Sunday, April 10, 2022

Symphonic Prog Review: The Flower Kings-By Royal Decree

Release Date: March 4th 2022 (2CD, 3LP + 2CD and Digital)

Label: Inside Out Music


The Flower Kings came into being in 1994 in Uppsala, Sweden, and apart from a 4- year hiatus from 2008 to 2012, they have played and recorded albums for over 20 years. The band have released 15 studio albums, from the debut in 1995, Back in The World of Adventure up to 2022, By Royal Decree, which is the album under review.

The band on this recent release had a total of 7 members, plus 4 guests. The band are Roine Stolt (vocals, guitar, ukulele, additional keyboards and orchestration), Hasse Froberg (vocals, 12 string guitar), Zach Kamins (organ, piano, synths and orchestration), Michael Stolt (bass, Moog Taurus and backing vocals), Jonas Reingold (fretted and fretless basses), Mirrko Demaio (drums and percussion) and Hasse Bruniusson (acoustic and electronic percussion).

By Royal Decree is a 2 CD release with a total playing time of just over 94 minutes and 18 tracks, 9 on each of the albums. The longest track on offer is found on disc 1, track 3 "Blinded" running for 7:52 minutes and the shortest track is to be found on disc 2, track 8, “Shrine” clocking in at 1:11 minutes.

For over 25 years now, The Flower Kings have been a constant in the world of modern prog but have retained the influence of the classic prog from the 70s, ensuring they produce music that appeals to prog fans globally.

The opening track, “The Great Pretender (6:59) is a perfect example of what The Flower Kings do very well. The basis of the sound is simple, drums, bass and guitar with a healthy scattering of organ, piano, Mellotron and Moog synths and the 2-pronged vocal attack provided by Roine and Hasse Froberg. The track is instantly recognizable as The Flower Kings, with the power of the bass and drums, the keyboards always there or thereabouts and the guitars adding just the right riffs at the right times. There are hooks throughout this opening track, which, in my opinion, is a superb introduction to the rest of the release.

Staying with disc 1, track 4, “A Million Stars Above” (7:19) moves to the ballad style of The Flower Kings and seems to be a plea for love, with its warm melodic style topped by the addition of a Roine Stolt ultra-smooth guitar solo which he throws into the mix with such ease. This track is a great example of the quieter side of The Flower Kings.

Still, on the first disc, Track 8, "Peacocks on Parade" (5:22) shifts the emphasis away from the vocals, i.e., it is an instrumental to all intents and purposes, which highlights the superb keyboard work of Zach Kamins above the guitar of Roine Stolt. This is another good example of the different facets shown by The Flower Kings.

By Royal Decree is an album that improves each time it is played as the hooks latch on inside the listeners’ heads. Double albums can sometimes be criticized for “filler” tracks and comments such as, “if only they had missed off the album, tracks X, Y and Z they would have made a killer single album”. The Flower Kings new album appears to have sidestepped these thoughts and while it is true there are no epic-length tracks as many previous albums have included, the band have made an extremely listenable, good album. I will concede that By Royal Decree is not the best Flower Kings album I have heard but I will never sit on the fence and heap praise on any release that falls below the levels I would expect from a particular band.

By Royal Decree is a great album, perhaps not quite deserving the use of stunning or superb, but these 18 tracks showcase a band that knows what they are good at, and I would ask people to give By Royal Decree a few listens, let it settle into your head, and I am sure many listeners will find a space for this album on their CD shelves.

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson
April 10, 2022

Tracks :                       
CD 1 (52:19)
1. The Great Pretender (6:59)
2. World Gone Crazy (5:07)
3. Blinded (7:52)
4. A Million Stars (7:20)
5. The Soldier (5:26)
6. The Darkness in You (5:17)
7. We Can Make It Work (2:53)
8. Peacock on Parade (5:22)
9. Revolution (6:03)

CD 2 (41:48)
1. Time the Great Healer (6:17)
2. Letter (2:26)
3. Evolution (4:50)
4. Silent Ways (5:04)
5. Moth (4:41)
6. The Big Funk (4:44)
7. Open Your Heart (5:20)
8. Shrine (1:11)
9. Funeral Pyres (7:15)

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