FLOWER KINGS - Banks Of Eden
It’s been five long years without a sign of life from Swedish progressive rock band, but that doesn’t mean that main man Roine Stolt has been inactive. Far from that, as he was quite busy with all-star super prog band Transatlantic. And let’s not forget that he is also a member of other well known bands like Kaipa and The Tangent.
But he finally found some time for the Flower Kings, and while Banks Of Eden, their eleventh studio album since 1995, doesn’t really reinvent their sounds, it still shows the band from a reinvigorated side. In fact, this is their first album ever to run below one hour, and while this may seem lazy to prog purists, I found that access to the new material was much easier than in the past.
Banks Of Eden starts with the twenty-five and a half minute monster track Numbers, which shows the band from all their varied sides. There are many influences, but mostly it sounds like early symphonic Yes teaming up with late Sixties psychedelic Beatles. There’s also some fusion jazz moments, mostly thanks to the inimitable fretless bass by Jonas Reingold. Especially the first ten minutes of this epic track are a true rollercoaster ride full of catchy moments and crazy instrumentation dominated by Stolt’s bluesy guitar playing and Tomas Bodin’s wide array of keyboards. The following four tracks, which in the Seventies would have made up side two of the record, are quite short by comparison: between six and eight minutes. While the first half of the album is your typical prog journey full of unexpected twists and turns, the second half confines less ideas per song, giving you thus a more concise experience of the band’s different stylistic devices.
For The Love Of Gold is more or less your typical Flower Kings song, the way you have come to expect during the last twenty years. Pandemonium, with six minutes the shortest track featured on the album, is quite experimental in this context, and it is telling that this is my least favourite track here. Maybe one doesn’t want to expect too much innovation with the Swedish retro proggers. My personal highlight is For Those About To Drown, the least progressive but most psychedelic piece of music I have heard from the band in a long time. Combining the virtues of Procol Harum with the Beatles, this is something which should get a smile on every face! The concluding Rising The Imperial is a mellower track that could be labelled a prog ballad, and while it doesn’t come with the same cheerfulness as the preceding track, it is still a fitting way to end this really great new album.
With an output as massive as the one of the Flower Kings, it’s hard to say if this is their best album so far. But after their five year hiatus, I feel myself enjoying Banks Of Eden more than any other Flower Kings album in the near to middle past. Highly recommendable for every fan of Roine Stolt and his assorted bands!