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


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 543 ratings

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4 stars Way back in the days of old (I may be ancient but I have the musical heart of a teenager) groups like Yes or Mahavishnu Orchestra would put out a new album and it would take even their diehard fans weeks to wrap their brains around it and eventually come to fathom its soul. It's been a long time since that's happened but, with my acquisition of "The Sum of No Evil," I have experienced that phenomenon again. I knew of The Flower Kings from this site but until I heard Roine Stolt's exceptional guitar work with Transatlantic I was never inclined to delve into their catalogue of music. I figured I'd start with their newest release and then work backwards if I liked what I heard.

After the first run-through I didn't even know if I liked it or not, much less whether it was good. My initial thought was that their stuff was complicated just for complication's sake. Wrong. I stuck with it, peeling back the layers one by one and now I consider it to be a fine example of modern-day symphonic progressive rock. Without intimating in any way, shape or form that they are some kind of a derivative copy-cat band, imagine combining the orchestral sensibilities of Yes and Genesis with the eclectic notions of Frank Zappa and the jazz/rock fusion leanings of Return to Forever and you'll have an inkling of what this album incorporates. This is some kind of amazing, my friends.

They start things off with what may be the best cut on the album, the fantastic "One More Time." Within seconds you are greeted with a memorable theme roaring straight at you in state-of-the-art high fidelity as these guys strap you into a roller coaster ride that is full of twists and turns. Before you know it you're cruising through a jazzy section that features incredible dynamics and an arrangement of varied musical ideas that almost defies description. One look at the album art will tell you that there's a nostalgic 60s aura floating about but in most cases that spirit is confined to the lyric content so try not to roll your eyes when you hear lines like "play that song just one more time/and we'll bring back memories/of kingdoms in the sun." Once you get on board with the framework it's presented in it doesn't seem so corny after all. Again, I urge the listener to be patient and give all of this time to sink in. The melodies are intricate and unconventional but as you grasp the totality of what they are doing you start to discern the forest from the trees. Trust me.

"Love is the Only Answer" is the longest epic here and the hardest thing for me to get used to at the outset was the rougher vocal style of Roine in contrast to Froberg's smooth singing. It's different, that's for sure, but in no way is it bad. Early on I would urge you to notice the fine bass guitar tones and stylizations of Jonas Reingold throughout the proceedings. After a heavy section Ulf Wallander's soprano saxophone is a wonderful surprise. Stolt has an admirable Frank Zappa attitude towards guitar leads and it makes the jazz/rock interlude he plays over a magical moment. Things get quieter, then the drums lead you into a synthesizer sequence from Tomas Bodin that would rival anything by Rick Wakeman. Without Tomas' exceptional contributions from beginning to end this album wouldn't be anything close to being as great as it is. He is a master. An aggressive vocal section ensues where lightning-fast Zappa-ish lines zip hither and yon before Roine steps forward and delivers a blazing, passionate guitar lead that will curl your hair. The fluid soprano sax flourish at the end just goes to show that you'll never get a chance to become bored with this album because you never know what's coming next.

"Trading My Soul" is a drop-dead gorgeous ballad. Bodin's cavernous keyboards give the song a huge atmosphere that fits perfectly in this tune about a death dream. Stolt's raspy vocal is well-suited for lines like "not the end, but I sense it is near/I'm in limbo between earth and sky/I can see all your houses from here/but don't you tell me that this is dying," he pleads. But it is Roine's emotional guitar solo that will pin you to the wall. It is riveting and not to be missed.

"The Sum of No Reason" is next and it's refreshing to hear Froberg's velvety vocals again. Here the group seems to channel a King Crimson vibe (always a good thing) as they assume an edgier stance and sprinkle tight, stabbing accents all around. Again, it's nearly impossible to put into words how awesome what this band is doing sometimes but you'll encounter passages that just make you shake your head in wonder and this track has several of them. It "takes a lot of strength to stay insane," he sings but I can assure you that this is far from crazy. It borders on genius.

Bodin's instrumental, "Flight 999 Brimstone Air" offers a bit of levity at this point with its cosmic Star Trek-styled theme but there's nothing frivolous about the drum performance of Zoltan Csorsz at all. He is spectacular throughout the CD and here he gets to shine. He demonstrates that he belongs in the upper echelon of prog percussionists without a doubt. The whole piece culminates in a big time, over-the-top concert ending.

Rolling jungle drums provide the intro to "Life in Motion," an epic cut that brings to mind the glory days of Yes. That's not a compliment I bestow lightly, I assure you, but this group deserves the honor. I won't go into more adjective-filled details but I can tell you that it's brilliant. It embodies all the superb qualities of the band's individual musicians and the song structure is challenging yet rewarding when it sinks into your psyche after repeated listens. The tune climbs higher and higher in intensity until they reach the peak with the heart-felt chorus of "it's like coming home, coming home again/the further we go, the closer we come/there's one chance for everyone/one love/one heart/one chance." It's hard not to feel inspired once the gigantic finale fades away into the distance.

If their older material is as impressive as this release then I've got some investing to do, I can tell you that. I had no idea these Swedes were this fantastic. According to the liner notes they recorded it in one month. Good grief! I'll wrap this review up by saying this album is almost as good as it gets in symphonic prog and if that's your bag then you should have this in your collection. It will blow you away. 4.1 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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