drumming style really!). The ending part of this track is mellow with acoustic guitar and vocal. It turns to full music again but still in slow tempo style.

"Romancing The City" is a very nice and short instrumental outfit heavily influenced by classical music. It's basically a piano solo to serve as a transition piece.

"The Melting Pot" opens nicely with a piano solo followed with a continuous stream of full music led by the soprano to play the tune's melody. Yep, you can guess that it's a jazz influence track. Guitar solo fills the transition piece with a soft sound at the back. I relly enjoy this track especially on the rhythm section that accompanies soprano sole. The keyboard solo continues wonderfully and it is then followed with a stunning guitar solo. Oh my God . what a great composition! There are some chanting in some segments of the tune with male voice. The church organ voice using Hammond C3 has enriched the tune so much. The soprano then brings the music to the end. Superb!

"Silent Sorrow" kicks off in a medium tempo with keyboard and bass line followed with uplifting voice line. Keyboard takes the lead during the opening part of the tune. The duet voice line in the refrain "I'll down in a silent sorrow" is excellent especially it is then followed with a single voice sung differently. The guitar solo starts to roll [2:42] in a bluesy solo continued with voice line. The guitar plays its important role in a rocking solo [3:08 onwards] stunningly! It is augmented by a very dynamic and powerful drumming. Oh man . what a great rocking part here .!! The keyboard continues the solo [4:06] wonderfully with various styles. I love this part, really! The nusic brings us back to the original rhythm with voice line.

Another favorite of mine "The Judas Kiss" starts with a distanced bell sound and suddenly followed with a dazzling Hammond C3 sound that brings the guitar, bass and drums into the music stream. When the voice line enters with "Mother . what's it all about .." with a very unique Stolt singing style, it amazes me on how powerful this opening voice line is. Especially when I observe the bass line that accompanies it. Oh man . a very satisfying musical piece! The lead guitar work that creates the sound at the back is also an excellent outfit. The dogs barking soundscape enriches the nuance of this track. Keyboard plays at the back and provides a symphonic nuance for the tune. At [3:17] the music starts bringing us to the centre of musical orgasm with a very nice instrumental bits, exploring the very soft sound of piano and guitar. At [5:02] the guitar solo demonstrates its rocking style combined with stunning keyboard sounds and effects. Stolt brings his guitar solo in its peak augmented with symphonic keyboard of Bodin. It's so colossal man .. I don't believe any progger cannot enjoy this adrenaline exploding part! Four thumbs up!

"Retropolis By Night" is a spacey musical exploration with chanting and African music background mixed thinly at the back. As an individual track, there is nothing special with this track but it serves really well to support the whole music of the album.

"Flora Majora" is an instrumental piece exploring keyboard / organ at the beginning, backed up with powerful drumming. The guitar solo continues the melody and it is later combined with keyboard. It is performed in medium tempo. The music turns fully symphonic in the middle of the track. I enjoy the combination of guitar and keyboard work. The rhythm section with bass guitar and drums are also excellent. This is not a track that will make my adrenaline heating up but it's still an excellent track!

"The Road Back Home" starts off with an acoustic guitar rhythm followed with a duet male voice in a mellow style. The music moves in a crescendo but still maintaining the slow tempo - followed with great soprano work (Ulf Wallander; guest musician).At the end of soprano the music continued with a bluesy guitar work and continued again with soprano. At [4:21] the organ brings the music into an uplifting mood that let keyboard solo enters the music into a more enjoyable part. It's an excellent track.

Overall Recommendation

When I reviewed the compilation CD of "Scanning The Greenhouse" last week, I did mention: "It's a masterpiece compilation of prog tracks from the band's finest selection even though there are still many great tracks of the band that are not included in this CD.". And by now, you know that I put a vast majority of tracks in this album with a "high" points. That proves my statement that "there are still many great tracks ." that could not be made under a single compilation CD. And for this album, it's definitely a masterpiece with a 4 ¾ out of 5 stars rating. I want to leave out the ¼ for the "Rhythm of Life" and "Retropolis by Night" that do not deserve a full five stars, I think. The Flower Kings is a powerful prog band. - Keep on progging!

Yours progressively,

GW - Indonesia

Review by hdfisch
3 stars 3,5 stars really!

Though being pure retro prog (already emphasized by its title) this one is after Unfold The Future my second favorite by them I can say. But actually the fact that it sounds like been done in the 70's is not that much surprising because all the songs had been written during that time. Roine Stolt had the idea to record some old material with modern equipment and technique and I would say, that this was quite a brilliant idea and the result was a real excellent album.

The album starts after the short demonstration of the Rhythm Of Life by a ping-pong ball immediately with the best track, the instrumental title song, which is highly diverse in its melodies, rhythms and instruments been used. Roine Stolt and Tomas Bodin are giving their very best here on their instruments and the rhythm section with Michael Stolt and Jaime Salazar is excellent as well. Next highlight is the ballade There Is More To This World with great vocals by Hasse Fröberg and really captivating melodies. They are sounding on this one like an updated version of YES. Another great song is The Judas Kiss which offers quite a lot of contrast: floating melodies and pastoral keyboards versus grooving jazzy guitars. But as well all the rest of songs are really not worse than these ones, offering great melodies some funny sounds like oriental sax tunes, weird percussion, ethnic vocals or the creaking of a sailing ship in Rhythm of the sea.


There is in fact not any weak moment on this album, nevertheless considering its date of release I wouldn't call it an essential in prog necessarily. It would have been for sure if released about 30 years earlier. But without any doubt Retropolis can be highly recommended to any symphonic and retro prog fan. People exclusively looking for innovations might be disappointed by it though.

(Edited 7/27/2006)

Review by chessman
3 stars I have only got into the Flower Kings over the last year, when I picked up two cd's whilst on holiday in America. Until then, they were just a name I had heard. I now rate them very highly. The two cd's I bought then I would put in my top ten of all time - "Flower Power" and "Unfold The Future". So, when a friend of mine offered to lend me "Retropolis", I jumped at the chance, having seen some reviews, and knowing lots of their fans rated it highly. Unfortunately, I found it quite disappointing when compared to the above two. For me, it is too 'rocky' and not 'proggy' enough. Of course, there are extended passages of music, and some longish tracks, but they don't stand out to me enough. I rate Tomas Bodin's keyboard work highly, but on this he tries, I think, to be too elaborate. And Roine Stolt's guitar doesn't sound particularly inspiring here, sounding, in places, like a number of other modern rock types. There are a couple of high points, of course. This is the first album on which Hasse Froberg appears, the man with the Jon Anderson voice. And that is an important part of the sound to me. Consequently, "There Is More To This World" is one of my favourites. It has a nice tempo change halfway through, and packs more melody in its 10 + mins than most of the rest of the album, all together, manages. Surprisingly, I also rate "The Judas Kiss", which, although on the heavy side, does sound impressive, Stolt's guitar showing its power here. The previous track, however, is the weakest on the album, the poppish "Silent Sorrow". Some of the instrumentals lack originality as well, and seem to be just padding out the album, although I did quite like "Flora Majora". All in all though, this is my least favourite album I have heard by this excellent band, although I still have two to purchase yet, "The Rainmaker", and "Adam And Eve". I suspect views on this album are split down the middle, depending on taste. The early fans will rate it highly, the later fans will prefer the more progressive approach taken from "Stardust We Are" onwards. Decent but non-essential.
Review by kunangkunangku
4 stars The beauty of The Flower Kings albums is always full of everything progressive rock fans adore about the genre. There are virtuosity, creativity, dense musical textures, memorable tunes and beautiful and spiritually uplifting lyrics. And fans will also find moments in which they are reminded of the sounds of the first generation progressive rock bands but without questioning them.

The band indeed has a knack to combine great elements from past bands, their influences, and yet come up with their signature sounds. This album is no exception. From the second track, a mighty instrumental, "Retropolis" to the last track "The Road Back Home" we can hear snippets of Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis, Yes and other stuff. But each of them is so unique, with intense and forceful interplays between keyboardist Tomas Bodin and guitarist Roine Stolt, who also showing off magnificent solo passages.

Composition-wise, this album offers powerful songs -- even the shortest cuts, "Rhythm of Life" and "Romancing the City", are so convincing. This is by no means easy listening, but it becomes more rewarding with each attempt. The highlights are "Retropolis", "Rhythm of the Sea", "There Is More to This World", "Silent Sorrow" and "The Judas Kiss". Yes, it is an extravaganza.

This album deserves to be at the same place with the following stronger effort "Stardust We Are" and the beautifully recorded opus "Space Revolver", and therefore is a must- have for progressive rock fans.

Review by Zitro
4 stars 4.4 Stars

The Flower Kings' sophomore effort. They have succeeded in making an album of higher quality to their surprisingly good first album. The style is not very different, and this is not very creative music (except for maybe 'melting pot'). However, this is GOOD MUSIC!!

Retropolis begins the album and is an intense and dynamic instrumental song full of virtuosity. Rhythm of the Sea begins as a nice ballad, but an excellent electric guitar dominates the middle of the song. Ambient music in the end helps lead the next song. "There Is More To This World" is a Genesis-influenced anthemic rocker with memorable vocal melodies and impressive music. Romancing The City is a beautiful classical piano short piece. The Melting Point is one of my favourite Flower Kings songs. It which is later rbegins with a brilliant piano introduction epeated on a bombastic synthesizer. Later, after the strange chanting, an arabic-style solo is played with a saxophone! The piano theme is repeated and after that, a great instrumental section that even has church organs in it finishes the song. A keyboard riff leads the beginning of Silent Sorrow, and after the verses finish, a blueish guitar solo is played and is later transformed into a hard rock one, later Tomas Bodin steals the show with a long keyboard solo. The Judas Kiss is a hard rocker in the style of 'Go West Judas', with powerful vocals by Stolt, church organ playing, and an instrumental section with amazing soloing. Retropolis By Night is a Blade-Runner style instrumental. Flora Majora starts as an good rocker from the Flowers until it reaches an ambient section accompained by a great soloing section. The first solo (with the pedal effect) stands as one of my favourite guitar solos in modern Prog. The Road Back Home concludes the album with an uplifting soft rock sound. This song does not disappoint at all, and has a great climax led by a slow guitar solo.

2. Retropolis (9.5/10) 3. Rhythm Of The Sea (8/10) 4. There Is More To This World (8.5/10) 5. Romancing The City (8.5/10) 6. The Melting Pot (10/10) 7. Silent Sorrow (7/10) 8. The Judas Kiss (8/10) 9. Retropolis By Night (8/10) 10. Flora Majora (7.5/10) 11. The Road Back Home (8.5/10)

This is one of the best Flower Kings albums yet.

My Rating : B+

Review by Moatilliatta
3 stars The title of this one is a good indicator that it is going to have a retro sound. The Flower Kings always had a sound reminiscent of the 70s, but none harkened back so much as this. No clear evolution of sound is apparent from Back in the World of Adventures. It is equally as enjoyable.

The ping-pong intro leads into the albums best instrumental: the title track. It's punchy and powerful. Following it is "Rhythm of the Sea," a nice slower song with a powerful middle section surrounded by a soft, spacey beginning and end. If Jon Anderson did the vocals on "There Is More to This World," they would have you fooled for Yes. Good song though. "The Melting Pot" is another solid instrumental, followed by a couple of rockers, "Silent Sorrow" and "The Judas Kiss," both pretty good pieces with commendable instrumental sections. A couple more instrumentals follow. They end nicely with "The Road Back Home."

The songs are individually solid, but as an album it doesn't bear much cohesion. This album isn't as fun to go through as Back in the World of Adventures; though that was also pretty song-oriented, there was more of a flow. You can start to hear some ideas on this album that are expanded and improved upon in their later albums.

Another enjoyable, albeit derivative album is given to us from The Flower Kings. After this release, Stolt and crew will develop more quirks and experimentality. And by experimentality, I mean with new sounds. The band definitely experiments with different sounds and what not, but most of them are rehashed from their influences. There are no bad spots to point out here. Well, come to think of it, it may be Roine's weakest album vocally. It's a good album, but it's one of the least necessary in The Flower Kings' catalog.

Review by NJprogfan
3 stars Retro it is! The Flower Kings second album is a treasure trove of the giants in prog, i.e. YES, GENESIS, KING CRIMSON, etc. You can listen to this album and make a game of it, trying to guess what band a particular song reminds you of, or to make it even harder, what actual song the melody was taken from. Not to knock Ronnie and the boys, but their sound on this album is still in the infant stage, although I will say the patented Flower Kings sound is encapsalated in the track, "There Is More to This World". A fast paced, positive and bright track that incorporates all that will be heard in the proceeding discs.Their first classic track? I think so. "Judass Kiss" is a close second when it comes to classic Flower Kings, but again you'll hear a smattering of other bands in the mix. By the next album, all comes together. But here, its still a bit of fleshing out their sound. Original or not, it's still a decent album.
Review by Tarcisio Moura
5 stars Retropolis was the first Flower Kings I bought, after hearing a lot about the band. I still think it's a good starting point if you want to know this legendary group. I don't agree with some of the other reviews that say they a a retro band. Ok, there is a lot fo old keyboards, homage to many 70's great, but still their sound is very unique. Roine Stolt is definitly one of the most prolific and gifted songwriters of prog history, and the band members are among the most skilled musicians ever to play prog music.

For the ones who don't know their music, the Flower Kings sound is a mixture of Yes (around the time of Relayer) and King crimson (circa Lark's Tongue in Aspic), with some Frank Zappa experiments in jazz rock\fusion thrown in, plus some small parts of Pink Floyd and Genesis. The music might take some time to sink in, but it's worth it. Complex and very interesting. Sometimes The Flower Kings sound a bit self indulgent (specially in their double studio albums), but on this CD and the first one (Back In the World of Adventures), the music really shines. It's prog music at its best. Retropolis is a classic prog album of the 90's and the one that put the band in the major league.Highly recommended to anyone who likes good and complex music.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars My one and only Flower Kings album, who I only discovered by way of the Tangent, and also because of the glut of reissues of nineties Flower Kings albums over the past few years. The only other one I’ve even heard is ‘Space Revolver’ which I think is superior to this one, but only by a very small margin.

This is one of those bands that is not only relatively modern, but that both my teenage kids and I can listen to. Of course, a big part of that is because their music is seventies throwback which ends up being nostalgic for me and chic for them but - hey, music that brings the family together – one point just for that!

I’ve read lots of places that this band owes a lot to Yes, and there’s definitely a feeling of their latter classic period on the album (“Retropolis”, “The Road Back Home”). This is most apparent with Tomas Bodin’s keyboards that sound much like Patrick Moraz’ work on ‘Relayer’ – or am I the only one that hears “Soon” in “Retropolis”?

There’s a bit of ELP as well (“There is More to the World”), and even some intentional world influences on “The Melting Pot” and “The Judas Kiss”. Also, I’m not a musician so I can’t say what it is, but there’s something in the tone and keyboards of "Rhythm of the Sea" that sounds like ‘Wind & Wuthering’ only without Phil Collins.

The odd thing is that even though there is very little that is new or original here, I really like listening to this album anyway. After hearing this the Tangent make a lot more sense.

“Silent Sorrow” is a very decent tune and largely original tune, and maybe it’s my Scandinavian roots or something, but Stolt’s guitar and vocals here and on “The Road Back Home” fit my ears rather nicely. Sometimes there is something to be said for music that wears like a comfortable shirt.

I can’t say this is a very substantial or innovative album, but who says everything a band does has to break new ground? Granted, this means it’s not an essential masterpiece either, but that’s okay. I’m kind of curious to see how this one holds up over time. I'm giving it four stars with a strong recommendation, simply because unless you are a completely parochial prog purest (say that three times fast...), you are more than likely going to like this album at least a little. And I'm sure I'll buy more Flower Kings.

I just want to get the top 20% or so of everything else on my list first.


Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars I hope that the stupid "Rhythm of Life" which serves as an intro of this album will not set the pace... Where the hell did TFK get the idea of these table-tennis sounds ? I know that this sport is popular in Sweden but to this extent ?

The title track is a TFK classic. Complex as they can be (but holding this tendancy from Yes which I do not complain about). As I have said in my review of their first album, if Yes and ELP are amongst your fave, you have to give TFK a try. When they produce such good tracks, I really like them. It is all symphony and beauty, but all of a sudden, you will be brought to the nicest cacaphony you can think of. But this is also a TM of their masters.

Although it features a weird introduction, "Rhythm of The Sea" is full of the emotion I guess we all love in TFK. It turns as a pure bombastic and beautiful song at half-time. Such beauty is remarkable in their song-writting. I really love TFK during these incredible moments. A highlight here.

One of my fave on this album, will be "There is More to This World". Subtle keys, nice vocal harmonies (as it is usually the case with TFK songs). Roine's crystal clear voice sounds absolutely incredible. He delivers such a beautiful harmony ! This is TFK at his best. At least, this is how I love the band. during these moments, I just close my eyes and listen. And I like it a lot. Of course, the song is almost 100% Yes oriented. But when I discovered TFK I was so pleased to find a band that could still produce new music in a genre that I just could remember from ancient times, when I was young...

"The Melting Pot" is of course Crimsonesque. It is obvious that TFK revisits some of the repertoire of the greatest bands most of us love. You might call it plagiarism. It only brings me back to my youth and I am therefore grateful to TFK to have done so. Le reste, c'est de la littérature. Most of "Retropolis" is a combination of good numbers. "Silent Storm" and "Flora Majora" are other examples (the later being very close again to KC during the first half). TFK sounds really good almost from start to finish on this album. Weak numbers are not too many here (some short ones like the opener of course as well as "Retropolis by Night"). The brilliant "The Road Back Home" closes this album very nicely. This album is not easy listening music. If you would like to sit back comfortably and have an tranquil musical break, I shouldn't recommend "Retropolis" to you. It will transport you in the world of ELP and Yes. But I do not have so many objection to this fact (because it IS a fact) as others do. This album could have skipped some fillers to be a perfect one.

This one is a good effort. Four stars.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The debut of The Flower Kings brought the band to attention and it was followed by some short tours around Europe, growing the band's fame.At the same time a second strike appeared in 1996 with the title ''Retropolis''.The new The Flower Kings' product was again released on Stolt's Foxtrot Records.

If you ask me the title just describes the album perfectly.This is intense, dramatic and melodic Retro/Classic Progressive Rock with a bit of Neo Prog twists here and there and it is executed in a great way.Highlighted by Stolt's very warm and deeply personal guitar playing, ''Retropolis'' is once more based on the heavy YES vibes, including weird and abnormal orchestrations, strong breaks, virtuosic passages and refined melodies with a very rich and atmospheric sound.The arrangements remain strong with an array of both vintage and modern keyboards, from smooth Mellotron pieces and dominant organs to mindblowing synthesizers and even electronic sampling.As expected by a Flower Kings' album, this one is also filled with extended instrumental themes in a Classic Prog style, characterized by massive interplays, melodious symphonic interludes and pretty nice jams, while the moments Stolt offers his expressive voice are the ones offering also the less technical and more atmospheric parts of the album.

No hesitation at all.''Retropolis'' is a ''town'' you should visit as soon as possible if you like anything related to the Classic Prog era.A bit unoriginal but musically strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Review by progrules
4 stars This is another of those TFK albums with quite some highlights and also several weak tracks. So I will do this one by one again.

1. Rhythm of life. This isn't a song. This is nothing. 1 star.

2. Retropolis. Now we're talking. Great instrumental, one of their best ever even. Stolt at his best. 4,75 stars.

3. Rhythm of the sea. Short ballad like one. Not bad. 3 stars.

4. There is more to this world. Almost a TFK classic. Great composition with lots of variation. 4,75 stars

5. Romancing the city. Short insignificant one. 2 stars

6. The melting pot. This is a lot better. Great melody. 4 stars

7. Silent sorrow. Average TFK song. Accessible song. 3,25 stars.

8. The Judas kiss. This is one of my all time favourites again. Unbelievable track, highly original. 5 stars

9. Retropolis by night. Waste of space once again. 1,5 stars.

10. Flora Majora. Very nice instrumental, brings great atmosphere. 4,5 stars.

11. The Road back home. One of those great epical tracks by TFK with a fine instrumental part in the middle. 4,75 stars.

So there's quite a bit of variation there. Somehow it's always hard for TFK to compose just great tracks. Don't know why. But the overall judgement is very positive, so 4 stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. Having enjoyed "Back In The World Of Adventures" and Roine Stolt's "The Flower King" a lot, I felt this was a step down from those two records. There are in my opinion at least 4 average tracks, which I sure couldn't say about the other two mentioned albums. Having said that, there are also at least 4 killer songs on here. So yeah I like this one a lot, it's just not very consistant that's all.

"Rhythm Of Life" is a short tune with the sounds of two people playing ping pong before a yell and breaking glass. "Retropolis" is one of my favs. An instrumental that opens with mellotron, with a full sound right behind. The heavy soundscape with different noises has a Rio flavour to it. Guitar then comes in with organ. Some blistering guitar 3 minutes in as Roine is in fine form as usual. Bongos after 4 minutes as the song then calms right down to a nice pastoral section. Mellotron 5 1/2 minutes in. The main melody returns 7 1/2 minutes in. A Celtic vibe a minute later. Acoustic guitar 10 minutes in to the end. "Rhythm Of The Sea" opens with a haunting atmosphere with mellotron rolling in. We get vocals for the first time on the album 1 1/2 minutes in. Acoustic guitar rides shot gun. It turns into a powerful, mid-paced song. The soaring guitar after 4 minutes is so uplifting. Piano 5 minutes in as the song settles down. "There Is More To This World' really sounds like GENESIS to open. Hans Froberg is back helping out on vocals. He was on "The Flower King" record, but not on the "Back In The World Of Adventures" album. He also sings on "Silent Sorrow". I'm not a fan of the music after the GENESIS-like intro (it does come back though) until about 6 minutes in when Hans sings with acoustic guitar. An uplifting passage. It gets uptempo again before 9 minutes. "Romancing The City" is less then a minutes worth of piano.

"The Melting Pot" is another fantastic instrumental,the title track being the other earlier one. It opens with piano. There are so many mood and tempo shifts on this one. I like the brief Celtic interlude. Some ripping guitar 3 minutes in with powerful organ to follow a minute later. "Silent Sorrow" is pretty straight forward to begin with.It's catchy. It's ok. A nice long instrumental section before vocals return. "The Judas Kiss" is better as it opens with organ before guitar and drums come in. Vocals arrive a minute in. The guitar is killer ! The lyrics are meaningful. A calm 4 1/2 minutes followed up with some blistering guitar 6 minutes in. "Retropolis By Night" sounds like electronics, drums and synths for over 3 minutes. "Flora Majora" is another instrumental I like a lot. The keyboard / synth melody is cool. The guitar comes and goes. The song gets stronger as it plays out. Mellotron 3 1/2 minutes in and 5 1/2 minutes in. "The Road Back Home" is the mellow concluding track. A flute solo 3 minutes in. Mellotron ! A fuller sound 5 minutes in. It's ok.

This one has it's moments, but also it's non-moments.

Review by The Crow
4 stars The second Flower Kings's efforth is another excellent retro-prog piece... Not really original. But who cares about it with such good music?

The sax on The Road Back Home brings the name Van Der Graaf Generator to my mind, the fantastic Flora Majora has some neo-prog elements, the jazz influences clearly appear in Silent Sorrow and The Judas Kiss, some parts of There is More to this World are like you are hearing Yes... But the enchant this music has, the good compositions, the fantastic playing, the catchy rythms, the diversity, the constant tributes to other bands... Every Flower Kings's album is a true pleasure to every old school prog lover... And Retropolis is another great efforth by this band.

This album is maybe more jazzy than their debut, and less commercial in my opinion... The easy melodies of Back in the World of Adventures and Theme for a Hero are gone, and here you will not find any radio-friendly track like My Cosmic Lover... Retropolis is more progressive, more instrumental oriented, and less easy to digest. But once you've made it, you will find this album is just as good as the previous one, or even better.

The only fact I don't like on this album, are some boring instrumental passages, wich spoils part of the good work made in some songs... I am not talking about things like the good piano interlude Romancing in the City. The epic opening Retropolis, for example, has a slow section wich is just boring. And so is the entire song Rythm of the Sea, the less inspired track in my opinion... The jazz oriented ending of The Judas Kiss is also a bit boring for me. But apart of this little flaws, the level of the album is just excellent.

And of course, another good thing about this album is that it's short... And it doesn't suffer the 2 Cd sindrome. I mean... Stardust We Are has some songs wich easily surpase any track included in Retropolis, but it has also a lot of forgettable tracks. So in general terms, Retropolis is a better album, because except of the too slow Rythm of the Sea, I like every song. And this is the reason I give Retropolis 4 stars, while Stardust We Are, with such incredible songs, deserves only 3 in my opinion.

Best songs: There is More to this World (the best track of the album... Both electric and acoustic parts are great. I specially like the vocal melodies...), The Melting Pot (brilliant instrumental), Silent Sorrow (this is the typical rythmic Flower King song, with a lot of Yes influences... The fast middle section is great), Flora Majora (another great instrumental... The Roine Stolt's guitar shines in the whole track, and I really like the spanish influence of some part of the song) and The Road Back Home (beautiful ending, where Tomas Bodin offers his finest melodies of the whole album...)

Conclusion: The Flower Kings was fully stablished as a solid band in Retropolis... And they surpased their debut in this very instrumental album, where they show all their influences, but under the special and magic personality this band has. Like I said in the review of the previous album, the best line-up and the best songs would come later... But the beginnings of this band were really brilliant, and I think every prog-lover should hear this fantastic music. And Retropolis is a great album to start with... Not too long, with only a few boring parts, and really catchy after the hard first impression. Strongly recommended.

My rating: ****

Review by Chicapah
3 stars "Retropolis" is the sixth Flower Kings CD I've procured (seven if you count Roine Stolt's amazing solo debut that marked the beginning of the FK phenomenon) and by this point I've stopped comparing their albums to other prog artists and started rating them against each other. The fact that I've bought so many of their offerings establishes me as not only a satisfied customer but as a fan, yet I won't bore you with an expansive explanation of my admiration. It goes without saying that all of their works feature outstanding musicianship and production values, molded on a lofty level of competency so the difference in their recordings comes down to the quality of the songwriting involved. While this album is quite listenable and some of the songs are better than good I have to report that, compared to several of their finer releases, this one falls into the category of being an "average" Flower Kings project. Having said that, it still beats the dungarees off of most of the music floating around in Lake Prog today.

Opening an album with a recording of half a minute of a table tennis match titled "Rhythm of Life" isn't going to impress anyone with a brain and this doesn't. What is this? Did someone lose a bet? Or is this Ping Pong presented as a metaphor for the futility of mortal existence? Yeah, right. It's silly, nothing more. Skip it. Thankfully they segue straight into Tomas Bodin's "Retropolis," a lengthy instrumental featuring a big time beginning and several stirring performances from the cast. In typical mess-with-your-head fashion the band tosses in random movie-soundtrack effects that take some getting used to but the complicated countermelodies they surround Roine's steaming guitar runs with and the huge ascending bass lines rising underneath the fray are fascinating. "Retro" being the key word here, they pause briefly on a fog machine-shrouded plateau where they drift mysteriously along (re: Yes) before digressing into a cheap haunted house affair complete with corny, spooky noises. Realizing that they've painted themselves into a corner, they leap over the wet enamel and return to the song's main themes for a while before ending with some nice but kinda out of place 12 string acoustic guitar noodlings. Unfortunately some strange goings on return as "Rhythm of the Sea" starts but then thankfully they fade as Stolt sings a solemn ballad over serene acoustic guitars. Words have never been his strength for one reason or another but I find the line "just driving around with a random turn" to be highly descriptive of the proceedings so far. The song is classic in scope but ultimately it fails to make much of an impact and goes nowhere near meaningful.

The first half of "There is More to this World" contains some of the most exciting music these guys have ever made. After another strong charge out of the gate the tune establishes an impressive compositional structure/arrangement that will sweep you off your feet. Roine's crisp guitar tone (a Telecaster, perhaps?) is awesome and Bodin thrills with the myriad of keyboards he commands. However, when they attempt to manufacture a Yes-like, floating atmosphere in the second half along the lines of "Soon" the whole thing crashes and burns due mainly to the overly-sappy lyrics ("See how we run the fields/ride the wild horses again.") that dominate. Even Hans Froberg's silky voice can't save it from drowning in the mush pit. And it was going so splendidly for a while! Another of Tomas' contributions, "Romancing the City," clears the air with its simplicity as he performs a brief but lovely piano interlude. "The Melting Pot" is an intriguing instrumental containing clever dynamics that beckon the soprano sax of Ulf Wallander out from behind the curtain to interplay with the torrid guitarisms of Mr. Stolt. At one point an enormous cathedral organ appears out of nowhere and takes over the track much to my delight. I LOVE that sound.

"Silent Sorrow" is the first of two exceptional songs in a row that keep this album from sinking into the clutches of mediocrity. Occasionally Roine writes something more normal/cohesive and this is one of those times. Have I mentioned the extremely tight rhythm section of drummer Jaime Salazar and bassist Michael Stolt? Shame on me. They are the epoxy that holds it all together and they are magnificent throughout this album. When they collectively spin off into a 7/8 shuffle it's truly a moment to savor and the unbridled spirit of Frank Zappa is palpable here. This is where these boys shine. Church bells tolling in the distance, wolf howls and another large dose of the cathedral organ mark the intro to "The Judas Kiss," a straightforward (for this bunch, at least) heavy rocker that has a little of everything. After the initial verses a musical section ensues featuring some engaging Hammond organ from Bodin, followed by a calmer freeform segment where the piano, acoustic, synthesizers, a brash electric guitar and the soprano sax spar for a minute or two. This all seems to be leading up to a grand finale but then the number stops abruptly on a dime. You never know what to expect from the FKs.

Disastrously, Tomas was granted one final contribution. "Retropolis by Night" gives the distinct, depressing impression that this particular city becomes a disco inferno after sundown and that's a drag, my fellow proggies. And so is this track. This 3:18 of dismal synthesized techno-pop accompanied by ridiculous incidental bumps and grinds should have been trucked out to the Retropolis land fill and buried. "Flora Majora" is next and it goes a long way in helping you to forget the previous lapse in judgment. It's an instrumental that starts out with an ELP flavor, it succeeds in being melodic without becoming predictable and their skillful reprise of one of the themes from "There is More to this World" is a highlight of the album. Opting to close out on a sober but optimistic note, "The Road Back Home" is a hymn-like ballad where Roine trades vocal lines with himself over full, strumming acoustic guitars and Wallander adds serene soprano sax while the band slowly builds upon intertwining synthesizers. The song culminates in a cavernous wall of sound that will shake the room and bring a smile to your face.

There's a lot to be said for the validity of the dreaded "sophomore jinx" and perhaps that is what affected this album more than anything else. It surely wasn't from a lack of effort or talent and maybe they had bundled their best material for the impressive CD that preceded it, "Back in the World of Adventures." Yet I'm glad I have this album to put into the changer from time to time because there's a lot to enjoy about it but it's just lacking a visit to the magical "Holy Moly! Did you hear THAT?" places that they're so very good at transporting me to on many of their better works. 3.4 stars.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Every time I read a comment about THE FLOWER KINGS and people say it's Retro Prog, I get really angry, please, a genre, style or mood is not created to last 5 or 6 years, unless you're talking about top 40 songs designed to be a fashion for a very short lapse of time and then be forgotten. These guys are playing a genre that was born in the late 60's and still is alive; we should avoid using terms designed for mainstream.

it's undeniable that this guys have influences of YES, ELP, GENESIS and other 70's giants, but the musician that says he's influenced by nobody...LIES, and we must remember that THE FLOWER KINGS, add a unique guitar sound much more aggressive than almost any 70's Symphonic band.

It's time to go to the album, but lets forget about the opener "Rhythm of Life", because it's only a mixture of sounds (Ping Pong game with the phrase Rhythm of Life repeated three times), honestly don't understand what the guys pretended with this.

Now, "Retropolis" is another thing, now we are talking about an excellent instrumental that mixes everything, hard rock guitars, Symphonic Prog and a killer guitar by Roine Stolt. The song is full of Radical changes that go from Prog to Neo Classical, and an outstanding keyboard work by Tomas Bodin; that's what Prog is about, in the 70's,, 90's and today. Excellent song, 11:07 minutes of Pure Prog .

"Rhythm of the Sea" is another excellent track, now the band adventures in Avant territory, blend it with Jazz and pristine Symphonic, the tempo changes between the soft passages and faster ones ones is simply perfect, probably the only problem is Roine's voice, don't know why, but find it annoying.

"There is More to this World" starts with a guitar and Mellotron intro that leads to a Neo Prog oriented passage where guitar is essential, again the vocals make this song hard to swallow, but once you get used, there's not much problem. The instrumental breaks are the most interesting sections, the interplay between Roine, Tomas and Michael Stolt is very solid, some ELP reminiscences, but nothing too obvious IMO. Good but not great track.

"Romancing the City" is a short piano interlude that changes the mood, relaxing the listener after the frantic previous finale and blends perfectly with "The Melting Pot" intro, a song that stats but soon changes into a folksy Symphonic passage. Again the radical changes and strong organ are a highlight, this time mysterious and dark, with Roine making some growling vocals. But again in their ever changing style move to an oriental (somehow Moorish) section that morphs into an almost cacophonic hard rock instrumental, another great track.

"Silent Sorrow" is probably the weakest song of the album, very monotonous and IMO lacks of interest, the vocals sound worst than ever.

The sound of bells announces "The Judas Kiss", a wonderful organ intro leads again to hard section where Roine makes a good but short guitar solo, the vocals in this case are very interesting, because unlike the previous tracks there are strong variations, rises and goes down, with the keyboards supporting the voice and a guitar work which reminds me a bit of Iron Maiden but softer. Again multiple changes and variations make of "The Judas Kiss" another high point of the album. "Retropolis by Night" reminds of VANGELIS in Blade Runner, somehow the atmosphere created is pretty similar, a keyboard creating atmospheres with an electronic edge, while haunting vocals mixed with city sounds complete the scene. Not my cup of tea, but not bad either.

"Flora Majora" begins with an excellent keyboard and drums combo which gets more and more Symphonic as the song advances and more instruments join the adventure, again not the strongest track, but pretty solid.

The album is closed with "The Road Back Home" which is a major change, starts with acoustic guitar and vocals, somehow similar to some PINK FLOYD works, after a soft first half the music goes in crescendo taking us to one of the best instrumental breaks that THE FLOWER KINGS can offer us, lush keyboards, Mellotron and perfect drumming make this part unforgettable, at the end another solid guitar works puts the cherry on to of the cake.

Te big question is how can I rate this album? Four stars seems too much for me, being that I gave that rating to strongest and more imaginative albums, but at the same time three stars seems insufficient. So I will have to be a bit unfair and stay with three stars, not without saying that 3.5 would be the perfect average.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Retropolis is the second official studio album from Swedish progressive rock act The Flower Kings. If you count Roine Stolt´s Flower King album ( which I do), Retropolis is the third album from the band. The music on all Flower Kings albums is of a very high quality but some of their albums can seem a bit unfocused which means that only a few truly stand out as being masterpieces ( the rest are still excellent even with the obvious flaws that mare some of them). Retropolis is a masterpiece in my book and maybe the best album The Flower Kings have yet released.

The songs are generally pretty long ( Though not as long as some of the songs on later albums) and complex in structure which is business as usual for The Flower Kings but the mood in most songs on the album is very dark and intense which is quite unusual for the band. There are songs here and there on some of their other albums that are dark too but The Flower Kings music is predominantly positive and light. I really like this dark side of the band and songs like the title track, Rythm of the Sea and The Judas Kiss are some of the greatest Flower Kings songs ever IMO. The usual Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Frank Zappa influences are present as ever. The Zappa influence is particularly strong in some of the instrumental sections with Hasse Bruniusson´s ( Samla Mammas Manna) various percussion skills on full display.

The musicianship is excellent. The rythm section plays some incredible tight and interesting parts while Bodin and Stolt really shine in the melodic department. I´m especially impressed by Roine Stolt´s guitar solos on Retropolis. He has never sounded more intense. I really enjoy his singing as well. He often receives critique for his vocal style but his approach sooths my ears. Hasse Fröberg guests on a couple on a couple of tracks most notably on one of the few lighter songs on the album the 10:15 minute long There Is More To This World. I prefer Roine Stolt´s vocal style but Hasse´s more hard rock/ Jon Anderson style is a welcome variation.

The production is excellent. Very professional and well sounding. Polished as always.

As I said in the beginning of my review I regard Retropolis to be a progressive rock masterpiece and I will rate it 5 stars. I often hear people complaining that The Flower Kings is a retro prog band with no original ideas which is not my view on the band. I actually find it a bit unfair to such a great band but people of course have a right to their opinion. If you´re new to The Flower Kings I would start here.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I find this album to be one of the best in The Flower Kings' catalog. Despite all the hand wringing and stomping about by many who feel that this is a rip-off of classic seventies prog, it is, in fact, an album in true Flower Kings style. True, there are bits and pieces, mostly vintage instrument tones that may remind one of the seventies bands, but there are no borrowed riffs or melodies. The most I could find are a few lyrical phrases in The Road Back Home that were pulled from the classics.

I particularly enjoy Retropolis, the title track (obviously), a fantastic instrumental, one of the best the band has ever performed. And The Judas Kiss is great,far superior to the live recording released a few years later. And the aforementioned The Road Back Home moves me. Because to me the road back home does lead to seventies prog.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After hearing about The Flower Kings and reading quite a few positive reviews I was interested to know what the fuss was all about. My first introduction to the band was actually while listening to a rock show on the local radio here in Stockholm, Sweden. The radio-DJ liked to challenge his audience by playing long progressive material on his show. On one such occasion, back in 2002, the DJ played the whole Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence-suite without interruption on commercial radio! On that same show he took an even more daring step by following it up with the 60-minute long The Garden Of Dreams, which incidentally was my introduction to The Flower Kings.

At the time I still haven't heard of Mike Oldfield's Amarok so a 60-minute composition seemed like a very ambitious idea. Although I didn't really like The Garden Of Dreams as much as I wanted to it gave me a taste for the band that I just had to follow up. Retropolis was the first album I managed to pick up at one of the bigger music stores in central Stockholm and it became my album introduction to The Flower Kings!

What I like the most about Retropolis is its consistency and that there aren't any very long tracks that overshadow the rest of the album which becomes somewhat of a problem for me on some of their other releases. I've never been too enthusiastic about Roine Stolt's vocal style which makes me think more about blues than progressive rock but it doesn't ruin the music for me. What does on the other hand get tiring and becomes even more apparent on the band's other releases is the lack of creativity. It's almost as if Roine Stolt decided to write the same kind of tunes for the rest of his life and although it does work here the album can hardly be called ambitions in its songwriting.

After listening to two more releases I guess it's safe to say that Retropolis is my personal favorite but they aren't that far apart. Still I consider this band somewhat overrated in comparison to many other fine acts so this particular album is good, but non-essential.

**** star songs: Rhythm Of Life (0:32) Retropolis (11:10) There Is More To This World (10:15) Romancing The City (0:57) The Melting Pot (5:45) The Judas Kiss (7:43) Retropolis By Night (3:18) Flora Majora (6:50) The Road Back Home (8:55)

*** star songs: Rhythm Of The Sea (6:12) Silent Sorrow (7:42)

Review by lazland
4 stars Way back to 1995 for the next in my series of TFK reviews for Retropolis, this is an early example of a series of solid releases by this great band.

It opens with a somewhat pointless 28 seconds of ping pong, before gliding into the first epic of the album, the title track itself, which is a fantastic instrumental. This has just about every classic prog influence going without ever sounding anything other than original. Retro, yes, but derivative, no. Full of incredible guitar, organ, synths, and bass solos, this one starts at a cracking pace, at times wholly symphonic, at others more avant-garde. Then, for the last couple of minutes, we get the most lovely acoustic guitar passage, when the whole tempo slows down to a chilling effect to the close.

Rhythm of the Sea follows, this one clocking in at just over six minutes long. The first minute consists of some rather aimless noodling, rather like the opener, before we get another lovely acoustic guitar passage backing a sensitive Stolt vocal. The synths introduced almost three minutes in are clearly influenced by Banks in his mid-70's period, as are, I suppose, the electric guitar passages that follow ? very reminiscent of Hackett. The band seem to be able to change style and tempo almost voluntarily at will, though, and there follow more jazzy sections, followed by pure symphonic joy, followed by a beautiful end again where a delicate piano competes with bass & gentle electric guitar for our attention. A very good piece of music.

There is More to This World follows, and this is the next epic track, weighing in at just over 10 minutes long. It is dominated at the opening section by a swirling organ, and there are some solid vocal harmonies backing Stolt's lead vocals. Once the track moves into its mid-section we get an extended instrumental section which is the first one on the album clearly influenced by the band who they are perhaps most associated with in terms of style ? YES, very much around the Yes Album & Fragile era. The musicianship is never anything less than accomplished and, again, the tempo is fantastically upbeat. That is one of the main features of why I love this band ? they are capable of cheering me up in even the most downbeat mood. Witness the fantastic organ solo at five minutes in. Then at six minutes in, we get the most lovely vocal backed by another beautifully flowing acoustic guitar piece, and the closing section then takes this to a wholly symphonic level, with wall to wall sound that is quite incredible and wholly original to boot. Stolt is also spot on lyrically ? there is, indeed, more to this world than we see. One of my all time favourite TFK tracks, this is a fantastic track and worth the price of the album alone.

Romancing The City is a pleasant 53 second long piano solo. Filler, yes, but pleasant filler at that.

It flows into The Melting Pot, and many passages contain a great soprano sax solo. There isn't enough sax in this world, and this is an example of what many bands are missing! This is a very jazz orientated track, certainly in terms of the clear improvisation that is taking place. I am not a keen jazz lover, but I most certainly am of intelligent improvisation and instrumentalism. This track has them in spades. More traditional symphonic prog reasserts itself towards the close of the track, and I have to say that Bodin has rarely sounded better than he does on this album. His keyboards really soar.

Silent Sorrow follows at seven & a half minutes long. The opening passage is led by vocals and keys, very upbeat and very solid in a bluesy fashion without being wholly remarkable. It is certainly, to my ears, the weakest vocal passage on the album. However, just prior to three minutes in, there follows the most incredible guitar solo, backed by heavy bass, which are, unfortunately, interspersed by more of the rather grating vocals.

The Judas Kiss (what a great title!) is another track just short of eight minutes. Stolt's vocals at the commencement, backed by powerful keys and guitars, are very strong. He's also backed by some dogs, a la Floyd! There follow some incredible bursts of classic musicianship, especially Stolt's guitar solo. One of the finest tracks they have ever recorded.

Retropolis By Night follows. At just over three minutes long, this is a more spacey contribution that I find interesting, especially in terms of the clear African influences prevalent in the vocal chanting. With the exception, maybe, of some of Gabriel's work in terms of the vocal chants, this is unlike most anything that you will come across in a symphonic prog band. No worse for that, either. Interesting, but not stand out.

Flora Majora is another instrumental piece, coming in at just short of seven minutes long. Dominated at its start by more extremely accomplished keyboard work, backed by some solid guitar work and good rhythm section work. The tempo at this stage is on the slow side, but then the relentless upbeat nature of the music on this album reasserts itself, with very clear and defined Crimson influences, before the track becomes wholly symphonic again. Enjoyable.

The album closes with The Road Back Home, nearly nine minutes long. It starts off in a rather slow and meditative mood, with thoughtful vocals backed by sensitive guitar and keyboard work. The guest soprano sax is back on this track three minutes in, and it is another lovely passage, with some more intricate guitar, backed by delicate swirling keys which lead to a more dominant keyboard solo passage, again somewhat reminiscent of Banks in his pomp glory days of the mid 70's. Stolt has rarely sounded better in both vocals and guitar as he leads the song to a lovely, grandiose, conclusion. An excellent piece of music.

Along with Stardust We Are, this is a Flower Kings album that I would recommend to all readers of this review who have yet to take the plunge into the band's incredible output, but are not sure where to start. There is something here for all prog fans, especially those who really appreciate a band who can play and lift the mood, with influences, though palpable, never blinding us away from the originality on display.

I rate this album a very strong four stars, deprived of the perfect five only by the couple of pointless throwaway tracks and the disappointing Silent Sorrow. Highly recommended, and an excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

Review by stefro
2 stars The second Flower Kings album after the affable 'Back In The World Of Adventures', 1996's 'Retropolis' finds Roin Stolt and company tipping their respective hats in the direction of their 1970's heroes whilst mainting the glossy sheen and impressive technical proficiency that would eventually become the group's trademark. There is, of course, no doubting the Swedish outfits die-hard love of all things progressive, and thus, 'Retropolis' provides fanboy affection by the bucket-load, only from fans with serious talent and their own ideas. However, despite semi-successful attempts at replicating the old school synth-and-organ sound of yore and Stolt's seemingly neverending arsenal of guitar solo's, 'Retropolis' is actually something of a letdown, the golden melodies that adorn the Scandanavians very best work replaced by an earnest, overly-tricksy and actually rather boring modern-prog sound. Not only does it lack the upbeat, almost joyous, ambience of it's predecessor, 'Retropolis' lacks any real stand-out cuts, a rare thing indeed for a Flower Kings album. The chief offender in this misfire has to the title-track, which also serves as the album's opening epic, and serves up over ten gruelling minutes worth of relentless soloing from Stolt. More of the same is offered up on the slightly-less draining 'There Is More To Thias World', whilst the album's second half continues the general theme of polished production values, top-notch technicals and Stolt's tiresome guitar histrionics. Buy 'Stardust We Are' instead. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2015
Review by Kempokid
4 stars Despite having a similar sound and structure to their previous album, The Flower Kings took many steps in the right direction with their followup release, Retropolis. The most immediate improvement that comes to mind for me is the much more cohesive nature of the album, now with the instrumental songs matching the highlights in terms of quality, evoking the same level of amazing musical imagery as the epics from Back In The World Of Adventures. I also love the slightly more mysterious tone the album has, sounding more sci fi oriented compared to the lush fantasy sound of their debut.

After the strange and ultimately pointless Rhythm of Life, the album kicks off with the title track, which is an entirely insturmental 11 minute track that never wastes a single moment. This actually reminds me of a combination between Yes' Close To The Edge, and some of King Crimson's instrumental jams such as the Devil's Triangle, but it all comes together so perfectly with how it manages to paint such a vivid picture, made so amazing by to exquisite use of synths and mellotron. Funnily enough, in contrast to the previous album the next song I find truly memorable and amazing is The Melting Pot, another instrumental. This is not to say that the previous 2 songs aren't good, they're actually excellent, filled with emotion and power, with sweeping melodies and tasteful solos, with amazing interplay between the bass and guitar, it's just that I don't seem to remember much of these ones no matter how many times I listen to them, although I wouldn't call them filler. The Melting Pot on the other hand immediately hooked me with its more off kilter nature and its prominent use of the saxophone, all around having a somewhat more avant garde sound to it and making effective use of more ambient passages.

The album continues in amazing fashion with SIlent Sorrow, which I consider the quivalent to My Cosmic Lover, both having a different, more pop oriented sound, being more catchy than complex or grandiose, only difference being that Silent Sorrow is good. Not just good actually, downright amazing, being one of my favourites off this album in fact, as it has the normal kind of uplifting beauty of The Flower Kings, backed up by such lovely melodies and incredible keyboard usage, not to mention the stunning guitar solo. The Judas Kiss continues the absolutely stunning pace of the album, just like with Go West Judas, being the darkest cut off the album, and honestly sounding pretty similar, although not enough so to be considered overly derivative. The sounds of the church organ and the much more grandiose sound to everything actually reminds me of something I'd hear from a Castlevania game, which is always a massive positive in my book. Of the final 3 songs, while none are bad, it's mostly the closer that truly stands out to me, not because of doing anything particularly out of the ordinary for this album, but just because all of its best elements culminate here to produce a composition that closes everything off perfectly, with the sort of finality that one would expect to hear in a closing track.

Definitely a massive improvement over their first album for me, taking the amazing, expansive instrumental passages that impressed me so much, and then making the entire album a much more cohesive experience less rife with filler, each song having purpose, with the instrumental ones being significantly more fleshed out and interesting. The more mysterious tone is not offset by the amazing optimism possessed b the band either, the way they're able to sound so happy without being simultaneously painfully cheesy is without a doubt one of their biggest strong points along with their vivid imagery. I was initially somewhat hesitant to listen to much more b The Flower Kings after my initial disappointment, but this album has definitely changed m mind on that, and I'm eager to see how they handle one of their insanely large double albums, as I'm now feeling more optimistic that it won't be as bloated as I had expected.

Best songs: Retropolis, Silent Sorrow, The Judas Kiss, The Road Back Home

Weakest songs: Flora Majora

Verdict: This is what retro prog should be like in general, not simply taking large influence from past artists, but doing something with these influences. Retropolis displays the songwriting techniques and sound of many classic prog bands, but then has a slightl more modern twist to it, along with having a better understanding of what makes a good instrumental break than some of the classics did at times (Looking at you Emerson, Lake and Palmer).

Review by Warthur
4 stars Retropolis finds the Flower Kings building more on the style of Back In the World of Adventures. As the title implies, this is something of a deliberately constructed retro-prog album, so perhaps a bit more of the influence of major classic prog bands like Yes or ELP is added to the mix this time, and the jazz-rock influences via Zappa are a bit less prominent than they were on Back In the World of Adventures (or The Flower King). If I had one criticism of the album, it would be that the overall mood doesn't change that much from beginning to end, with a strong dose of nostalgia ever-present, but otherwise it's another solid effort from the Kings.
Review by A Crimson Mellotron
3 stars 'Retropolis' is the sophomore studio release by the legendary symphonic prog act The Flower Kings. The Swedes were quick to release their second album some months after their very impressive and intriguing debut, indicating that creativity is hardly lacking when the band members get together in the studio. Released in May, of 1996 on Roine Stolt's own Foxtrot Records (and produced by himself, too, under the Don Azzaro moniker), this album also features Tomas Bodin on keyboards, Michael Stolt on bass, Jaime Salazar on drums, Hans Bruniusson on percussion, and additionally, Hasse Fr'berg on vocals on two tracks and Ulf Wallander playing the saxophone on a couple songs, too.

Musically, 'Retropolis' sounds just like the album you would expect to hear from the band after you've heard the preceding one - it is so predictable actually that it almost sounds like 'Back in the World of Adventures' Part 2. Not to dismiss the many qualities of this very good record, it has to be said that it presents some majestic melodies, mind-altering instrumental passages, and once again, abstract and thoughtful lyrics that are sung beautifully by Roine Stolt (and on a few occasions, by Hasse Fr'berg, not a proper band member yet).

Particular highlights would include the 11-minute instrumental title track, a powerhouse of a composition on which each member shines and displays enviable amounts of skill, talent, and imagination, certainly of the strongest instrumental compositions in The Flower Kings' entire catalogue; The more ballad-y 'Rhythm of the Sea', a song that is quite melancholic and tranquil when compared with the madness of 'Retropolis'; 'The Melting Pot' is also very interesting, a song that could only appear on a TFK album for sure with its unwelcoming structure, peculiar sounds and memorable hooks; 'Silent Sorrow' and 'Judas Kiss' are excellent songs as well, all of these tracks strongly reminisce the debut album.

The difficult second album stereotype kind of applies for 'Retropolis', as the album suffers mainly because of its similaritirs to the record that precedes it, and is probably a bit overlong, on top of the fact that the band sees itself meandering on a couple of tracks. Despite all of this, there are some pretty strong compositions that make this sophomore release a valuable moment in the band's history; Still, they have released much better material throughout the years.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Just one year after releasing their debut album "Back in the World of Adventures", The Flower Kings unleashed their sophomore record "Retropolis". The line-up is the same as the one that had recorded the debut, with Roine Stolt on guitar/vocals, Tomas Bodin on keyboards, Michael Stolt on bass, Jaime ... (read more)

Report this review (#2593664) | Posted by lukretio | Saturday, September 11, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Fragmented, but with some Great Tracks. I actually disagree with those critics who claim this album shows The Flower Kings "paying tribute to the groups that brought them to do what they are doing" (François Couture of AllMusic) by purposefully writing retro-referencing pieces. While one can pick ... (read more)

Report this review (#1703397) | Posted by Walkscore | Saturday, March 18, 2017 | Review Permanlink

2 stars The second studio album of The Flower Kings "Retropolis" which was recorded 1996 is the next album for me to review. It is a quite long lasting album with a lot of music to listen to. The present musicians are Roine Stolt(guitar, vocals, keyboards), Tomas Bodin(organ, piano, mellotron), Michael S ... (read more)

Report this review (#1159737) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Thursday, April 10, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Sometimes it seems that one of the great groups questioned by paying homage to the greats of the genre is The Flower Kings. The reality is that the progressive symphonic rock should not credited with anybody in full. Phenomena as far apart as Yes / Van Der Graaf Generator / King Crimson / Supe ... (read more)

Report this review (#1003519) | Posted by sinslice | Monday, July 22, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars With the greatness that Back in the World of Adventures achieved, its successor definitely had some boots to fill. Naturally, the album sounds similar to BITWOA, and the compositional skills are still there. Infact, if this and BitWoA were a double album, I may not have noticed; but this doesn't mak ... (read more)

Report this review (#771394) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Here is the second official outing by TFK, which is perfectly in line with the predecessor "Back in the World of Adventures". This one will not disorient you, if you have enjoyed the first. It is another very good production, very symphonic, which is their trade-mark, where all the music is eas ... (read more)

Report this review (#322818) | Posted by Progdaybay | Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Penultimate review of the TRULY Amazing Flower KINGS.......RETROPOLIS - Good name for a CD me thinks and the music didn't disappoint either. It starts with the pointless Rythm of Life SKIPIT - and into a MONSTER of an intrumental, the title track - RETROPOLIS. This has a good strat and a ni ... (read more)

Report this review (#231550) | Posted by M27Barney | Friday, August 14, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Cheesy ? I have spent the best part of the last six weeks listening to all the albums from The Flower Kings. This is the first of my reviews during the next seven days. I have allready done the first album. I guess I gave it four stars. Retropolis is great to the ear and an instant hit. Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#212143) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars To the reviewers who say this album is retro, I say, well duh!!! Of course it is retro, it is meant to be. In fact, all songs but the title track (and, I believe, the short Bodin compositions) were written in the 70's. Basically Stolt wanted to record some old stuff of his that he still liked, ... (read more)

Report this review (#166149) | Posted by infandous | Wednesday, April 9, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Just a bit better than Flower Power. At least shorter. :-) But FK couldnt get rid of its problems. Even the dynamic beginning of the best song, Flora Majora is interrupted with an ambient section, which adds nothing but ruins the song... Why do they do this? Why dont they hire another producer? ... (read more)

Report this review (#166147) | Posted by Tandary | Wednesday, April 9, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Flower Kings' sophomore effort. They have succeeded in still making an album of higher quality to their surprisingly epic-filled good first album. The style is still not very different, and this is not very creative music (except for maybe still 'melting pot'). However, this will still be GOO ... (read more)

Report this review (#101407) | Posted by blindguardian | Saturday, December 2, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Retropolis is a concept album about a city called Retropolis, a place where everything is possible and time doesn't play a role. The whole album is a bombastic masterpiece, it really makes you think you would be in a different world and it contains some true killer-songs like "Retropolis", "There ... (read more)

Report this review (#85201) | Posted by Badabec | Sunday, July 30, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This second effort by TFK follows the same style as the previous one with even more emphasis on retro-prog writing, vintage keyboards sounds with more use of Hammond, Mellotron and moog-like solos, and with the same excellent guitar playing by Roine Stolt. His voice fits well the ballads like ... (read more)

Report this review (#75525) | Posted by eddietrooper | Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars In this same site I had read some good opinions about the album, but after listening over and over again I finally convinced myself: this is not one of the greatest albums from THE FLOWER KINGS. I'm a fan of this band, but "Retropolis" it's just a good album. It's far from the first one "Back ... (read more)

Report this review (#44717) | Posted by Proglodita | Monday, August 29, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars To the reviewers who say this album is "retro", I say, "well duh!!!" Of course it is retro, it is meant to be. In fact, all songs but the title track (and, I believe, the short Bodin compositions) were written in the 70's. Basically Stolt wanted to record some old stuff of his that he still l ... (read more)

Report this review (#2597) | Posted by | Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Flower kings at the early stage...wonderful music..played with professionalism and joy... some reviewers complain that this music are derivative...well of course it is....maybe thats why the album is called "Retropolis". Anyhow i think this wonderful work are quite supreme ...Stolt have never sai ... (read more)

Report this review (#2591) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Wednesday, July 14, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 1. Rhythm Of Life (0:32): funny senseless intro 2. Retropolis (11:10): incredible majestic instrumental piece. Symphonic KB riffs, coupled with truly soaring guitar solos. Rating=93 3. Rhythm Of The Sea (6:12):beautiful balad with great lyrics"Iwill always go with the undertow; I found Im part of ... (read more)

Report this review (#2589) | Posted by | Monday, May 3, 2004 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of THE FLOWER KINGS "Retropolis"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.