The Flower Kings were one of the most popular neo-prog acts of the 1990s along with Spock's Beard. This compilation album was released to promote their first US tour. You know largely what you're going to get with this style - traditional symphonically constructed pieces with big poppy choruses, long instrumental breaks, deliberately "searing" guitar solos, choppy organs and Mellotrons. Their basic style is rockier than Spock's Beard, but more accessible than the dark rumblings of their Swedish compatriots Änglagård.
Though their longer songs sometimes seem more collaged-together than unified, their engaging arrangements mean there's usually something interesting to focus on at any point. An active but not too spastic rhythm section stops their pomp-rock from stagnating into stodge. There's a nice variety of keyboards as well as the basic Hammond and mellotron. Only occasionally (e.g. the circus organ section of "The Flower King") do their jams venture into aimlessness. And as usual with this genre, Yes and Genesis fans should have fun spotting moments of obvious influence.
They can certainly write a decent pop-rock melody. To complement the hippy spirit of some of the lyrics, these tunes are mostly homogeneously cheerful. The occasional contrasts, like the soft ballad section of "There is More to this World", are welcome. On final track "Compassion" they do an interesting spacey pomp-rock thing with Stolt's voice distorted to hell, verging on Queen levels of theatricality.
On the weaker side, my tolerance for dodgy lyrics is a lot lower these days, and some of Roine Stolt's, the likes of "hear the children call", seem like the output of a hippy generator. On their eponymous anthem "The Flower King", the schmaltz levels are at a maximum for the final passionate, over-earnest reprise of the "we believe in love" refrain. There's still plenty here for prog aficionados who don't mind a coating of cheese with their symphonic rock.
November 4, 2005