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The Flower Kings - The Sum of No Evil CD (album) cover


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

3.83 | 629 ratings

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5 stars Over their 20 year existence, Swedish progressive rockers "The Flower Kings" have drawn many comparisons to the band Yes. That comparison is not unwarranted and this album will do little to dispel that notion. One thing worth noting is that this band compares VERY favorably to Yes. But before you dismiss this band as another Yes clone and move on, please allow me to make a case for "The Sum of No Evil" by The Flower Kings as more than the sum of its influences.

Admittedly, if this band is trying to shake of comparisons to Yes they have a funny way of doing it. The opening track "One More Time" has a symphonic yet pastoral vibe that Yes so often excelled at. The vocal harmonies are reminiscent of Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, and even the guitar and bass work are worthy of Steve Howe and Chris Squire respectively. This song sounds like it would have fit nicely on Yes' "Going for the One". However, what really stands out for me on this song are the keyboard playing and percussion. With all due respect to Rick Wakeman and Alan White, "The Sum of No Evil" surpasses "Going for the One" in this respect.

The next song, the 25 minute long "Love is the Only Answer" is one of those epic long songs at which The Flower Kings seem to excel. This song opens with a relatively catchy and simple melody that gives way to wailing hard rock and a jazz fusion passage that would make Chick Corea proud. Like many of The Flower Kings longer songs, this song is chock full of ideas and incorporates such a myriad of styles that only consummate musicians could pull it off. Credit a lot of this to leader Roine Stolt whose guitar playing soars above the music and seems to tell a story on its own, much in the manner that the saxophone of John Coltrane did at his creative peak. In the upbeat passages of this song keyboardist Tomas Bodin and drummer Zoltan Cs÷rsz also make their presence felt in a major way. In fact the return of Cs÷rsz to the band really gives this album a boost.

"Love is the Only Answer" is the cornerstone of this album and, along with The Flower King's "Numbers" and "I am the Sun, part 1", is among my all-time favorite songs. This song is so lush and rich that every time I listen to it I notice something different. It is a true masterpiece of symphonic prog and compares favorably to Yes' "Close to the Edge" & "The Gates of Delerium" and ELP's "Tarkus", all songs that push the limits of how long a rock song can be and just how virtuosic a band can be. "Love is the Only Answer" is a hard act to follow.

What is the only answer? How does one follow that song? The Flower Kings answer by taking the foot off the gas a little bit and stretching out on the introspective and dark "Trading My Soul". The song is slow paced but by no means boring. While the previous song was packed to overflowing, The Flower Kings leave plenty of space here, giving a chance for the melody and the lyrics to grip the listener. And of course there is alway time for a stylish guitar solo that is both languid and blistering, much like those conjured by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour when he is at his very best.

After slowing down on the previous song, The Flower Kings rev things up a bit. The result is "The Sum of no Reason", a song that is by turns hard rocking and spacey. This song contains lyrics that are a bit more cosmic in nature and is certainly reminiscent of some of The Flower Kings' early work, beginning with 1995's astonishing debut "Back in the World of Adventures" and culminating in the masterful "Space Revolver" in the year 2000. Nearly everything on "The Sum of No Evil" can hold it's own against these brilliant albums, and this song is no exception.

"Flight 999 (Brimstone Air)" is more of an opportunity for the drummer to show off than anything else. The whole band gets in on the fun, but this short instrumental song really belongs to Zoltan Cs÷rsz (who is definitely a top tier drummer). This song, however, is really more filler than anything else, and this is my major criticism of The Flower Kings. They sometimes have a tendency to pad out their albums with filler, although they finally seem to have broken that habit with the two albums that follow this one, 2012's "Banks of Eden" and last year's "Desolation Rose". This isn't a bad song, but aside from the drum solos, it is kind of pointless.

This brings me to the album's closer. "Life in Motion" is again somewhat reminiscent of Yes, but it has a very catchy pop hook underlying the symphonic prog trappings. It is a song that I frequently find myself humming or singing. Even when it isn't playing on my iPod, it is often playing in my head. Did I say "catchy"? You better call the CDC, because I should have said "infectious". It is the most melodic thing on "The Sum of No Evil" after "One More Time" and is my favorite song from this album after "Love is the Only Answer".

Overall, despite a justifiable criticism of being heavily influenced by Yes and that other prog giant, Genesis, this album is a massive slice of symphonic prog heaven. It is certainly one of The Flower Kings most accomplished yet underrated albums. It can stand toe to toe with any of The Flower Kings' best albums or anything by any of their American and British peers for that matter. I don't just listen to this album. I put it on an endless loop and absorb it. I live it. I breathe it. I sing along with it. The Flower Kings are close to the edge of supplanting Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Gentle Giant at the top of my favorite bands list, and this album is a big reason. Astonishingly, The Flower Kings would go on a five year hiatus from the studio after this wonderful album but returned in 2012 with the acclaimed album "Banks of Eden". So, one star out of five for ruining my life. Just kidding. Five stars, of course!

Footnote: I recently found this on iTunes for $5.99. For 75 minutes of music that is this virtuosic, inspired, melodic and brilliant, that is a bargain indeed.

Fenrispuppy | 5/5 |


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