Friday, 29 June 2012

Banks of Eden

Roine Stolt, although not perhaps widely known outside his native Sweden or the halls of 'Progdom', must be one of the hardest working musicians around. Alongside his major musical project, the Flower Kings, he has also in recent years produced music with Agents of Mercy, Karmakanic and prog 'super group' Transatlantic. His 'baby', The Flower Kings, have been in a state of hiatus for five years - since the release of 'The Sum of No Evil', which has given him space to explore these other musical avenues, but now that hiatus is over with the release of 'Banks of Eden'.

If you include Stolt's debut solo album 'The Flower King', this is the band's twelfth studio release since 1994. It contains all the characteristics of a Flower Kings offering: keyboard and guitar-driven tunes; lyrics laced with spirituality and a thinly-veiled dose of hippy idealism of love, peace and universal harmony; soaring solos, symphonic forms and an opening track of epic length. This is what Stolt & the Kings do well, and this latest collection, I'm sure, will not disappoint.

The Flower Kings seem to major in epic songs: their albums have never failed to include at least one song of 10 minutes plus - usually more than one, and sometimes of 25 minutes and more. The opening track, 'Numbers', clocks in at 25:27 and picks up musical themes that are developed later in the piece. The musicianship throughout is of the consistently high standard that one has come to expect of this collection of fine musicians, with Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Tomas Bodin, and Hasse Fröberg weaving their magic alongside drumming newcomer Felix Lehermann. Interestingly (for me anyway) this is the shortest of the albums produced by the group - the only one clocking in at under an hour in length. But what we have is quality material, and underlines their place as one of the finest exponents of Progressive Rock music today.