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The Flower Kings are probably Sweden’s best-known prog export after releasing 12 albums, this imminent release being the 13th, over a period of 25 years. Such longevity has inevitably meant numerous line-up changes and the current band features just 2 original members in guitarist and vocalist Roine Stolt (also known for his various side projects such as Transatlantic and The Sea Within with Jon Anderson) and fellow guitarist Hasse Froberg. The rest of the group consists of bassist Jonas Reingold, who’s been a member since ’99, Zach Kamins on keys and drummer Mirkko DeMaio.

This release features 15 tracks spread over 2 CDs and nearly an hour and a half. The song lengths vary from between 1 and 2 minutes for brief, instrumental cuts to around 10-minutes in duration. It starts off strongly with ‘Black Flag’, which is an archetypal Flower Kings song, full of twist and turns and power to match, and the following couple of tracks which both clock in at around the ten-minute mark. ‘Miracles for America’ begins with a retro organ sound and develops nicely during its allotted span and seems to be, from a lyrical standpoint, a commentary on the current political situation in the country namechecked in the title. ‘Vertigo’ is next up and is a slower effort than its predecessor, and becomes almost ambient over its sprawling, meandering length.

The next couple of tracks maintain the strong start. ‘The Bridge’ is another slower tempo track with some superb guitar, whilst ‘Ascending To The Stars’ is an awesome instrumental, verging on classical prog with a choral arrangement and a nod, at least to these ears, to Stravinsky.

Unfortunately, this release starts to decline ever so slightly from here. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the rest of the tracks on offer, but things become rather formulaic and one song tends to blur into the next, with the bulk of them being around the 5 or 6 minute mark. If you’ve heard ‘Banks Of Eden’ or ‘Desolation Rose’, the band’s two previous releases, you’ll be familiar with what’s on offer here.

Overall, this is a decent release with a handful of standout tracks. The musicianship is first rate and the production, courtesy of Benny Andersson of ABBA fame’s studio, can’t be faulted. I just feel that the band perhaps ran out of ideas during the recording process and the album could have benefited from being 30 or so minutes shorter. If you’re new to The Flower Kings, however, this is as good an introduction to the band as any.
Inside Out
Double Album
Review by Dave Uphill
63:17 & 21:26
8th November 2019
CD1: 1) House of Cards; 2) Black Flag; 3) Miracles for America; 4) Vertigo; 5) The Bridge; 6) Ascending to the Stars; 7) Wicked Old Symphony; 8) The Rebel Circus; 9) Sleep with the Enemy; 10) The Crowning of Greed
CD2: 1) House of Cards Reprise; 2) Spirals; 3) Steampunk; 4) We Were Always Here; 5) Busking at Brobank
"...a decent release with a handful of standout tracks...If you’re new to The Flower Kings... this is as good an introduction to the band as any."