Kyle Allbright 12-July-2009 The Sum of No Evil

Roine Stolt / guitar, vocals
Tomas Bodin / keyboards
Jonas Reingold / bass
Hasse Frberg / guitar, vocals
Zoltan Csrsz / drums

The Sum of No Evil is one of the most compositionally dynamic of The Flower Kings output, and its not the easiest of their albums to get into. Many fans looking for a resurgence of TFKs symphonic retrospective tendencies should be pleased, as this is a welcome return to form following the less-than-inspiring releases of Paradox Hotel and The Rainmaker. Still, its not as impressive as the Instant Delivery live CD, or as emotionally captivating as Space Revolver, and it lacks the symphonic power of Retropolis.

It took me a number of repeated listens to get into this album, so it is not immediately accessible. Ive grown quite fond of it by this point; so dont give up on it too quickly. The Sum of No Evil requires a great deal of exploration to unravel its intricacies, so you are better off listening to it more than once before making any final judgments. You will need to pay attention to it, or it will go over your head and you wont get it at all.

The mixture of symphonic tendencies interlaced with jazz sensibilities are highlighted on this album. Comparisons to Yes and Genesis are obvious, as with most of TFKs earlier releases, but there is also a noticeable Canterbury influence throughout the jazzier passages, and the influence of Frank Zappa is more notable here than on any other release. This fusion allows for drummer Zoltan Csrsz to really stand out, and his drumming on this album is priceless.

A particular strength of this album is that TFK has obviously decided to reduce their tendencies towards filler material. As a result, the concept is not as long or dense, and the each song can stand on its own. The negative side of this is that its not TFKs best album lyrically. Actually, some of the lyrics are quite laughable (if you have a sense of humor) or cringe worthy (if you take it too seriously).

One More Time and Love Is the Only Answer are the first two tracks of the album, both primarily symphonic pieces that draw the obvious comparisons to Yes and Genesis. Compositionally speaking these are songs of symphonic majesty, charged choruses, containing jazzy breakdowns halfway through each track, and a return-to-the-beginning endings. Complex in arrangement, full of glorious interplay, dynamic, warm, this is classic TFK!

Trading My Soul is the least complex song on the album, and also the darkest. I could skip it each time without feeling I missed something. In my opinion, the album, which is long anyways, would have been much stronger without it.

The Sum of No Reason is a heavier piece, where Roine Stolt brings out some of this most expressive guitar soloing. The last two to three minutes of the song become repetitive, and the song would have worked better without them. If anything on this album is filler, this is it.

Flight 999 Brimstone Air is a fun song that stands out in obvious contradiction to the others. This is the jazziest piece on the album, and amazing! I find myself wishing that TFK would experiment more with this style and rely less on the Yes and Genesis approach. Zoltan Csrszs drumming on this track is phenomenal, and the interplay between Tomas Bodin and Jonas Reingold demonstrates that these guys are not content to just dish out the symphonic formula without substantial expansion.

Life In Motion closes the album with a very traditional sounding symphonic track that could pass for a Tales or Relayer-era Yes song where the middle sections are more in-line with Genesis derivation. Its an adequate closer to the album, but I want an albums ending to make me feel like I just listened to something new and fresh, and with all the twists and turns on this album, and the dynamic musicianship, I am left a little disappointed in feeling like I just finished listening to a Yes album.

Taken as a whole, TFK seem to be back on the right track, but there isnt much here that hasnt already been explored in previous albums. Yet, the tightness of the arrangements and the power of the compositions are something to appreciate. Fans of the classic TFK sound and those who appreciate retrospective symphonic rock will love this album. I certainly recommend this album for any discerning listener capable of looking past the derivations.

The Hammer    7-August-2001 Flower Power

This two-CD studio album is over 140 minutes long. At this point, you should already be concerned. Now, let me point out that I'm not a Flower Kings hater. However, this album borders on ridiculous.

For those unfamiliar with the band, The Flower Kings are led by ex-Kaipa guitarist Roine Stolt. Sounding less like that classic Swedish band, and more like Stolt's obvious Pink Floyd and Genesis influences, The Flower Kings are one of the more popular progressive rock bands around today. They tend to polarize prog fans, leading to arguments in which the words "prog snob" and "fanboy" are thrown back and forth from the trenches. Those who remain more levelheaded can find both good and bad music in the band's catalogue. Unfortunately, this one mostly falls under the latter.

Disc one kicks off with the hour-long (!) "Garden of Dreams". Judging solely by the length, one would expect this to be the Flower Kings' magnum opus. That's not exactly the case. Rather than a 60 minute "epic", it amounts to little more than a number of separate songs spliced together with segues (or just short pauses). Outside of common lyrical themes, there's not much relating these parts together - someone casually listening to this would assume "Garden of Dreams" to be a number of different songs. "Garden of Dreams" appears to achieve little outside of being an hour in length. It seems almost as if the band decided that this "suite" would be an hour long before any actual music was written. That's not to say that "Garden of Dreams" lacks good parts, but the good sections are surrounded and engulfed by more mediocre material.

The second disc starts off promisingly with "Deaf, Numb & Blind". However, it's followed by the painful "Stupid Girl", and continues on like that through most of the disc. I wouldn't be surprised if the material on this disc was written and recorded in the order that they appear here, because by the end, Stolt & Co. are clearly out of ideas. The lyrics become increasingly lame ("I'm ridin' in my magic pie"? "If I was a tree / If I was another flower / If I was the sea"?) and the music remains uninteresting. Compounding problems is the fact that the band lacks variation in their sound. It's the same guitar and the same organ/keyboard timbres throughout both CDs. It gets tired and "samey" well before the end, especially if you have heard other Flower Kings CDs before.

Quite simply, there are better releases from this band, not to mention other bands. Apparently the band realized this as well: the live album that they released in 2000, Alive on Planet Earth, lacked any Flower Power material. If you're interested in this band, pick up a copy of Retropolis or Space Revolver instead.

1999, Inside Out, IOMACD 2003

CD 1:
1-18. Garden of Dreams (59:26)
19. Captain Capstan (0:55)
20. IKEA By Night (0:05)
21. Astral Dog (8:00)

CD 2:
1. Deaf, Numb & Blind (11:09)
2. Stupid Girl (6:50)
3. Corruption (5:55)
4. Power Of Kindness (4:24)
5. Psychedelic Postcard (8:43)
6. Hudson River Sirens Call 1998 (4:47)
7. Magic Pie (8:20)
8. Painter (6:50)
9. Calling Home (11:20)
10. Afterlife (4:34)

Roine Stolt: guitars, lead vocals, keyboards
Tomas Bodin: keyboards
Hasse Frberg: vocals
Michael Stolt: bass
Jaime Salazar: drums, percussions
Hasse Bruniusson: percussions, vocals

Mike McLatchey    25-April-2001 Roine Stolt - The Flower King

Roine Stolt - The Flower King
(Foxtrot FOXCD 011, 1994, CD)

It had been a while since we'd heard from former Kaipa guitarist Roine Stolt. This album received a lot of hype, and claiming to be a symphonic rock album from a member of Kaipa, I certainly wanted to check it out. Overall, the CD gives me mixed feelings. Immediately noticeable are the pop-styled hooks in the vocals and choruses. I was unpleasantly reminded of Live-Aid singles - "We believe in love..." The Flower King is a concept album that you have to read the liner notes to believe; it seems that Roine Stolt has become the L. Ron Hubbard of symphonic concept albums. On the other hand, this disc also has a lot of nice moves. Stolt is and has always been a superb guitarist and although he occasionally tries to be a metal guitar god, it's always nice to hear him play. It's also good to hear Hans Bruniusson back on a real drum kit (he plays on half the tracks.) Instrumentally the music does approach Kaipa with some nostalgic backward glances and some new yet strangely familiar themes. The soft symphonic parts are very nice, with a dreamy atmosphere, but it gets hard to take Stolt's vocals over the 70 minute length. In summary, it's not a bad album for someone who hasn't been too active in symphonic rock for quite some time and I'd say recommended to those who like more accessible progressive stylings.

(Originally published in Expos #6, p. 39-40, Edited for Gnosis 4/23/01)

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