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

BANKS OF EDEN

The Flower Kings

 

Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 796 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars A Symphonic musical triumph, a prog lover's paradise.

The Flower Kings are a much beloved, highly revered virtuoso Symphonic prog quintet, that have had a fair amount of attention over recent years with the release of some of the best albums of the genre. 'Banks of Eden' is certainly an album that is receiving high praise online and so I launched into this album with the greatest of enthusiasm.

Immediately The Flower Kings greets us with a masterful 25 minute epic that is a tour de force of organic musical excellence; an emotional rollercoaster of light and dark passages, moving from one section to another, taking us on an unforgettable journey. The multi movement suite consists of the sweeping symphonic keyboards of Tomas Bodin and some mind bending guitar phrases by the incomparable Roine Stolt and Hasse Froberg. There are some moments that really jump out thanks to the lyrical poetry that augments the musicianship; 'look at the river banks, she is looking behind you, the black clouds they fall hard and heavy, as Eden astounds you'. The song has an extraordinary captivating power with strong melodies and hooks, along with glorious guitar and keys. The rhythm switches throughout as though we were listening to a group of songs that have been linked together, in true progressive style. It features some upbeat flourishes and majestic melodies, with compelling lyrics, such as 'The smiles and suits on TV news, they feed us all, But she's the greatest of liars' and 'we're all just the same old sinner fighting for a piece of nothing'. The band eventually move into full flight with some lengthy instrumental breaks that lift the song to the stratosphere. Stolt's lead breaks are flawless and there is a definite mood swing as we get deeper into it. The acoustic accompaniment is sweet as we hear, 'when I found you I was cold and all my loving gone, life inside you like a spiral sending lifelines from the ground,' and soon it gets heavier after the moody lyric, 'she brought the darkness down.' A loud crash of keys and guitars pummel the silence and then it finally moves to the melancholy softer style that permeates The Flower Kings albums. These moments are sung with heartfelt clarity, such as the thematic, 'tripping the world imperial, leaving the world material'. The organ and guitar that follows is dynamic and it merges to another softer movement, with profound lyrics, 'they say the garden is the body of the soul' and 'plead forgiveness for a soul that's bad beyond the bone'. After this a melancholy synth flute sound and ominous drums build into a flittering high pitched synth solo that always transfixes me. Half way through the song we are now into a very steady measured tempo and some ascending arpeggios of lead guitar and massive string bends, as good as I have heard from Stolt.

It then moves to a quieter keyboard and bass melody and we hear the portentous words, 'there's truth in numbers', and then the main theme of finding truth is enhanced with 'there's truth in progress, there's truth in fame, there's truth in healing, and the truth remains'. The Flower Kings inject into the lyrics the search for answers, for meaning and for truth, and it feels more positive ad hopeful and is stirs the emotions, 'we'll find our way back home.' The next section is a time sig change with a quirky beat that is easy to lock into and then the lead solo dominates and lifts up the atmosphere. The musicianship is commanding and confident throughout and there is a crescendo of a wall of sound dominated by brilliant wah-wah lead guitar and some soaring harmonies. This leads to the memorable lyrics, 'And then the numbers may not come up right, And the artifacts are more than frightening, between the Bible and eternal question, there's an ocean of fear and were sinking faster', and even more potent, 'Look up that skyline, There's a bad moon rising, You may not like it, But that's the lizard you're riding.' It settles into some beautiful chimes and a wonderful bass accompaniment from Jonas Reingold. The percussion by Felix Lehrmann is terrific as usual, moving from frenetic manic jazz fills to a steady patient beat. The song ends with a positive feel of lead guitar finesse augmented by a climbing melody of powerhouse keyboards. The end result after this journey is that 'Numbers' is certainly an incredible musical triumph. I had this opus on repeat 4 times in a row, and every time I am absolutely in awe of this bonafide masterpiece. That's the way to start an album!

After this, the rest of the album offers 4 more tracks of about 7 minutes in length each, more easy to digest and not as complex as the epic of course, but no less brilliant. 'For the Love of Gold' has the signature Flower Kings sound, with ascending keyboards and locking into a positive tempo. The singing by Hasse Froberg is excellent and the lyrics are again filled with questioning meaning; 'The other day we moved like soldiers in our prime, But here we're stuck like stiff canaries in a mine, A one-trick-pony upon the Chinese wall, The Company may claim your body and your soul, What if our destiny lies in the hands of fools, There was a way out, but they'll never let us know, Moves like a clockwork but it's just insane, It governs like a body without brains'. The poetic phrases augment the listening experience especially with the metaphorical imagery such as 'When the mighty fall and try to hide, call them out, When the darkest lie is justified, break it down'. The keyboard solos are wonderful of course but the amazing lead guitar soloing of Stolt is tremendous; the band are at their best on this track, making this another masterful track to indulge in.

'Pandemonium' is a riff heavy track with a darker edge, perhaps standing out on the album as the band at their heaviest. The album is actually a darker one for the band in terms of lyrical content and feel, though there is always that ray of hope that is a drawcard for me to the band. The band make a comment on the materialism of the works and its affects on the human race, but they always show a way out of the mess; out of the pandemonium. The lyrics make the case emphatically about man's greed and it's consequences, even drawing on references to the 9/11 tragedy and the proposed governmental conspiracy of waging war on Middle Eastern terrorism for the sole target of capturing the oil industry; 'Ground zero calling for all scum, The black gold will obscure the sun, The new kings fighting for the crown, Thrown over, just about to drown, Days of madness without an end, More disasters waiting around the bend, Dark ages seem to rise again, Dark times lie ahead my friend.'

'For Those About To Drown' has a measured tempo with a loud majestic intro and then drives along to the verses that tell a captivating story, 'The king is gathering all his men, Reverted back to sword from pen, A genius lie but it's drowned in cries, so a stranger comes to town with a promise of salvation for those about to drown,' and later, 'you smile until the light goes down, it's the nature of the game'. The lead break is always a highlight but the melodies are so strong they have a power to grow on the listener and it doesn't take long before the hooks will sink into the subconscious.

'Rising the Imperial' has a beautiful melody that I could not get out of my head. The soft verses are dreamy and mesmirising, augmented by swathes of keyboards. The lyrics are more melancholy and the way they are sung by Stolt with passion and calmness is superb, such as 'You count them angels, That God once sent, And in the turmoil, You just look for friends, the sweetest apple hides the blackest core.' I love how it segues back to the melodies and lyrics on the opening 'Numbers' epic. This brings the album full circle like a cycle back to the main themes and musical melodies. Stolt's lead break is absolutely glorious, emotionally charged with hyper bends and fret work. The theme is filled with rays of hope, 'we are hope we are fear, we are hunter we are deer, together we can make a change,' and, 'We have the power to heal, Together we can change our ways, We are millions, we are one, From a flower to the sun, Together we can make a change'. It ends with some towering high register singing and a crescendo builds to the ultimate finale. It feels sad as we draw to a close, though it brought tears to my eyes more so because it is musically stirring to the soul, and I was so delighted that the album lived up to the glowing reviews I had read in every respect.

I don't have the bonus disc edition but to be honest the album alone is as worthwhile as anything I have heard this year. The bonus tracks make up 25 minutes more to savour and no doubt in time I will hear it, and check out the video as well. Until then, this is an album I will return to often and it is likely to be in the top ten albums of 2012, perhaps chosen by some as the best album of the year. It is all killer, no filler and features some of the greatest prog on the planet, and I cannot get passed that incredible opening epic as one of the all-time best epics I have been privileged to hear.

The conclusion is that this album is a prog lovers paradise, containing all that makes prog great; overwhelming no holds barred musicianship, superb time sig changes, virtuoso guitar and keyboard solos, intricate innovative song structures, compelling fantastical lyrics, a conceptual framework and a sweeping epic thrown in. It is impossible to be disappointed if you are already a Flower Kings addict, as this is as good as the band gets, harkening back to the type of musicianship and creativity of their glorious albums 'Retropolis', 'Unfold the Future' and 'Stardust We Are'. Is 'Banks of Eden' as good as those albums? You can be the judge, but in my opinion this latest release is definitely a genuine treasure not to be missed by anyone who loves the band and has a predilection for virtuoso Symphonic prog.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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