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


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 796 ratings

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5 stars When it comes to modern progressive rock with a strong retro edge, The Flower Kings are typically your number one go-to band. These Swedes have established themselves as consistently excellent throughout their near-twenty year history, and with this in mind, it's no surprise that 2012's Banks of Eden is another masterpiece in a long string of modern classics. This album was a bit more anticipated than many other albums from The Flower Kings, however, because the band took a bit of a hiatus since 2007's The Sum of No Evil (an album that I consider a favorite in their discography). Since their formation, The Flower Kings have pumped out an album every year or two, so roughly five years between albums seems like quite a bit by their standards - rest assured, though, as Banks of Eden certainly lives up to its hype, and is (in my humble opinion) another masterpiece from this dream team of fantastic musicians.

For anybody familiar with The Flower Kings, the quintet's trademark formula largely remains in-tact on Banks of Eden. For those new to the band, expect a mix of classic symphonic prog, retro hard rock, and jazz fusion, all performed in the style of the seventies'. Calling Banks of Eden a meeting place between the upbeat symphonic prog of Yes, the lush atmospheres of Genesis, the heaviness of Deep Purple, and the quirkiness of Frank Zappa would be a pretty accurate description of the music here. The Flower Kings is a band that could've certainly existed in the seventies' without sounding out of place, but their mix of styles and influences from the era keeps them from sounding derivative of any other band. Rather than taking all their influence from two or three acts, The Flower Kings have an eclectic sound that borrows all of its influence from a particular era in music history - while the band has kept this sound for most of their existence without much in the way of innovation, their mastery of this style is simply unparalleled in modern prog.

With the standard edition of the album clocking in at under 54 minutes, Banks of Eden is also a slight departure from the notoriously long playing times of many Flower Kings releases. Although I do think that The Flower Kings are one of the best bands out there when it comes to pumping out ambitious double-CD albums, the manageable playing time on Banks of Eden makes for a much more accessible listen for newcomers and veterans alike. The songs here are also some of the most melodic (and, quite frankly, memorable) in the band's catalog, and both of these factors make this album a good starting point for those wondering what the fuss for these Swedish fellows is all about. If you like longer Flower Kings albums, however, rest assured as the band also is offering a limited edition with a 22-minute bonus disc of even more material. All four songs on the bonus disc are well-worth owning for any fan of the band (more on that in a minute), and it's definitely worth shelling out the extra cash in my opinion.

In true Flower Kings fashion, Banks of Eden opens up with a sprawling 25 minute epic in the form of "Numbers". This is one of my favorite epics from the band, with its smooth transitions and memorable hooks ranking up there with the best I've ever heard. This track also establishes a few themes that would be later revisited in the final track, "Rising the Imperial". "For The Love of Gold" is an upbeat symphonic prog track that especially brings Yes to mind; the strongest aspect of this song are undoubtedly the arrangements, with lush acoustic guitars and vast keyboard pallettes always keeping the music sounding full and complete. "Pandemonium" shows the band's influence from acts like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep with its hard rock-styled riffs, and "For Those About to Drown" also contains some powerful riffs and basslines from Jonas Reingold. The final track on the 'standard' version of the album is "Rising the Imperial", which may actually be my favorite track on the entire album. This song is just pure bliss; everything from Roine Stolt's tasteful guitar solos to the sheer beauty of the melodies is top-notch, and finding any complaints with a song this good is challenging.

The four bonus tracks may not be as exceptional as the aforementioned masterpieces, but they are all certainly worth owning. "Illuminati" is a really cool guitar solo-based piece with some very tasteful execution from Roine Stolt. This song actually reminds me a bit of "Watermelon in Easter Hay" by Frank Zappa - the similarity between these two players is clearly evident in a track like this. "Fireghosts" is a fairly standard Flower Kings track with strong melodies and impressive arrangements - this is probably the weakest of the four bonus tracks, though I do like the melodies quite a bit. "Going Up" is one of the most upbeat and positive-sounding songs in The Flower Kings' discography, and I like this one a lot. The band sounds energetic and refreshed, and new drummer Felix Lehrmann gets a nice opportunity to shine on this track. The album is concluded with "Lo Lines"; another memorable progressive rock track, this time in a slightly more somber mood - Roine lets his heartfelt guitar playing do some pretty amazing things towards the end of this song, and overall this is an excellent way to end an excellent album.

Of course, the musicianship and production are also held to incredibly high standards on Banks of Eden, and it's made immediately clear that The Flower Kings are a group of professionals. The production is sleek and modern, but with a nice organic touch that keeps the music from sounding cold and sterile. All five musicians here are very talented players, with new drummer Felix Lehrmann making a welcome addition to the band - he has a slightly different playing style than Zoltan Csórsz, but still manages to fit the tone of the music perfectly while adding in his own touches. You probably know what to expect from the other four musicians by now - brilliant leads from Roine Stolt, complex and clever basslines from Jonas Reingold, vast keyboard arrangements from Tomas Bodin, and warm vocals and guitar playing from Hasse Fröberg.

If you did actually read my entire novel about Banks of Eden, hopefully I've made one thing clear by now - if you even remotely enjoy the music of The Flower Kings, or you are wondering why so many folks love them, this is the album for you. Banks of Eden is a sheer masterpiece of modern progressive rock, and although some could criticize The Flower Kings for sticking to their guns a bit too much, the fact that the band creates this style of progressive rock better than anybody else in the 21st century means that I'm able to let that slide and just enjoy their terrific music for what it is. Banks of Eden is simply a must-have record for any progressive rock fan.

J-Man | 5/5 |


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