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The Enthusiast's Guide: The Flower Kings


The Flower Kings

Gary Marshall casts an expert eye over the studio output of a modern day Progressive Rock phenomenon.


The band was formed by musical prodigy Roine Stolt who, at just 17 years of age, had become a professional musician when he joined Kaipa, a band with whom he recorded two albums of Folk/Prog before leaving to become a session player. Fed up with playing other people’s music, much of which didn’t excite him, he decided to write an album in the style he enjoyed most, that of Classic Symphonic Prog. The album was created purely for his own gratification and without commercial considerations.


Calling on other musicians to record what would become his third solo album – 1994’s ‘The Flower King’ – he gathered together Jaime Salazar (drums), Hasse Bruniusson (drums), Ulf Wallander (sax) and Hasse Fröberg (vocals) with himself playing everything else plus providing vocals. Subsequently he added his brother Michael (bass) and Tomas Bodin (keyboards) for a tour. With the album garnering complimentary reviews and achieving good sales in many territories, the penny dropped for Stolt that there were still many people out there craving this style of music, so he decided to continue as a band and The Flower Kings were born.


Their debut album, ‘Back To The World Of Adventures’ emerged a year later and over the period 1995 to early 2022, they’ ve released fifteen studio albums (plus four official live releases), with several of these being double discs in what is an expansive catalogue. Stolt and Fröberg have remained the core of the band while other members have come and gone over the years, notably Bodin, but with the drum stool being something of a revolving door. Jonas Reingold would take over the bass role from album number five – ‘Space Revolver’ – at which point the bass became more prominent in the band’s sound, While he remains a member of the The Flower Kings family, his gig as part of Steve Hackett’s touring band has necessitated the return of Michael Stolt to the fold. The arrival of drummer Zoltan Csörsz seemed to be the catalyst for the ‘Unfold The Future’ album having a jazzier edge. His tenure didn’t last as he wanted to pursue more jazz and fusion sounds and the band weren’t headed in that direction although he did return, albeit briefly, later.


Even for the die-hard fan it has to be admitted that sometimes less is more as some albums don’t really warrant the full two disc treatment (albeit some of these are listed as ‘bonus’ discs rather than a double album). A point with which Stolt agrees in hindsight, but with him being such a prolific composer it’s understandable that he’d be tempted to put as much as he could out there. Particularly on the early albums there are esoteric moments and weird sounds that feel out of place, but even recognising that quirk none of their albums are clunkers.


What is not in dispute is Stolt’s ability to compose superb melodies, every album containing tracks which are simply unforgettable with themes recurring in different forms, numerous sublime hooks and refrains. As he’s honed his skills there are fewer of those off-kilter or random moments. Another significant element of the band’s appeal is the presence of two terrific and complementary vocalists. With Stolt having a plaintive voice and Fröberg possessing the gritty, more “Rock” delivery, their voice combination works fabulously, often alternating passages during the same track to magical effect. Stolt is an expert on the guitar and his solos are invariably superb and highly melodic. Another of the band’s traits is starting the majority of their albums with a song that immediately burrows into your consciousness and stays there, many becoming live favourites as a consequence.


On a couple of occasions The Flower Kings have been put on ice, but thankfully Stolt’s enthusiasm returned and more wonderful albums emerged. In recent times the band has been given fresh impetus by the arrival of two much younger players – Zach Kamins (keys) and Mirko DeMaio (drums) – which has seen them release three albums in less than four years. Always a great live act, always on the money in terms of performance and set list, these young guys have made them even stronger.


Some track titles may lead one to believe The Flower Kings are a Christian band but that is not the case as Stolt explained to me in an interview, he believes in spirituality in its widest sense.


They are also a band that in the best Prog traditions, have wonderfully evocative album artwork. Their albums have been reissued in various forms by InsideOut, including two limited edition box sets for the releases up to 2013 where bonus discs feature additional and unreleased material.

 

STUDIO ALBUMS

Thunder Scorching
Thunder Sizzling
Thunder Toasty
 

The Ultimate Flower Kings Mix Tape

 

This article appeared in Fireworks Rock & Metal Magazine Issue #101

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