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

BANKS OF EDEN

The Flower Kings

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars What a fantastic return from the Kings of Prog. This album has to be ranked has one of the best by The Flower Kings, at least for me. Numbers is an incredible tour de force. For the love of gold is so catchy and so incredible that is a "must be heard". For those about to drown and all the others are amongst the best things that this band has done. I think this break has been good for the band, because the last album, was a bit out of focus and a bit uninspired. Now they are on top of the world with this great record.Buy it because you won't be disapointed. One of the best records i listened this year so far. Thanks.
Report this review (#775459)
Posted Thursday, June 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I know I'm in the minority, but the last album The Flower Kings did is my favorite of theirs, and consequently I had high expectations for this one but it just didn't do it for me. Numbers started off okay, but for me it dragged on. The choruses I found annoying, and I feel like all the long passages just missed great for me. I did enjoy the more bluesy guitar approach at first, but it became tiring for me. Not one of their best epics in my opinion, but it has been a bit of a grower and I do enjoy it more than I did at first, though I still don't quite love it. Then came For the Love of Gold, which I know a lot of fans quite enjoyed. I heard called catchy but it never seemed to grab me, and it took a few listens before I could sit through it without my mind wandering off. However when I finally got it I did enjoy it. I did find myself thinking about Moon Safari a lot during this one, and I could easily see this on a Moon Safari album. I have been having trouble with this album because on paper it seems like something I should love but everything just seems to miss the mark, and though I can't find any overt flaws I just can't hear anything spectacular, which is a common problem for me and basically anything Roine Stolt is involved in.

Pandemonium was an interesting song, that I've had a little trouble putting my finger on. I can't decide whether I love this song or not. For the most part the guitar riffs are a bit dull, and like numbers I find the chorus annoying, but there are other times especially near the end of the song where I absolutely love it. The best part of the song is Bass playing, it's adventurous and works well with the guitar and does never sound out of balance. Then comes my favorite song on the album, For Those About Drown. After listening I had it stuck in my head for a long time. It has interesting lyrics, I actually enjoy the choruses as opposed to most Flower Kings songs, and I found Roine's playing fun instead of boring. This one reminded me a little bit of Spock's Beard tunes like The Man Behind the Curtain, fun and catchy with an interesting story-line while still having great instrumental passages. The next song however is perhaps my least favorite on the album. It calls back to my least favorite sections of Numbers and builds a whole 'nother song around it. It heavily features the strange jazzy sitar sound that Stolt uses that again on paper sounds like something I would enjoy but the actual execution is lacking. Roine gets into some decent soloing here that nearly saves the song but I still find it lacking, and quite boring.

In the regular version this would be the end of the album but I acquired the 2 disc version with four additional songs. This second disc is definitely not necessary, and the first disc is superior to the second, the songs here are all shorter than the ones on the first. I won't get into as much detail as I did the first disc, but I find the musicianship lacking, and the whole disc rather boring, more accesible than the first perhaps. This disc starts off with the song Fireghosts. It is not too proggy, and to me sounds like something that could be played at the end of a movie and play into the credits. Going Up seems like a bit of a fun upbeat song, something you could play for your friends, but not an exceptional song. It slows down with the bluesy instrumental Illuminati. The beginning and end are more quiet, and reminds me of cliched lobby music, the middle section sounds more like a bluesy pink floyd-esque guitar jam. Disc 2 ends with Loi Lines is a fitting end for the disc, and is probably my favorite off of the disc. It may just be me but this whole disc 2 besides Illuminati, especially this song, (excluding the end of the song) reminds of a more bluesy version of The Fixx. Don't get me wrong I love The Fixx but it just doesn't work for me with The Flower Kings.

All-in-all, the album was a bit of a disappointment, but it has grown on me a little, though it's still not my favorite. In interviews Roine commented that this album was more metal influenced, but I hear much more to do with blues than metal here. The first disc I give 7.5/10 and the second a 6/10, and for the purpose of this review a 3 star. Maybe not the best Flower Kings album for all but Flower Kings fans should love this.

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Posted Friday, June 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The Flower Kings: Banks of Eden [2012]

Rating: 9/10

[EDIT 8/2/12: After further rumination, I bumped this up to five stars. The original review is unchanged.]

I possess an unabashed adoration for The Flower Kings. They are the greatest symphonic progressive-rock band since the 70s. Some people think that they imitate older prog acts. These people are wrong. After a four-year hiatus, they're back with the brand new studio album Banks of Eden.

Although the 'Flower Kings' name was temporarily shelved in 2008, the band members certainly have not been idle with their own projects. However, there is a certain magic about this group that cannot be matched, and it was amazing news when their well-earned sabbatical came to an end. Unlike some fans, I find the band's 2007 release The Sum of No Evil to be an absolute masterpiece, so it was difficult for me to imagine a fitting follow-up. My faith in Roine and company is strong, however, and after hearing Banks of Eden, it is even more unwavering.

One of the best things about TFK is their ability to remain stylistically consistent while still providing depth of variety. Banks of Eden is further evidence of this; although the classic TFK sound is mostly unchanged here, this album is different from anything the band has ever done before. This is by far the darkest record the band has ever made. Of course, 'dark' is a relative term here, considering how happy this band usually is (they're called 'The Flower Kings', after all). Banks of Eden is a dark album in the same way 'The Gates of Delirium' by Yes is dark song: it is a more cynical spin on a normally idealistic musical atmosphere. This cynicism is reflected both lyrically and musically, as this album is much heavier than The Flower Kings of yore. Again, this is relative; no sensible person would expect crushing riffs or brutal shredding on a TFK record. Still, there are more driving rhythms and down-tuned melodies than usual.

This subtle augmentation of the classic Flower Kings sound is encapsulated in the opening 25-minute opus 'Numbers.' This piece only further reinforces Roine Stolt's absolute mastery of the prog-rock epic. The first eight minutes are a flurry of heavy riffs, groovy rhythm lines, vocal interplay, and dynamic shifts woven together with Zappa-esque intricacy. The middle sections are quite melancholic, featuring emotive vocal lines, light blues guitar, and ethereal bass tones. The final section introduces another chorus while simultaneously reprising earlier themes. All of this comes together to create a cornucopia of staggeringly complex and mind-blowing music. This is yet another masterpiece in the growing collection of TFK epics.

The other four shorter songs, while superb, do not quite match the grandeur of 'Numbers.' 'For the Love of Gold' is Hasse Froberg's moment to shine vocally. It's a great song, but it doesn't come close to the level of some previous Hasse-driven TFK songs such as 'Minor Giant Steps' or 'Love Supreme.' 'Pandemonium' is a dark and heavy track with lots of complex Crimsonian instrumentation. Roine uses an odd robotic vocal effect that put me off at first, but it ends up working rather well. 'For Those About to Drown', while lyrically dark, is quite whimsical in sound. Roine sounds great here, and his concluding solo is one of the guitar highlights of the album. 'Rising the Imperial' is by far the strongest of the shorter songs. Roine's vocals are in top form, and the chorus is unforgettable. This track is made all the more impressive by the fact that it was penned by bassist Jonas Reingold, who holds very few writing credits on previous TFK albums.

Does Banks of Eden reach the same level as some previous Flower Kings masterpieces? Not quite. Regardless, it is still an immense achievement from one of the greatest bands of the past 20 years. The classic sound is not heavily changed, but there are enough new ideas present here to make me even more optimistic about the band's (hopefully long) future than I already was. It pains me a bit to not rate this as a full-on masterpiece, but it simply doesn't speak to me on quite the same level as some of the band's previous work. Either way, this is modern prog at its finest. The Flower Kings are not kings by name alone.

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Posted Saturday, June 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Flower Kings- Banks of Eden A review by Don Cassidy of Delicious Agony Progressive Rock Radio

Since 1994, there have been few modern symphonic progressive rock bands that can equal the quality and quantity of music that has been released by Sweden's The Flower Kings. Starting when former Kaipa guitarist Roine Stolt released The Flower King in 1994, a new wave of modern progressive rock was released upon the world with the positive feel of Yes that featured complex musical structures, heartfelt melodies, and spiraling epics. For the next thirteen years, The Flower Kings released twelve amazing albums, four of which were double disc releases. The fact that Roine Stolt and long time members Tomas Bodin, Hasse Froberg and Jonas Reingold also were also involved with their own other projects and solo releases makes this accomplishment even more impressive. After the 2007 album The Sum Of No Evil, the band decided to take a hiatus from The Flower Kings. The band members certainly did not rest on their laurels and they continued forward releasing albums and touring with their various musical projects such as Transatlantic, Agents of Mercy, 3rd Word Electric, Karmakanic, Kaipa, Hasse Froberg's Musical Companion, and Eggs and Dogs. After a five year break, the band has returned with the anticipated new album, Banks of Eden. Not surprisingly, The Flower Kings have exploded back on the prog scene with one of their most exciting and impressive releases to date.

Banks of Eden is a single disc 55 minute focused release, which is highlighted by the presence of new drummer, 27 year old German sensation, Felix Lehrman. Following in the footsteps of former great Flower Kings' drummers, Jamie Salazar, Zoltan Czorcz, and Marcus Lilliquest, Lehrman brings an enthusiastic, hard hitting, drum style to the band. The album starts with a spiraling 25 minute epic Stolt song, Numbers, which begins with Lehrman's drums announcing to the world that The Flower Kings have returned. This song contains all the classic twists and turns of classic Flower King epics like Stardust We Are, The Truth Will Set You Free and Love Supreme. Stolt has described the song as "not easy listening but very rewarding". I would agree and after the third listen it has become a favorite of mine.

The rest of the songs on the album all fall between six and seven minutes long, and contain various elements of the classic Flower Kings sound. One of the constants of the new album is the amazing guitar playing of Roine Stolt. The classic Stolt guitar sound is all over this release and proves again why Stolt is one of the top rock guitarists in the world. In addition, I have always believed that Stolt possesses one of the warmest, unique voices in progressive rock. The fact that Stolt sings lead on the majority of the songs, harkens back to the early days of the band. That warmth is balanced out with the majestic vocal style of Hasse Froberg. Together, they give the music a feel that can only be described as "classic Flower Kings". Bass extraordinaire Jonas Reingold brings his masterful playing to the album and forms a formidable rhythm section with Lehrman. Tomas Bodin's keyboard genius is again on full display and his playing complements Stolt's guitar perfectly. For The Love of Gold is an instant Flower Kings classic, with a great solo by Bodin and the album ender, Rising the Imperial, features a Gilmour influenced solo by Stolt that is emotional and majestic. In addition, the fretless bass sound of Reingold and vocal power of Froberg add to the emotion of the song. Pandemonium, which was originally written by Stolt as an Agents of Mercy song, contains distorted Stolt vocals that give the song a unique flair.

The album is also released as a special edition which features four more great songs, along with an interview with the band in the studio. None of these songs are "throwaways", thus I would highly recommend buying the special edition. The production of Stolt is outstanding, as is the artwork and design by Silas Toball. After having the pleasure of seeing the band live on several occasions, I would anticipate the new material translating to stage very well. Banks of Eden should be a favorite of the fans of the band and hopefully attract some new ones. This is a fantastic release by one of the most prolific and important progressive rock bands that sound rejuvenated after a five year break. After all, The Flower Kings have become so influential in the world of progressive rock that they are the subject of the four disc tribute album, A Flower Full of Stars on Musea Records. Banks of Eden is indeed a triumphant return for The Flower Kings, and an early contender for album of the year

Don Cassidy President, Interviewer, DJ, Artist Promo contact Delicious Agony Progressive Rock Radio www.deliciousagony.com

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Posted Sunday, June 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars TFK's 5 year hiatus has indeed yielded something special is my first conclusion after several listenings. Banks of Eden is the bands first studio album since Space Revolver without weaker songs or fillers. It's interesting though that after the very first listening experience I favored the bonus disc over the main disc and this was due to slight disappointment (and extreme expectations) and at that point I was pleasantly surprised with the bonus disc. This last statement remains but after four or five times checking out the main disc I have changed my mind about that one. Especially the opening epic Numbers made a huge step in my appreciation. At first I hoped for an epic as huge as their very best like Monsters & Men, Garden of Dreams or my latest fav Love is the Only Answer. And then Numbers at first seemed a slight setback but after repeated efforts it sinks in much better and I began to get the hang of it. Numbers is right now at least in my personal top 10 of TFK songs ever.

How about the rest ? Contrary to practically all their predecessors Banks of Eden is the only album with just one 10+ minute song. All others (including the bonus tracks) are even below 8,5 minutes. And that's remarkable. In earlier reviews as well as in their appreciation thread in our forum I often state that their epics are their great strength. Almost all of them are extremely worthwhile where their shorter tracks (and then mainly their below 5 minute efforts) are weakish and sometimes even totally dispensable. But with Banks of Eden Roine & co managed to produce a whole set of middle length and shorter songs that are in fact all way above par, probably even excellent or better. Actually I have a hard time to pick the best of the rest or even the least of them.

And this makes me come to the conclusion Banks of Eden deserves the same rating as the equal in quality Space Revolver. The style isn't totally the same as on this millennium album but the strength overall is in fact. So where I initially contemplated a four star rating because I didn't think it was better as the predecessor (Sum of no Evil, which deserved a 4,5 in my opinion) I have to change my mind in the end. Banks of Eden is a very strong come back and essential for anyone who has nothing against this great Swedish band.

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Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The Flower Kings are back! After a five year absence they have reformed to record a stunning album titled Banks of Eden. Roine Stolt felt at the time when they decided to take a break that it was necessary so everyone could go do what they wanted and then come back refreshed. He is glad they decided to do that because there was a concern that they would be getting too comfortable with their sound and fans would not hear anything different or any variations in their recording process. This release promises to deliver a few new wrinkles that are noteworthy but then again that is exactly what I would expect.

Well make no mistake this is The Flower Kings in all of their undisputed prog rock glory. I would encourage all listeners to check out the band member's solo work, all of it is exceptional. And if you are prog fan you know what Roine has been up to.

The thing about this band is that they leave their egos at the door and entertain each other, thereby giving their audience a thrill a minute. The very first track 'Numbers' kicks of the proceedings in true prog rock style clocking in at a gaudy 25:20. It is a superior amalgamation of advanced musical craftsmanship. I think the combination of Roine and Hasse Forberg (make sure you check out his recent Music Companion release) on vocals is magical and they play off each other beautifully. And as usual Roine's guitar work is exceptional. The only position in this band that is rotating is behind the drum kit but it always seems to work out. Felix Lehrmann pounds the skins this time out and every other member is in their proper place to round out the band's unique sound. The only track that comes in under four minutes is 'Lo Lines' on the bonus CD. A few examples that come to you packaged as food for thought are 'For The Love Of Gold' and 'Rising The Imperial.' On 'Rising The Imperial' you get some real heavy things to think about with lines like 'Rising the tide imperial, Leaving the world material, Enter a world superior, Leaving the world material.' In one verse our world of over indulgence and technology seems like a waste of time and the false gods surround us. You realize in a flash that only the true spirit of man and what is inside us can be revealed once all of the muck and garbage on the surface is removed. I got that message as if Roine was standing beside me with a megaphone screaming it in my ear.

I must comment on the exquisite artwork which is included with the accompanying booklet that also includes band pictures, credits and lyrics. This is one aspect of The Flower Kings that has gone hand in hand with their music (as it does with any great prog band) but this time they have something very special from Silas Toball (www.silastoball.com). The spacey other worldly drawings help set the tone of the album before you even start listening, but then again that is whole idea isn't it? The recording is also available in a limited edition orange vinyl set with expanded artwork to enjoy, which by the way I am so tempted to get. This is an entire experience that should not be missed. I would recommend the bonus disc set because it is totally worth it to hear four more great tracks along with a video of the band and a tour of their studio showing their vintage soundboards and equipment. You don't need to be a qualified prog head to enjoy a package like this, being a general music fan is the only requirement. This is just great fun and it should be taken as such. This does not take away from the stories being told mind you, their music can be very dark and telling at times so it is not all fun and games in the message that waits in the music, you can be certain of that.

The Flower Kings have not missed a step with the release of Banks of Eden. Their music always turns me inside out and then back again. I am mesmerized with their sound and stunned with the quality of musicianship offered up on this set. Is this a triumphant return to glory for The Flower Kings? Wave your flag Sweden because that is an understatement!

Key Tracks: Numbers, For The Love Of Gold, Rising The Imperial

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Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Right - I had to go for the five stars, I did consider 4, Why? Because of the lyrical content, Again Stolte has decided to go for a lot of cliche in the form of biblical references, he mentions Cain again, He is always in the mythical garden of Eden where the evil serpent & the naked Eve, trap man in his original sin...Yadda Yadda Yadda.....Anyway, on second and third listenings, I put aside my thoughts on the lyrical content and let the music soak into my brain. Yes, this is musically entertaining and some of the guitar work is outstanding and touches the parts most guitarists don't even know exists...You have the Epic, which has grown on me - it's a melodic masterpeice, not quite as good as Garden of Dreams, Stardust We Are or Monsters and Men...but it's fourth on my list I think....It's a bit like Yes in parts, but it's a good ride for the 25 minutes and thats a good start. The track 2 - Awakenesque - chord progression catches my ear straight away and it's a PEACH of a track. Track 3 - has a bit of "Watcher of the skies " in it - but it's also a good solid track. Track 4 - excellent melody and Track 5 - monumentally emotional guitar solo. This CD is definately symphonic prog at it's best and will be hard to beat this year, surely this is going to be up there in 2012. Note to Mr Stolte - for your next FK effort - lets have a song about how religious lunacy driven by mysoginistic GREEDY men has caused far more human suffering than scientists ever have...but I like the little mellotron from the Lamb in the fade out at the end...NICE ONE CENTURION !!!
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Posted Friday, June 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Posted Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The gratuitous adoration of this masterpiece of a Flower Kings album (sorry for being redundant) came to me much the same way it did for every other one of their works. Upon first listen, everything went over my head. Second listen, I thought it was probably one of their worst albums. Third, I suppose Love of Gold is pretty great. Fourth, Oh good god the first and second verses of Rising the Imperial are beautiful. Fifth, NUMBERS. ROCKS SO HARD. Sixth time I loved every bit of it, LOOK up that skyline, there's a bad moon rising! GROOVY.

Don't be scared off if you cannot comprehend Numbers, for as Meistro Stolt himself said, "It is NOT easy listening, give it some time and I think people will like it." This album has everything you could want out of the Kings, and consequently out of "Symphonic Prog" in general. Every track is special, every part fits perfectly, no filler or out of place material. And of course the compositions are mind-blowingly executed and are just pure genius. Especially the way Numbers and Rising the Imperial fit the album together.

If you love Prog, if you love The Flower Kings, If you love beautiful melodies, technical mastery, compositional genius, and wondrous emotion, buy yet another masterpiece from the fair and benevolent rulers of Progressive rock.

"We are millions, we are one, From the flower to the sun, together we can make a change!"

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Posted Wednesday, July 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
darkshade
COLLABORATOR
Jazz Rock/Fusion Team
5 stars The Flower Kings return with a new album after almost 5 years of absence. After releasing 10 albums, four of which were full double albums, in less than 13 years, the amount of time since their last album "The Sum Of No Evil" may have seemed like an eternity to some.

I've known about The Flower Kings for over 7 years now, but only in the last couple of years have I really explored their extensive discography. So in the two years leading up to the release of this new album "Banks of Eden", I was pretty much catching up, and not waiting for a new album like most other fans. Thus, I did not have as much high expectations as other did. I finished collecting all their studio albums only a few months before the release of this new album. My point is, some may have had high expectations for this album, and maybe felt let down by the lack of material (the album is a mere 55 minutes long, very short by TFK standards), or felt underwhelmed by the music presented here.

For me, as a relative TFK newbie compared to long-time fans, I could not have been happier with Banks of Eden. Also, having been going through their previous output, I learned early on that you cannot judge ANY Flower Kings album on the first few listens. My first listen was fun, but only on repeated listens did the nuances and creativity of this album reveal itself.

The epic track "Numbers" is up there with previous TFK epics, in fact, surpassing some of them. The big climax near the end of the song is one of the best moments in Flower Kings history, and has given me chills every time I listen to it. Roine Stolt plays some absolutely great guitar in that section, as well as the rest of the song. Just this epic track, alone, is worth getting the album for. But there's more...

For The Love Of Gold has some great Moon Safari-like harmonies, and excellent keyboard work from Tomas Bodin. Pandemonium has bassist Jonas Reingold (who is probably his most reserved on this album), playing some really great odd-time bass lines. He also wrote the final song, "Rising The Imperial", who's main theme can be heard throughout the album, giving the album a concept album feel, and great way to bookend the album with from Numbers which has the Imperial theme in its opening.

As I said before, I just recently collected all their studio albums, so their music is still fresh for me, including the lesser-liked albums. Everything is solid, even some of the band's best. I can easily view this album as one of their best, and the condensed nature of the album makes you just want more, and don't all the best albums leave you wanting more?

Luckily, there is a special edition with a bonus disc of 4 more songs, though only equaling out to about 22 minutes; these tunes are very good and worth getting if you can get the special edition.

One of the best Flower Kings albums, and not a bad place to start if you are new to them. It's not a very long albums, all the songs are great, and I'm excited that the band will be releasing a follow up already. I consider many of the band's albums to be masterpieces, and this is certainly one of them. Great, great, great album!!!

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Posted Wednesday, July 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#783067)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've listened, and I've listened, and I've listened to this album... and STILL I'm not greatly impressed.

I try to work out exactly why. Maybe it's the lack of keyboards in front of the sound. Maybe.

There have been earlier TFK albums which I've equally struggled to warm to (probably all the nineties albums except 'Back in the World of new adventures'.) I suppose that the 'Banks of Eden' is in the same category as those.

I really enjoyed 'Adam and Eve', 'Paradise hotel' and 'The sum of no evil', but of course the flow was then broken by the temporary split. For me, it hasn't benefitted them.

In fact, I would have tentatively suggested that TFK had become the No.1 Symphonic prog band in the World... Sadly, being in that position no longer guarantees you the riches once enjoyed by their predecessors of thirty years before...

The band sounds less like a band, and more like Roine Stolt's own vehicle. Whilst being in a band must be wearing, once people leave to join up with other musicians there SURELY has to be a leakage of ideas and creativity.

Quite frankly, I would have started the album with track 3, 'Pandemonium'. It sets the right precedent. it's a more solid sounding TFK track than all the others. The long track (Numbers), eventually reaches its crescendo, but it seems painfully long-winded in getting there.

For me at least, It all adds up to a disappointing new album, and all the more so after the territory that they had reached with their previous three albums.

Report this review (#786176)
Posted Tuesday, July 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars For about a couple days ago I was thinking that 2012 hasn't brought a really good album so far. Of course, last albums of Rush, Gazpacho and OSI are all good efforts, but they are not really impressed me unfortunately. But when I've listened this, album, that is The Flower Kings' Banks of Eden, I've felt shocked and really happy. I really love this album and i have some reasons of course. The very first thing that impressed me is the length of the songs. They are not so long, that is except the first song Numbers, the length of the songs varies between 7:52 and 4:24. Perhaps it can be seems too short for a modern progressive rock album, but all these songs can still effect me deeply that i've got a feeling of even an addition of a single second can disturb the whole song. Vocals are great except the beginning of Numbers, and also there are a few guitar solos that impressed me, i mean, some of the guitar solos are really epic. It is hard to define a favorite song for me, i like all of these. For the last words, i'd like to express my rating for the album, it is 9/10, and i think it can be the best prog album in 2012.
Report this review (#786181)
Posted Tuesday, July 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Flower Kings have returned after a gap of five years. They've been so busy with other projects it seemed possible that they might have run their course but I'm pleased to say Banks Of Eden is their strongest album in years. 2007's The Sum Of No Evil whilst a very good album and a big improvement over Adam & Eve and Paradox Hotel lacked the spark of the band at their best, my initial enthusiasm wearing a little thin over time. Hopefully Banks of Eden won't go the same way but I suspect not.

I think the layoff has done them good as they appear to have returned with renewed vigour. The band have often been accused of their albums being too long with double CD sets like Stardust We Are and Unfold The Future containing too much filler material. There's some truth in this and they've wisely kept Banks Of Eden under the hour, though a bonus disc on a limited edition version does contain an additional 4 tracks.

Banks Of Eden doesn't break any new ground containing the kind of complex symphonic prog they're known for. There's the almost obligatory epic 25 minute piece along with 4 shorter songs. Any of the tracks here could sit on any of their late 90's/turn of the century albums but whilst the lack of progression may grate on some there's no denying the quality of the material on offer. If you don't like The Flower Kings by now this won't change your mind but they turn in a strong performance - latest drummer Felix Lehrmann is a worthy successor to Zoltan Csorsz and Jamie Salazar. Most importantly, the albums full of strong hooks with some great instrumental work and better vocal melodies than on the last few albums. Not surprisingly when you stick and epic track on an album, it will either stand or fall by this. Thankfully Numbers is their best since The Truth Will Set You Free released 10 years back on Unfold The Future containing all the above mentioned qualities.

Where Banks of Eden also wins over some past releases is the lack of filler. It's not their best album but nevertheless a welcome return to form from a great band. Now some UK dates would be very welcome outside London please.

Report this review (#788799)
Posted Monday, July 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can say without a doubt this is The Flower King's best album since Flower Power, and probably their most consistent work since Retropolis. While there is nothing standout on this album, there are no weak points either.

I will admit, however, that I was slightly underwhelmed by the epic. Numbers (8/10) is a good track, but it doesn't reach the same levels as 'Stardust We Are' or 'I Am the Sun.'

In my opinion, the following shorter tracks are even better than the epic. 'For the Love Of Gold' is in classic TFK style. Awesome melodies are abundant here along with some nice vocals from Roine and Hasse. Easily the best track of the album and one of TFK's best as well. (10/10)

'Pandemonium' (8/10) is another great track featuring some interesting distorted vocals, and For Those About To Drown (8/10) sounds like it could have appeared on Roine Stolt's 'The Flower King.'

'Rising the Imperial' (6/10) is a good conclude to a great album. While not as good as the preceding songs, this one does feature Hasse passionately belting out the vocals.

What I like about this album is that they're not afraid to explore a slightly darker side, and the sound is slightly harder than some of their past albums. As far as vocals, normally I prefer Roine, but Hasse is simply at the top of his game here. Also, I believe the shorter format really benefits these guys. Their double albums usually seem to be filled with amazing material along with some not so amazing material, which makes for a rather inconsistent listen. This album really doesn't have any weak moments, which truly begs the question: How do Roine and company do it?

7/10

Report this review (#792446)
Posted Sunday, July 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can't call this one of their absolute best studio albums - it will be hard for them to ever top Flower Power, Paradox Hotel or Stardust We Are, all of which are double albums - but as far as singles go, I'd put it just behind Space Revolver and Retropolis. It is really good, and considering it was their comeback album, major props for coming back strong. This was a strange album for me in that I loved it a lot at first, then I was a bit turned off of it for a while, and now I love it again. It has all of the elements that make up a great Flower Kings record, and is very consistent, even when factoring in all four bonus songs. This is a great album, for existing fans or someone looking to get into the band.
Report this review (#794438)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A masterpiece that you should NOT miss!

Here I am ' having been spinning this latest album by Sweden's prog giant The Flower Kings in its entirety many times already. In fact I can not count how many, may be ten or twenty even more. I don't really care really. What I do care is the fact that the band has returned their existence into progrock business with new concept and dazzling compositions. Boom! They killed me at first shot the first time I played this album couple of weeks ago. Yeah, they really blew me away the first time I listened to the opening track 'Numbers' which represents the longest duration in the album and indeed the best composition even though the other tracks are all excellent.

Truthfully, 'Numbers' is the only track from The Flower Kings that made me hooked to the music the first time listening to it. I have never had any experience that I fall in love with the song at first listening. Onlly 'Numbers' can do it for me, really. I don't mean the other tracks by TFK were not that as good as 'Numbers' but all of them were quite hard to digest at first time. What makes 'Numbers' really ticked into my mind? Well, I really don't understand it to tell the truth. Come to think of it I think it mostly due to the tagline melody is memorable and it sticks into my mind easily at first spin. The beauty is that even though this track serves like an epic with its 25-minute duration, all segments in the epic sound like one melody that spans from opening part till the end. Interestingly, you would not seem to get bored even though the overall melody is the same. It's really great!!!

Musically, it also flows wonderfully from intro to mid section till its final ends with smooth transitions among segments. They know exactly who their customers are ' so they have crafted the music in such a way that it offers various styles and moods that prog lovers would like to experience. On instruments used, you might find tons of great work of Roine Stolt in his guitar work backed solidly by Thomas Bodin's keyboard. Jona Reingold also contributes solid basslines throughout the song.

Well, so far I only tell you the opening track 'Numbers' ' what about the rest? I can assure you that the other tracks are excellent. The second track 'For The Love of Gold' has simpler structure and composition compared to the epic. Nonetheless it's an excellent track with good harmonies of vocals, guitar as well as keyboard. You would find stunning guitar solo even though not a long one ' but's good, really!

The third track 'Pandemonium' is progrockers favorite, I am sure. Why? It starts wonderfully with a mind-boggling intro that kills you right away. The intro really represents something you might expect any prog music to start with. As the track rolls into middle part you would experience excellent combination of vocals and intertwining compositions. It's really great! It has combination of many styles of prog ' you name it. In fact it has that part of foxtrot thing, jazzy thing as well as symphonic thing let alone rock thing. The melody is also nice as it is represented by guitar, keyboard and vocal harmonies.

To be continued '.

(The above piece was written at coffee shop while listening the album with a headphone)

'For Above To Drown' represents typical The Flower Kings musical style back dated in their years of inception with some parts in the vein of Roine Stolt's first solo titled 'The Flower King' (without 's' at King word). gain, TFK wants to prove that they can produce great melody and harmonies as they demonstrate through this song. I believe you would love this track as I do.

The last track on the first CD 'Rising The Imperial' is again indicating their capabilities in creating melodic music. The intro part is mellow and melodic with sort of bluesy style in guitar as well as basslines. Moreover the nuance of this song serves like an overall closing of the well-crafted album. It combines blues style demonstrated by Stolt guitar solo as well as symphonic style thru Bodin's work. It's really an enjoyable one!

I don't want to comment on track by track basis on the bonus disc that comprises four tracks: Illuminati (6:20), Fireghosts (5:50), Going Up (5:10), and LoLines (4:40) as all of them are good tracks as well. Without this bonus disc, I still consider that this album is an excellent one.

Overall, I would definitely say that this is a masterpiece of 2012 prog album that you must own it as it proves that the band is still a prog giant after that long time vacuum period for not producing new album. It's definitely a five-star rating album. Keep on proggin' '!

Peace on earth and mercy mild ' GW

Report this review (#800512)
Posted Saturday, August 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars They're back. One of the biggest cult prog bands of this era of modern day Progressive Rock. Many people including myself wondered if we would ever see the Flower Kings again. Five years ago it seemed that the band had run out of steam and worse still, rumours indicated a problem internally with some of the band members. However with the release of "Tour Kaput" last year and Roine Stolt beginning to hint of the band coming together, hopes were raised. Its not as though the members were disparate through the time apart. Many of the side projects have featured others from the group. No matter how good the side projects are, Karmakamic, Agents of Mercy and other solo works, when the Flower Kings are together there is magic. Add to the mix the newest member Felix Lehrman, who is a brilliant big hitter of a drummer and a star of the future, and there is the ground for some of the finest prog you'll ever hear. So on to "Banks of Eden". Is this an album worthy of a five year wait? Emphatically...Yes! It's a true Flower Kings album in every respect and I will nail my colours to the mast and say possibly one of their best. That last statement is a challenge to explain since the catalogue of albums features some incredible music in huge quantities. The opener, 'Numbers' is a typical 25 min epic employing the usual techniques in melody and structure. It revisits the melodies established through the song at the end /closing section to great effect. Also with repeated listens the hook from a later track 'Rising the imperial' is found within numbers and this helps to stitch the album to gether beautifully. The remaining tracks on the album are shorter than those you may find on other albums in the past, however they hold up very well as shorter songs and indicate a more streamlined approach. In the past songs like " For those about to drown' may have typically topped the 12 min mark, instead the middle intrumental section is cut short to return to the catchy refrain. The total running time for the album is a rather slim 55 mins which by the bands standards may seem almost EP in length, however there is more quality to be found on the 2 CD version. The second disk opens with a 'Illuminati' which is a slow burning blues piece which builds beautifully to a classic Stolt soaring guitar climax. In fact all of the musicianship on this album is sublime. Bodin provides a combination of catchy hooks of stabbing 70's influenced keyboards mixed with power chords of symphonic bluster. Reingold provides silky bass with heavy jazz influence and this works particularly well with the superb range of style that Lehrman can produce. The vocal combination of Stolt with the rock opera range that Froberg can reach works to perfection and every track is a great example of this. What amazes is the way that they all come together so readily and then produce such class so quickly. The ability of the unit is simply jawdropping. There may be many suggested starting points in a long and feature packed career for the new listener. The epic value of 'Stardust we are' or the frenetic jazz energy of "Rumble Fish twist" may be also worth a go early on, but for a converting listen to the magic of this group this album is about as good as it gets.
Report this review (#808993)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This took me quite a while to reach a decision on a rating. I purchased the album the day it was released, and after finding "The Sum Of No Evil" to be one of The Flower Kings' best albums, I expected more after a five year absence.

Numbers, at twenty five minutes, is obviously the star of this album. It begins with some promising dark riffs, And of course, the musicianship is impeccable, but for long periods throughout the song is plagued by cloying, treacly melodies. I understand that Roine Stolt has always written this way, but the length and frequency of these sections make this track tedious at times.

The next three tracks are in the classic TFK style: modern symphonic prog, with more than a few hints of Yes influences. They are good, but offer very little to expand the reperoire of the group. The closing track, Rising The Imperial is just too sedate for my tastes, and does not leave me wanting more.

The bonus tracks are interesting, but I can understand why they are not on the official album disk, as they do not seem to fit the theme. Illuminati and Fireghosts both seem to be aPink Floyd influenced. The former sounds very much like Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and the latter sound more like the songs from "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. Going Up is another Yes-styled song, and LoLines is my favorite on this short disk, a herd rocker.

No, I don't hate the album, I just expected much more from these guys.

Report this review (#809738)
Posted Friday, August 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I had pretty given up on the Flower Kings after Space Revolver, not really interested in their « let's put on our albums everything we've ever written » and it was sometimes difficult to play their albums all the way through. The five-year break since Sum of No Evil has been very beneficial and they seem to have found a renewed energy on Banks of Eden. The 23-minute epic Numbers is pretty dynamic and never gets boring and the four other tracks show a pretty good diversity and everything fits together pretty well. The song selection process was very well thought of, and the extra material has been relegated to bonus tracks on the deluxe edition. With the new Änglagard and echolyn albums, this represents one of the high points of 2012 so far.
Report this review (#809754)
Posted Friday, August 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
richardh
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I started listening to the Flower Kings about 12 years ago and stopped shortly after Adam and Eve. TFK are one of those bands that do everything 'right' , play beautifully and their albums are undoubtedly complex. Lots of melody as well. However I would just ask the question ,have they evolved into anything over the years , has anything actually changed or is it just the usual prog by numbers retro approach?. I find little joy or pleasure in this music even though I love classic symphonic prog.It lacks for me any real emotion or 'drive'. Whereas his mate Neal Morse is on a mission I don't know what Roine's motivation for doing this. I can't get a handle on it.For me its one long unremarkable track followed by a few shorter unremarkable tracks. No attempt to do anything remotely interesting or break the mould. The bonus tracks show them being a bit more straightforward and are quite good but they aren't the reason for this album existing.Still my opinion will count for little which is fine. Make your own mind up is always the best way. I have made my mind up and I can't really see myself revisiting it. If my opinion changes I promise to let you know!

EDIT 14-9-13

OK so I have changed my mind on this! I really like the shorter tracks (although Numbers is still a bit of a pain and stops me giving 5 stars) but the rest of the album is perfect modern symph prog. Lots to enjoy really. Always happy to admit when I'm wrong.

Report this review (#810061)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Banks of Eden" is the 11th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive rock act The Flower Kings. The album was released through InsideOut Music in June 2012. The album is available in a "regular" 1 CD version featuring 5 tracks and in a 2 CD/ 2 LP version which features additional 4 tracks. Knowing the band´s usual release rate it´s been an unusual long recording break as "The Sum Of No Evil" was released as far back as 2007. There´s been one lineup change since that album as drummer Zoltan Csórsz has been replaced by Felix Lehrmann. The 5 track, 53:25 minutes long album is an unusually short album for The Flower Kings considering the band´s usual standards, but maybe the long time between albums and the fact that the band have opted not to do everything they can to fill out the full 80 minutes of playing time on a CD has payed off in terms of a consistently high quality album?

Well..."Numbers" opens the album in great style. It´s arguably the highlight of the album. At 25:20 minutes it´s the longest track on the album and it´s almost needless to say that it´s structurally a very adventurous song that goes through quite a few dynamic changes and atmospheres. It´s generally a pretty dark track though and in some ways it reminds me of "Devils Playground" from "Unfold the Future (2002)". While it´s certainly a complex track, the fact that themes reoccur in reworked versions throughout the track makes it appear as one memorable track instead of appearing as a number of shorter tracks put together to form a longer track. "For The Love Of Gold" features a more light and uplifting mood and is mostly sung by Hasse Fröberg. "Pandemonium" takes a more weird turn in the vocal department with some psychadelic effects on the vocals, but also features some really nice soloing. "For Those About To Drown" is quite the intriguing track too and then "Rising The Imperial" closes the album in great style. The latter features re-worked themes from "Numbers" and thus provides the album with a melodic concept. At least when it comes to the two tracks that bookend the album.

The 4 extra tracks on CD2 on the 2 disc version of the album are decent, but besides the beautiful instrumental "Illuminati", I wouldn´t go out of my way to get a hold of the 2 disc version. It´s clearly on CD1 that the band have placed the most interesting compositions.

The music style is as usual symphonic progressive rock strongly influenced by the likes of Yes and Genesis mixed with hard rock/psychadelic rock influences and some more avant garde moments that at times remind me of Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention (they are few on this album though). In that respect there is nothing new under the sun on "Banks of Eden". It´s just another well produced, well played, well written, high quality release by The Flower Kings. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#816082)
Posted Friday, September 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars And so The Flower Kings are back with their first album in four years, although most of the guys have been busy in other projects in the intervening time. I have to confess to a love/hate relationship with the band, as while they have consistently produced great music over the years, there have also been times when they need to take a hatchet to their work and undertake some serious editing. I have only managed to see them in concert once, but have to admit to being suitably impressed and my then eight year old daughter sat on the stage at Roine's feet entranced by what was going on. There has always been a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I ought to love everything TFK do without reservation, as they are mining a type of symphonic prog that I have always enjoyed, but against that I also had the view that Roine's solo album that gave the group the name was actually superior to anything the group had managed to achieve.

So when this arrived to review I was more than a little cautious ? a quick glance at the track listings showed me that although most of the songs were of the roughly six minute mark, opener "Numbers" was more than four times that length. So even before putting it on I already knew what it was going to sound like ? wrong. To my ears this is easily the finest thing that TFK have ever achieved ? there is a sense of direction that I haven't heard before. Even "Numbers" feels like a fully constructed piece without the meaningless noodlings that I had come to expect. This is an album where everything is right. It is hard to put it into words, but if like me you felt that they really hadn't managed to come up with the goods then that is definitely no longer the case. From start to finish this is a proghead's delight and I only hope that we don't have to wait so long for the next one.

Report this review (#820807)
Posted Friday, September 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Perhaps it's the comparatively long break between studio albums between this one and The Sum of No Evil which has the prog pundits going ga-ga for The Banks of Eden, because to my ears there's nothing new under the sun here. Perhaps I am simply jaded and am missing the point; certainly I would concede that the Kings offer here a technically accomplished and rather nicely polished example of their craft, up to their usual standards. The problem for me is that the album is up to their usual standards and not a tiny shred better; simply put, it offers all of the features and musical motifs you expect from a Flower Kings album, including a total lack of innovation or surprise.

I guess I should applaud them for stopping at 50 minutes or so because their usual recording process seems to be to walk into the studio, start playing, and keep going until there's no more space on the CD, "editing" and "discernment" apparently being traits of lesser mortals. But beyond that this is best left for the hardened retro-prog fans.

Report this review (#823291)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is very much a Flower Kings album: a lot of music; a lot of familiar styles; lyrically trying too hard. What is different about this album is that the band is not trying too hard musically--i.e. while all instrumentalists are flying high, displaying facility and ease, they are blending their sections better than ever and not going too over the top, not being as bombastic as they have. The music seems to flow easily, naturally. While some are raving about the epic, "Numbers," I happen to really enjoy the short songs much more. While "Pandemonium" (9/10) and "Rising the Imperial" ((9/10) are my favorites, all the others save "For Those About to Drown" (6/10) are all worthy of 7 or 8 tenths. "For the Love of Gold" (7:26) (8/10); "Fireghosts" (5:50) (7/10); "Going Up" (5:10) (7/10); the bluesy-PINK FLOYDIAN instrumental, "Illuminati" (5:56) (8/10), and; the CLAPTON-like "LoLines" (4:24) (7/10). Virtuosic guitar work throughout. Vocals are more diverse but still a weak point. 3.5 stars rated up for maturity, complexity, consistency and effort.
Report this review (#863992)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The supreme protagonists of modern symphonic prog return with Banks of Eden, following a fairly lengthy hiatus instigated by founder and main man Roine Stolt. I love this band, and this release was one of the promised highlights of 2012. Of course, the question that always needs to be answered is: was it worth the wait?

Well, an emphatic yes is the answer. In fact, I would go as far as to state that this is the band's most satisfying work since my personal favourite, Stardust We Are, and, indeed, probably replaces that album for me as the recommendation I would give to newcomers to the band as to where to start to explore their catalogue.

There are two versions of the album. A single cd, and also a two disc version. I purchased the latter, but I will concentrate, in the main, on the single version.

There is the absolutely obligatory TFK epic track to start proceedings off, the twenty five minute plus Numbers. It is a mark of the quality of this great band that this flows beyond mere time, and is a track which ranks amongst the finest they have ever released. It is noticeably darker than much of what they have produced in the past, not that it is gothic or doom laden, but certainly has a cutting edge both musically and lyrically that I find fascinating. It is a symphonic masterpiece, with the urgent guitar work of Stolt and Froberg, especially, taking this piece to incredible heights, and to say that this is amongst Jonas Reingold's most important bass work for this band is merely to emphasise just how good the master is. To my mind, he replaced Squire as progressive rock's most important bass player a number of years ago. Lyrically, this is about a search for meaning, for truth, for the nature of our inner self, and this is, of course, a theme the band have addressed before. There are some lovely harmonies, and Froberg, especially, rises to the occasion admirably. The only real complaint I have is that it is over before you know it - how often do you say that about a track the length of an old vinyl LP?

The epic track, in addition to the whole album, also avoids the somewhat annoying noodling and jazzy experimentation that have, in my opinion, marred some of their other works. There has, clearly, been a conscious decision here to return to what they do best, and that is pulsating and sound laden symphonic prog.

So, as to the rest. A let down? Not a bit of it. For The Love of Gold is quite simply a joyous, upbeat, toe tapping track which should, if there were any justice in the world, be a hit single. Other reviewers have compared this to 1980's Yes. I don't quite see it myself. In fact, in spirit, and execution, it is far more akin to life celebratory tracks from that great band's heyday of Fragile or Close to the Edge, without ever being derivative.

Pandemonium, has at its heart a pulsating rhythm section, with keyboards swirling, and a gorgeous main guitar riff. All in all, a very heavy track, with vocals, in parts, rather reminiscent of some of Hackett's material, and a very political agenda too boot.

For Those About To Drown strikes me as a bit of a throwback to rather earlier TFK works, rather whimsical, but definitely featuring some of the most pulsating and urgent guitar work the band have ever produced, with Roine on top form vocally producing some beautiful lilts.

The final track of the "standard" CD is Rising The Imperial. If anything, this beats the opening epic as the track of the album for me. It was penned by Reingold, although why some regard the high quality as being a surprise because it was written by him strikes me as staggering. Listen to Karmakanic, folks, then you will know. Lush, melodic, and really quite sumptuous, I adore this track, and I know that all of you who like their prog to emote and flow will do too.

Okay, that is the main event. The bonus cd is not up to the same standard, I am afraid. Not that it is bad at all. It just suffers from not being as good as the first, and here is the one criticism that can fairly be levelled at this great band. Sometimes they just don't know when to stop. Having said that, the first track, Illuminati, is fantastic, a guitar based piece (and the playing is melodically sublime), backed by some really lovely sampled keys, all rather suggestive of a Stolt does Floyd moment.

So, to rating. This rating is for the main cd only, not the two disc version. This album is quite brilliant, and a real fillip for those of us who rather feared we would never, ever, hear from the band again, because I have to say that they really are better as the sum of their parts, rather than apart. Of course, this comment can also be applied very strongly to the band who influenced them the most.

If we had such a rating, 4.5 stars for this, a truly excellent album which is a joy to listen to. No flaws as such, it is just that the three other tracks do not quite match up to the bookend pieces - they are only excellent!

4 stars. An excellent addition to any prog collection, and very, very, highly recommended.

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Posted Saturday, January 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
Roland113
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars They're baaaack!

The Flower Kings, after a five year hiatus return with the full line-up of Stolt, Bodin, Reingold, Froberg and 'the new drummer'.

Right off the bat, Felix Leherman (the previously mentioned new drummer) does his best to say, 'Oh no, I AM the drummer' by blowing the kit out of the water in the first moments of "Numbers". As "Numbers" continues the Kings show one of their greatest strengths by alternating the lead vocals between Roine Stolt's raspy voice and Hasse Froberg cleaner leads throughout the 'Bad Moon Rising' section.

One interesting side note, I've never quite enjoyed Tomas Bodin on the keys until now. Either his playing has matured or I've gotten used to him, either way his style is beautiful throughout the epic.

The height of the epic, and in fact, the entire CD, is the ' . . . and then the numbers . . . " section. A phenomenal Roine Stolt solo soars throughout the section as he shows off that he is one of the best guitar players of modern day prog. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. If you want to know what Roine Stolt is all about, this is the place to do it. Regardless of your Flower King appreciation, this guy is a virtuoso. In addition, Jonas Reingold is a musical contemporary of Mr. Stolt, easily able to blend his own style with that of Stolt's. Throughout the 'numbers' section, Jonas solo alongside Mr Stolt melding the two instruments beautifully. (I refer to Jonas Reingold as 'Jonas' because I've actually met and talked to him once. Mr. Stolt on the other hand, I've not met.) Again, this section personifies everything that is great about The Flower Kings. My only complaint about this section is the it ends all to soon with an abrupt and unwelcome Zappesque outro.

On to the other tracks, "For the Love of Gold," shows the whimsical, poppy side of the band. "Pandemonium" is the low point of the album for me, after the four minutes of nice instrumental work we get heavily synthesized vocals that are easily the worst sounding ones on the whole album. With two world class vocalists, I can't understand why they went with vocals that are so over processed that it's distracting. On the bright side, "For Those About to Drown" is a catchy tune with a lot of majesty. I grin every time my five year old starts singing the chorus. "Rising the Imperial", written by Jonas Reingold, is another wonderful tune based on the melody first introduced in "Numbers".

The second CD is a series of four songs that didn't quite fit with the first five, but are good on their own merit. For the price of a single CD, I got the bonus tracks, nothing wrong with that.

I should take a moment to talk about the cover art for the CD which is absolutely stunning. A Buddhist theme beautifully done in shades of green and orange that dominated my work computer for several months (I still have my mainframe processing system done in the green and orange theme).

All in all, "Banks of Eden" is the best release of the year and a solid five star rating for me. It is full of majestic moments, blistering guitars, beautiful vocal arrangements and all around virtuoso musicians. This is the kind of music that got me into prog in the first place. This is The Flower Kings. Welcome back!

Report this review (#902763)
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions Team
5 stars Five years ago, I bought The Sum Of No Evil (2007) and I enjoyed that album a lot. Knowing The Flower Kings I was expecting a new album on 2008? but it never came. In fact, we had two live albums, The Road Back Home (2007) and Carpe Diem (2008), and that was it. Then in 2009 Roine Stolt started a new project called Agents Of Mercy, then there was a new Transatlantic album, pretty much every Flower King member had new solo albums being released. I thought to myself that The Flower Kings had come to an end. Well, I had to wait 5 years, but I was wrong. In mid 2012 the band got together again and recorded a new album, Banks Of Eden (2012) and I have to say, their best so far.

Although I didn't understand why the 'normal' and 'bonus disc' version thing. I can honestly say that the 5 years hiatus made wonders to the band members. Then you include a new drummer (Felix Lehrmann) and here you go. Songs like 'Numbers', 'For The Love Of Gold', 'For Those About To Drown', 'Rising The Imperial' and 'Illuminati' are between their best tracks ever.

This five years hiatus thing could be used with bands like Dream Theater or Neal Morse as well, because on The Flower Kings case, it was the right thing to do!

Banks Of Eden (2012) is on my Top5 2012 easily!

Report this review (#936139)
Posted Wednesday, March 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I don't know why I had avoided this album for so long. Only a few weeks ago I decided to give it a listen, and, oh boy, I realized how much I had missed.

I don't have the skills or patience to write long, flowery reviews, so I'll just be brief and to the point: this is a delightful album for all those who like high quality, well-executed, intelligent music. I have a feeling that virtually anyone, of any musical taste could listen to Banks of Eden without having any of his/her special sensibilities offended.

I don't know if The Flower Kings have attained much linear progress with this album, as the music seems to be quite to the template of what could be described as the mainstay, safe and sound symph. But, good music has a huge advantage that's hard to ignore or deny: it's pleasant to listen to, even thought the listener might realize that he/she is not witnessing a musical revolution, or the birth of a new genre.

To sum up: not quite 5, but 4 stars for sure.

Report this review (#940382)
Posted Saturday, April 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've put this off long enough I guess.

As a dedicated fan of this band (I am a frequent poster on the Flower Kings appreciation thread in the forums, as well as the Flower Kings Yahoo group and other forums) , I was very much looking forward to their glorious return to recording and touring. I was excited to get my hands on the new album, and after 5 years to recharge their batteries, I figured they would probably have a very good album as a result, at the very least.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I heard this for the first time. Actually, knowing how prog albums can take time to grow (as did a previous masterpiece by this very band, Unfold The Future), I didn't think to much of my initial disappointment. However, after more listens than I can count, this album still disappoints me. It's not that the album is outright bad, it's just that I find it lacking in so much of what drew me to this band in the first place.

I keep hearing this is a "return to form" or some such, but I just don't hear that at all. It's a stripped down version of their former greatness, and it's lacking in the quirkiness and symphonic grandeur that they previously possessed. Another surprise for me is that all of Roine's lyrics, bar none, are dreadfully dark and depressing on this album (despite most of the music being in the typical upbeat Flower Kings style), which is a very unusual occurrence. He has has songs and parts of songs that used such lyrics, but never an entire album. Jonas Reingold's two compositions on the album do the opposite, however, and save the albums lyrics from being totally dark.

Numbers is almost as dull and plodding as my least favorite Flower Kings epic track, Monsters and Men, though does feature one brilliant symphonic climax in the second half of the track that almost makes up for the dull and dreary nature of the rest of the track (along with some excellent guitar solos from Roine Stolt). Despite my rather unflattering description, as a while it's not a bad piece of music.......I just find that it seems overstretched and that the melodies are not strong enough to maintain such a lengthy piece of music. A rare occurrence for the Flower Kings, to be sure. Moving on to For The Love Of Gold, we have a very typical Flower Kings upbeat song that renews my faith a little in this album. It may not be particularly new or original, but it does encapsulate the spirit of the band far better than the opening track. Pandemonium is probably my favorite track on the album, as it has quirkiness in spades as well as some drive and vigor, which is noticeably absent from much of the album. Some have complained about the vocal effects, but I think they suit the song well. For Those About to Drown is an average song that doesn't really leave much of an impression, despite repeated listening. Rising The Imperial is a lovely Jonas Reingold tune that has uplifting lyrics and a mellow symphonic grandeur that ends the short album well.

Speaking of short, I have the special edition, that features 4 bonus tracks. These are shorter, more "pop" oriented numbers that are all quite decent, though not anything particularly special.

What's interesting to me is that I find I like the album more when I incorporate these tracks into the main album, and place the opening epic next to last (I find the instrumental Illuminati makes a nice coda to the album). Doing this makes the album 76 minutes long, much like more typical Flower Kings albums. I like the that they kept the main album to around 50 minutes, but I find that on the whole the material just isn't strong enough to keep that short running time from seeming too long to me. Which is odd since their normal 70+ minute albums have never seemed too long to me.

After the incredible Sum Of No Evil album, I probably shouldn't be too surprised that this was overall a disappointment to me. Numbers didn't even improve when I saw it performed live (though the climactic point I mentioned earlier did come across more powerfully and impressively in the live setting). I had hoped that 5 years of other projects would have brought us something a bit more in line with their greatest works, but I guess even Roine Stolt can't crank out masterpieces indefinitely.

On the whole though, this isn't a bad album by any means, and despite my disappointment I can enjoy this from time to time. Though it will probably be relegated to the "once a year or less" pile with Adam & Eve and the second CD of Flower Power. Still, a fairly solid 3 stars is the perfect rating for this for me. Good, but in no way essential.

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Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars First I have to reluctantly admit this is a well produced and musically well done work. This is the Swedish symphonic group The Flower Kings's eleventh studio album and it was released last year an featured the musicians Roine Stolt (guitar, voice), Hasse Fröberg (guitar, voice), Jonas Reingold (bass). Tomas Bodin (keyboards) and Felix Lehrmann (drums). The record contains five tracks of whom 33 minutes is the same composition (Numbers+Rising the Imperial) which starts and concludes the album. I hav'nt heard the bonus tracks, they could be good but I'm not so hardcore.

"Numbers" is a long and good symphonic work with winding keyboards and guitars. A lot of themes are repeated hear but it's not a problem and sometimes it's a really good track. The instruments are perfectly fused together. But I am not found of Stolt's voice, yes it's clear but to American, I prefer British English. "For the love of Gold" has a great intro that comes back som times but the vocal parts aren't so interesting. Swedish people hear a piece of the children televsion show "Bamse" (The World's strongest bear". "Pandemonium" also has a good intro and the play is skilled. "For those about to drown" is the record's best track with wonderful melody, good vocals and a interesting text which gets me thinking of Beatles' "Cry baby cry". It alse feels like som folk tendencies here. Last track "Rising the imperial" is a good closer with a theme we know from "Numbers". The last track is calm and harmonic.

In summary this is a talanted group which can make good symphonic rock and this record is very well produced and I am convinced many people will love it. But for me it feels repetitive and not especially progressive. Unfortunately this feels like a pale copy of better prog music from the 70s. This is not boring at all, and also good, but I have hard to relate to it. I rate this 3,5 and to calm my conscience I give this three stars. This is not as good as many records I have given four stars. Roine Stolt's band Kaipa sounded very unique in the seventies. This is better than nowadays' Kaipa but don't match the seventies' prog.

Report this review (#965357)
Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Tripping the world imperial... Leaving the world material"

THE concept album. At the music store, the seller recc me this album, knowing of my musical preferences. So I bought this one, my first album from The Flower Kings. An it surprised me a lot. I admit that it took me more than once to get into Banks Of Eden. But when it starts to make sense, the music becomes amazing. Numbers is the first, the longer and the stronger track. 25 minutes without over the top passages and boring parts. Great songwriting and technic. All the tracks are following the Numbers proposal, and all very well done. The ending track, Rising The Imperial, is a slower song based on the Numbers' main chorus, pretty good. About the bonus disc, nice interview, but the songs are quite the contrary from the album: a shame. Unbearable.

Prog is still alive, and well!!

Report this review (#970625)
Posted Monday, June 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love the album UNFOLD THE FUTURE and when I got BANKS OF EDEN in my hands and put it inside my CD player and clicked "PLAY" ...The Future started to stumble and my first impression was: Is this the best album of the Flower Kings? Musically speaking, maybe this is one of the most complete albums the Kings have, following the usual formula, long pieces with thousands of arrangements within each. The level of composition is unquestionable in every Flower Kings album, so once you have one album they make, it is 100% warranty it is going to be well produced, composed and they will never fail your expectations. Banks of Eden, amazing album!
Report this review (#1015349)
Posted Friday, August 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars A return to form indeed! I've never been a great fan of The flower Kings as i think they have lacked consistency throughout their albums, they are capable of offering great songs and epics but rarely (or even never until now) came up with a consistent begin-to-end album. I think this is it, great epic in "Numbers", amazing melodic hooks and intrumental parts (Stolt back to his best work, i havent heard him play with such soul since the first Transatlantic album), no filler songs, everything came together this time and the result is probably their best work to date ... i may not be a Flower kings fan but i'm definitly a fan of this great album!
Report this review (#1034419)
Posted Friday, September 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars

I'm a fan. I have enjoyed all the Flower Kings and Transatlantic albums I've heard including this one.

If you have appreciated this band's other albums, you'll certainly like this one too - unmistakably their sound and as usual a few nice surprises here and there.

"Numbers" is the opening track, and it is a corker! Hooked me in right away. The rest of the album is made up of shorter songs but they add up to a continuous feast of symphonic prog, with pinches of achingly beautiful blues guitar thrown in to warm your heart.

It has only one weaker track as far as I can tell - "Going Up", but even that is a pretty good pop song, just not by the band's normal standards.

Overall, a good solid 4 "Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection" - I'd recommend it to anyone interested in Prog or rock in general.

Report this review (#1049145)
Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
GruvanDahlman
COLLABORATOR
Heavy Prog Team
4 stars My goodness, what is this I hear? Brilliance, flowing like an ember currant thorugh my ears. Electricity in the brain cells, as one Sir Douglas would have told you. I am speechless. Truly, I am. I have always been an avid fan of yesteryear(ish) prog and have not really embraced the geniuses of today. But maybe I do. Now, I mean.

The Flower Kings may be contemporary but they've been around longer than many others. Tracing some of it's origins back to Kaipa and the early 70's, it is not such a small feat creating music today way beyond anything Kaipa managed back then. Maybe I like Flower Kings due to the fact that they are history come alive, embracing the classic 70's period and expanding it's borders. I guess so. The music manages to stay not just retro but also present, which is quite something.

The opener, "Numbers", is possibly the greatest track written for the past twenty years or so. It is outstanding. Comprising several themes, many of them recurring in the remaining tracks, in the most flawless amd seamless way is brilliant. I am loss for words here. There is every emotion in this song, beautiful lyrics and enthralling magic pieced together into one, long track that seems to go on for just a few minutes. That is true genius. Making long tracks seem short is all the proof I need to be convinced about a songs divinity. It never let's up and keeps me engulfed in it's warm embrace.

The second best track, "Rising the imperial", is a striking builder. From the gentle, humble beginnings it rises to the sky by way of an amazing guitar solo by Stolt. Yet again everything seems to be made in a mould constructed by divine forces. How is it possible to write music like this? Complex yet very melodic, engaging and easy to love. That is a feat worthy the twelve of Hercules. Indeed. I tell you.

The three tracks in the middle are great but do not reach the heights of the former two. They linger in their shadow. Very good indeed but I sometimes feel they are only the gateway to the Prize, "Numbers" and "Rising the imperial". If it had been just those two song the album would have gained an easy five staf rating. As it stands I rate it four. It is brilliant pieces of music.

Report this review (#1085241)
Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Flower Kings are one of my favorite bands in the world. The two albums preceding this were absolutely wonderful! After a 5-year hiatus, the band returns with "Banks of Eden." What a disappointment. This is most certainly the worst Flower Kings album ever. Where are the soaring melodies and flights of fancy? "Numbers" is the worst epic track they've ever done. I go to The Flower Kings to hear beautiful melodies hidden inside uplifting, clever instrumental sections. This album is boring and missing melody. This is still a good release, but there's no magic in this album. What a bummer.
Report this review (#1092289)
Posted Thursday, December 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
FragileKings
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I'd unknowingly been a fan of progressive rock since the end of my elementary school days, enjoying the longer, more complex compositions of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, and Metallica and collecting all the Pink Floyd albums on cassette. I just didn't know this music was called progressive rock until I became a sudden huge fan of Rush at the end of 2010 and then Yes in June of 2011. By 2012 I converted to progheadism and began exploring the genre in earnest. The Flower Kings album "Banks of Eden" showed up on Amazon one day and I gave it a sample. I wasn't convinced that this "new" band was really prog and so I checked them out on PA and was stunned to find that this was a well-established band with quite a catalogue of albums, a few of them double studio albums, not to mention Roine Stolt's involvement with Kaipa in the seventies. I went ahead and ordered the deluxe edition of "Banks of Eden" with the bonus disc of four songs. I've been meaning to review the album ever since and just now, two years later, I am going to share my thoughts.

The opening track is the 25-minute epic, "Numbers". It begins with lots of action, impressive symphonic prog that really rocks at times and eases back when required without turning cold. For the first ten minutes there is much to keep up with. But as I walked home tonight with the song in my earbuds, I found my attention wandering during the slower part in the middle. I am sure it's a necessary part of the song but I finally wondered if the track wasn't winding down soon and I looked and saw there was still ten minutes left! But around 18 minutes the interest comes back and I was once again keeping my ears and mind connected. As this was among the first of my modern prog albums, I was and am still pleased and impressed with most of this song.

"For the Love of Gold" swiftly became my favourite on the album, mostly for the delightful vocal harmonies and the transitions between pop-symphonic prog and occasional punches of hard rock. Guitar solos, synthesizer solos, and organ solos figure in this song, and though the chorus tends to show up fairly often, the melody is catchy. I noticed tonight how the drummer seems to be hard at work at avoiding a 4/4 beat. He's hopping about on his drum stool and dropping odd beats and bursting out with sudden fills, a nice touch to a song that often sounds like a prog song in pop clothing.

I quite appreciate the length of this album. At just over 54 minutes, we have reached the point where there are only three more songs to hear and all between six and eight minutes long. Considering the band often released double studio albums and that they hadn't released a new studio album for a few years before "Banks of Eden", it's a surprise to find an album so concise. "Pandemonium" begins with some exciting symphonic prog a bit on the heavy side but soon the song settles into musical territory already established in the lengthy first track. Some are put off by the sci-fi character vocals that seem to be making an embarrassing attempt to rap, but I find this part adds some originality to the general tone of the album.

We are back into symphonic prog complexity with "For Those About to Drown" and the lyrics have a Gabriel-esque ring to them. The music also reminds me of "Seeds of Love" by Tears for Fears at times, which in turn makes me think of the Beatles. This has become my second favourite song on the album, though Roine Stolt's vocals sound intentionally nasal at times and a bit annoying.

The final track, "Rising the Imperial" didn't leave much in my memory previously but listening to it again tonight gave me a fresh take. It's slow and more atmospheric and actually better than I remembered. It's interesting to note that "Numbers" begins with lyrics from "Rising the Imperial" and also that "Rising the Imperial" includes a continuation of part of the lyrics to "Numbers". In a way, the two longest tracks create bookends to the album.

The four tracks on the bonus CD are all worth the extra money, in my opinion. "Illuminati" is an instrumental that, around the 3-minute mark, reveals its intention to pay homage to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" with some wonderfully played Gilmour-tribute guitar. "Fireghosts" is a catchy song that is likely the most pop-sounding on the entire offering. The melody is pretty and uplifting but with a trimming of sentiment. "Going Up" rocks out a bit and takes us back to some of the excited playing that showed up on "For the Love of Gold". The final song, "LoLines" shows the Flower Kings in hard rock seventies style with a marriage of almost boogie rock and symphonic prog, depending on which way the song is leaning in the beginning, middle, or end.

After this purchase, I was impressed enough to later pick up three more albums by the Flower Kings and I still have two more at least that I'd like to get. This and "Space Revolver" remain my favourites, with "Banks of Eden" winning slightly in overall sound and general impression.

Report this review (#1238222)
Posted Thursday, August 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
Progulator
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I think I just about leaped out of my seat when I heard that The Flower Kings were getting back together after a lengthy break. Obviously there has been no lack of productivity from the individual members of this legendary Swedish group via fantastic albums from the likes of Karmakanic, Agents of Mercy, Hasse Froberg and Musical Companion, etc.; however, there's some special magic that happens when these musicians get together to write music under the banner of The Flower Kings. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, and I didn't really care. Whether or not I always get it the first time around, experience has taught me that TFK produces prog of the highest quality, with the special ability to deliver music that walks an interesting line of catchy and profound. Each of their albums has taken me repeated listening and devouring to truly appreciate; while some other bands tend to knock me off my feet on the first listen, TFK has crept up in my list of favorite bands, little by little, eventually ousting out the competition and making it to the top.

The choice to break the silence of their 5 year break with an opening track of 26 minutes shows that Stolt and co. want to make one thing absolutely clear from the get go: they mean business. "Numbers" ends up being a track that you can seriously rock out to and provides TFK's intelligent signature use of leitmotif and doesn't forget to put their money where their mouth is with fantastic instrumentation. Between the timpani roll that kicks off the piece, Felix's aggressive drumming, and some extremely dark, heavy, and thick moments, these Swedes aren't ashamed to add a few new shades to the band's already diverse palate of sounds. Don't expect TFK to abandon their traditional sound though. Here we have everything that we've come to love about the band. Mr. Bodin gives us some great symphonic moments along with great Rhodes playing and some of his signature eclectic patches, Jonas shows us once again just how capable he is of laying down some really melodic and slamming grooves, and Hasse and Roine deliver the goods on guitars and vocals as we can expect. For such a lengthy piece, this actually goes by incredibly fast. I would have to say this is one of their most precise long compositions; the main themes are delivered and reworked in ways that make them instantly recognizable but never repetitive, and vocals are used abundantly and effectively. One thing that struck me as distinct about this particular track is that it seems like it's not quite so keyboard heavy as some other TFK long tracks, perhaps it's a bit of Roine's experiences in Agents of Mercy playing into this new sound, however, that is not to say that this isn't symphonic. There's definitely lots of keys to please synth happy geeks like me.

While "Numbers" really shows off the new elements that TFK are bringing to the table, "For the Love of Gold" really takes us back to the classic TFK sound, drenched in synthesizers that are mixed right up front, just how I like 'em. This tune really puts out a positive and uplifting vibe, plus the 3/4 groove at about 3:30 really makes you nod your head and smile. I should also mention that both Hasse and Roine do a fine job on the vocals on this very enjoyable piece. In the end this one really put me back in that Flower Kings spirit and reminded me that these guys know how to have fun.

The last track I would like to mention specifically is "Rising the Imperial," written by none other than the stunning bass master, Mr. Reingold. Let's just say that this guy knows how to write the most perfectly melodic bass parts that will bring you to tears. The chord progression feels very introspective and dynamic, coming in and out like the swaying of waves until it reaches high tide and you're drowning in a sea of wonderful, musical texture. While I tip my hat of to Jonas for the amazing piece, everyone did a brilliant job performing on this song. For example, Roine's vocals compliment the lyrics perfectly, emphasizing the somber nature of the piece, and his guitar solos will melt your heart. After the first one, I said to myself, that would have been the perfect climax to the song, why did they keep going? But then they added some strong vocals sections and brought Mr. Stolt back in for another round of breathtaking guitar-work, backed perfectly by Tomas Bodin's wonderful Hammond playing. Good move; I definitely couldn't complain after a section that was that good. To put the icing on the cake, Hasse's wonderful voice and Tomas's dense keyboard arrangements grace us once more, and the regular album comes to a close. "Rising the Imperial" really wrapped the album up with a bang. At 55 minutes of fantastic composition and performances over five songs, the main album certain left me satisfied. For those who can't get enough of TFK, like me, the band has given us a little extra treat with the special edition which includes a fun video interview and four bonus tracks on a second disc; a little bit of extra fun for everyone.

In short, if you liked The Flower Kings already, you'll love this album. If you aren't that into them or are a fence sitter, I doubt that this will change your mind. In my opinion, this is a finely executed album and will sit very nicely in my Flower King's collection and get regular rotation among their other masterpieces. Where it ranks among their albums, I couldn't say. All I'll say this early on is that it's good, real good, and I hope and pray they'll come out to San Francisco as they tour this gem of an album.

Report this review (#1287889)
Posted Sunday, October 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars As a long time fan of The Flower Kings, it took a long, long time too to write this review (no pun intended). After the masterpiece that was The Sum Of No Evil (2007), the band took a five year lapse before releasing a follow up (an incredible amount of time in Flower Kings terms). Officially it is too one of their shortest works clicking at "just" the 53:20 mark, although most versions do have an "bonus" CD with extra 22 minutes of recorded music. In other words, it all could fit perfectly a single CD and the results could be better (see below).

Banks of Eden did not excited me at all at the time, I must admit. Maybe I was expecting too much after the terrific previous one. And I never did understand the high ratings it got on PA. Perhaps Warthur is right: the long time probably excited the other reviewers for the fact that the band came back after a long spell and they were all missing those guys, so they would be in a forgiving mood. Maybe, I don´t know. Certainly I was not convinced by the opener, the massive 25 minute plus opus Numbers. Unlike many other giant musical pieces TFK produced before (Stardust We Are, Garden If Dreams or The Truth Will Set You Free) this one is quite boring and take a long (that word again!) time to sink in. And even then, it still leaves the feeling of being overstretched and not exactly convincing as a whole. I have the feeling that this is what makes this CD much less striking, because the remaining tunes are very good. And the "bonus" material does have some stronger performances than the "official" ones - in terms of passion and fire at least - even if they are more straightforward rocking than the rest. Fireghosts and LolInes specially are quite moving and powerful. One thing that I miss is the presence of percussionist Hasse Bruniusson and saxophonist Ulf Wallander. Production is, as usual, top notch.

Rating: it was also very difficult to rate Banks Of Eden. Compared to their best albums, this is a lesser work. However, it is still a lot better than most of what you get on the market nowadays. So the 3 star rating must be seen as evidence of relative loss of songwriting quality compared to what they do best, specially to their previous The Sum Of No Evil. Still it´s a worth release from a band that is one of the best prog acts to emerge from the 90´s and beyond.

Report this review (#1479297)
Posted Sunday, October 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Weakest TFK Album.

Not sure what happened here. Despite a 5-year break, TFK returned with this, their weakest album to date (the follow-up to this one, 2013's 'Desolation Rose' is much better). The opening epic, the 25-minute long "Numbers" is pretty good, as its cousin the closer "Rising the Imperial", but most of the remaining 7 tracks are sub-par for TFK (including those on the bonus CD). Of these, it is the first track on the bonus CD ("Illuminati") that is the best among the rest and which could be justified on the main album, leaving 6 tracks which stand among TFK's weakest studio releases and probably better suited for fan-club album. They are far more mainstream in approach, and their melodies and lyrics are not very compelling. Of course, this being TFK, there are some good musical ideas on each of these other tunes, but in each case they are coupled with themes and licks that are far less musical, and even off-putting - the vocodor vocal chorus on "Pandemonium" for instance, which I think ruins what could have been a good tune based on the strength of the opening lick. So, while I really like "Numbers" and "Raising the Imperial", which alone make this album worth getting, those are not enough to bring this album up above three stars (also, I wonder about the inconsistency in the composing credits here. "Numbers" is credited to Roine Stolt, while "Raising the Imperial" is credited to Jonas Reingold. However, these two tracks are musically related and share the same chorus-theme and lyrics, so who wrote that?). Despite taking 5 years, this album seems thrown together overly quickly. Of course, don't get me wrong here - a weaker TFK album is still better than the best albums from many other bands, and better than 90 percent of recorded rock music! Overall, I give this album 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale.

Report this review (#1703412)
Posted Saturday, March 18, 2017 | Review Permalink
2 stars What is there to say about this Flower Kings album? Hmmmmm... Oh I know! Heavily Overrated, this album just goes to show that The Flower Kings were at their peak at the start of their career. Those first 5 albums showed how strong they used to be. This album take way too much influence from blues rock, Tomas Bodin's playing is good but weak in terms of sounds given to improve this album. This album shows the decline of one of my favourite bands... 'Numbers' is the only song on this album that has some classic (yet much darker side of The Flower Kings) elements. All in all, this album is weak and not nearly as good as Old Flower Kings... sadly I think that Unfold the Future was their last great album.
Report this review (#2251180)
Posted Saturday, September 14, 2019 | Review Permalink

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