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The Flower Kings - Islands

The Flower Kings
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 12 October 2020, 12:40 PM

Singer Roine Stolt describes THE FLOWER KING’s latest double-album splurge, “the theme of the album is isolation - so the title “Islands” felt like a most relevant title - as much of it circulates around isolation, loss, and the fear of being disconnected. Having to face this unexpected pandemic will leave marks on each one of us for a very long time and to lose loved ones forces us to soldier on, learning and growing a stronger version of ourselves in this fragile cycle of life. Musically; the aim has been to create a bigger grand epic piece out of 21 songs - so they are all connected with themes that weave in and out - like the way “Sgt Peppers” or “The Lamb” were built on shorter songs, but yet linked. So view it as one mega song or as 21 separate pieces, it is all tailored to be listened to as one piece - like a cinematic 90 minute long ride.”

“Racing with Blinders on” leads off the album. Following a choppy guitar entrance, the bass guitar and keys get things on track. This song has fine melodies for you to enjoy, and Stolt’s voice is emotive and done with deep vibrato. “From the Ground” opens with some bass guitar notes, and pensive vocals. The harmonies they build here are nice…the song is soft and charming and follows a central melody line. “Black Swan” features some soft and charming melodies from the keys, bass and guitars. “Morning News” is another soft, alluring number that reminds you of a nice, warm dream. The melodies are subtle, and so far, the sound is fairly poignant.

“Broken” is close to seven-minutes in length. It opens with a fuller, richer sound, mostly in the keys. The vocal harmonies here are stretched high and augment the instruments nicely. This song also has some very positive vibes. “Goodbye Outrage” is a short, two-and-a-half-minute song, with some solemn tones and half-whispered vocals, with light instrumentation underneath. “Journeyman” is another shorter song, but one where the band showcases their musicianship. The instruments compliments one another quite well. “Tangerine” has a swinging, bluesy sound to it. The band eases into the song, and Stolt turns up the vocals here, as the backing vocals augment the sound.

“Solaris” is close to nine-minutes in length. It opens with some soft and charming tones, but gets going with some more solemn tones. It takes several different directions while maintaining a central theme. The extended instrumental passage seems just a bit out of place, but makes sense in the overall context of the album to date. “Heart of the Valley” features mostly positive vibes but there are some darker moments as well…or, at least, some more solemn tones here and there. “Man in a Two Peace Suit” takes us to the closing of Disc One. I’ve largely been underwhelmed due to the lack of big, emotional peaks, even though I understand that is the nature of THE FLOWER KING’s music. But this song hits a nerve with the emotional guitar solo.

“All I Need is Love” opens Disc Two, with a strong strum of acoustical guitars with vocals that have a bit more punch to them. The instruments also have a little more volume to them. The guitar solo is a bright spot here for sure. “A New Species” opens with some eerie tones, leading to piano runs and some richer instrumentation. I like the audibility of the bass notes here as well. The band showcases their musicianship here as well, and then can obviously play at a high level. “Northern Lights” focuses mostly on ethereal vocal harmonies. Stolt has a way of calming you down with his vocals. “Hidden Angles” is an under-one-minute quick shot of piano and drums with some keys and guitar in support. “Serpentine” is a four-minute song, that opens with sax notes. The vocals are done in an odd cadence at first. The sax takes center stage here, really shining and carrying the melodies.

“Looking for Answers” opens with a soft flute melody, followed by an emotional guitar solo, and a bit of a solemn tone. The bass guitar thwacks away underneath, and piano joins in as well. It’s a thought-provoking song. “Telescope” has more lamenting tones, as it slower and more emotional in nature. Staring at the stars at night can indeed be very calming, or make you feel overwhelmed at our tiny existence in the scope of the Universe. “Fool’s Gold” is a shorter song that reminds me of melancholy, rainy days of grey. It does have a little swing to it, with bluesy lead guitar work, and emotive vocals. “Between Hope & Fear” opens with some spacey keys and soft, moaned vocals. From there, a charming little melody develops in the guitars. Some tones of doubt creep in, but the message is clear…seize the day.

“Islands” closes the album. A grand entrance it makes, tying the theme of the album together with one final song. The instrumental pushes both the feeling of the end, and the feeling of hope, that we can all survive this pandemic. Overall, this ambitious effort was just not quite there for me in the end. The theme comes through, but there were just far too many tracks here to let the theme really develop. I felt a sense of union at the end, but along the way, it was often lost. Still, it’s a good album overall, and they are great musicians, I just think the seasoned veterans could have reeled things in a bit and perhaps put in some more emotional peaks, and it would have been a stronger album.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 4
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Racing with Blinders on
2. From the Ground
3. Black Swan
4. Morning News
5. Broken
6. Goodbye Outrage
7. Journeyman
8. Tangerine
9. Solaris
10. Heart of the Valley
11. Man in a Two Peace Suit
12. All I Need is Love
13. A New Species
14. Northern Lights
15. Hidden Angles
16. Serpentine
17. Looking for Answers
18. Telescope
19. Fool’s Gold
20. Between Hope & Fear
21. Islands
Roine Stolt – Vocals, Ukulele, Guitars, Additional Keyboards
Hasse Fröberg – Vocals & Acoustic Guitar
Jonas Reingold – Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Zach Kamins – Piano, Organ, Synthesizers, Mellotron, Orchestrations
Mirko DeMaio – Drums, Percussion
Rob Townsend – (Guest) Soprano Saxophone
Record Label: InsideOut Music


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