Space Revolver

The Flower Kings

Inside Out Music America, 2000

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


The new millennium has proven to be a watershed age for progressive rock. Following the resurgence of the genre in the late 90's, responsible largely in part by a few independent labels such as Inside Out Music and Magna Carta, progressive rock has rediscovered its roots and taken a firm hold among listeners around the world, especially in Europe. No band, in my opinion, exemplifies the best qualities of the new wave of progressive rock more than The Flower Kings. The Flower Kings seem to understand better than anyone how follow the path laid down by the classic progressive bands without just mimicking them. Led by Swedish prog mastermind, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer Roine Stolt, they pay reverent homage to the giants of prog, without copying the musical styles. Taking the lead started by those great bands, their compositions are thoroughly modern and fresh.

Stolt and crew juxtapose many stylistic boundaries to create fantastic landscapes of pastoral peace and beauty, but the hard, jagged edges are not far out of sight. They're not afraid to crank it up and deliver some heavier sounds. Elements of many genres show up throughout their work. Metal, jazz, funk, and varied ethnic rhythms are seamlessly woven into the sturdy progressive woof of this amazing musical tapestry. Just when you think you have them nailed down, they throw a new sound, a new texture, or a new sonic color into the mix.

Space Revolver is a perfect example of what I feel makes The Flower Kings stand taller than most modern progressive bands. The opening track, "I Am The Sun: Part 1", is a showcase of the brilliance that this band is capable of. Opening with a soft, swirling mélange of gentle guitars and keyboards, they create a flowing stream of sound that buoys the listener up and carries them along. The pace picks up in flurry of multi-layered keys and exquisitely subtle guitar, driving along on powerful yet understated rhythms, Stolt's gentle voice seems to beckon the listener to forget about their cares, forget about what's wrong with the world, and just relax, and go with the music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The diversity of their compositions shows up in the eclectic and Zappa-esque instrumental "Rumble Fish Twist," a mix of funky prog-jazz-thrash. The rumbling menace of "Monster Within" is one of their heavier moments, both musically and lyrically, accompanied by a sonic soup of atmospheric effects and ambient voices providing a creepy underbelly to the solid, driving rhythm.

A big part of the beauty of The Flower Kings, is their consistently upbeat attitude, and that fact that they are serious musicians who don't take themselves too seriously. Stolt exemplifies this in the opening verse of "I Am The Sun": "Been around for a while, grown my beard, I'm still a child / Dead ends, shortcuts, just the same, I'm the master of my game / Predictable, now you may say, the Danny Kaye of present day / Close my hand, wave my wand, the brainchild of your wonderland."

Brainchild Stolt indeed is, and a Wonderland of sound and visions he truly creates. His enlightening new-age positivity seeps from every nook and cranny. With the upbeat whimsy of "Chicken Farmer Song," he wishes for a simpler, more pastoral life: "I'd rather be where the chicken farmers run, chasing in the sun, knowing all the secret summer."

Even when he's singing of less pleasant things than the idyllic country life, the message is still one that retains a glimmer of light in the dark, like the lament of the evils of war in "Underdog." The message is not about the heroic struggle, but the cost to the human condition: "Slowly become the devil dog, the grinning jaw, the cat's claw / Over and over justify, the mindless crimes, the hollow times." Yet, even with that bleak scenario, the message remains hopeful: "See what it takes to become what is truly yours / Don't let it break you and take you away from us."

Today's musical landscape is dominated by nü-metal angst and idiotic, mindless pop. It seems the corporate music machine wants you to either sink into rage and depression, or just smile and dance like an idiot. The Flower Kings seem to be telling us that the music isn't about taking you anywhere other than to a colorful, centered place in your own Id. So, if like me, you're tired of swimming in the corporate drowning pool of corporate music, take a dip into something a little lighter and more refreshing with The Flower Kings.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Inside Out Music America, and is used for informational purposes only.