|The Flower Kings - 'Banks Of Eden' (InsideOut Music)|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Wednesday, 04 July 2012 04:00|
Although their first album appeared in 1995, Swedish prog merchants The Flower Kings' sound is firmly rooted in the realms of classic 70's progressive rock. Their output has been very prolific since that mid-nineties debut, with the band releasing a new album either every year or every two years since then, up until 2007's 'The Sum Of No Evil'. The trail went a bit cold after that, so 'Banks Of Eden' sees the band return after a five year break.
It's been worth the wait too, as 'Banks Of Eden' is a top notch slice of progressive rock in the finest traditions of prog gods like Genesis and Yes, without being pastiche or blind copyist. One of the characteristics of some of the true classic albums of 70's prog was to have an ambitious epic covering the whole of a side of vinyl, with between two and four shorter tracks filling up the other side. Examples of this include prog masterpieces such as Genesis' 'Foxtrot', Yes's 'Close To The Edge' and Caravan's 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink'. Although all the music contained on 'The Banks Of Eden' wouldn't fit on a vinyl single album (the vinyl version here is a double), it's that classic format that this album fits into, with the lead track 'Numbers' being a 25 minute prog epic, followed by 4 shorter progressive treats.
'Numbers' is a delight, and obviously the album's centrepiece. It twists and turns throughout its 25 minute duration, and perhaps reflects the influence of Genesis the most, largely thanks to the sumptuous mellotron and synth work, but has jazzier moments that illustrate an influence of Frank Zappa and even Gong in places. Elsewhere, the more upbeat 'For The Love Of Gold' has a Yes vibe going on, and the excellent 'Pandemonium' once again has a hint of Genesis to it, and actually reminds me of British neo-prog legends IQ in places. 'For Those About To Drown' uses a late Beatles influence in a similar way to some of Big Elf and Pain Of Salvation's recent work, and 'Rising The Imperial' closes the album in suitably majestic, epic and uplifting fashion.
'Banks Of Eden' is issued in several different formats. There's the standard CD, reviewed here, and a double CD featuring four bonus tracks. They weren't available for this review, so whether they're up to the extremely high standard of the main bulk of the album I don't know. There's also a tasty double vinyl box set that comes with the two CDs as well.
There are two interpretations of the term 'progressive rock' these days. You can interpret in its original meaning as rock music that progresses, experiments and breaks new ground, and there are plenty of bands out there today doing just that. You can also interpret it as the style of music from the late sixties and first half of the seventies that was pioneered by the likes of King Crimson, Genesis, Yes et al. On the whole The Flower Kings would fall into that second bracket, and there's nothing wrong with that at all, there's room for both. This band aren't particularly ground breaking, but they're a living, breathing band producing music strongly influenced by that original magical era of prog, and there's still a huge audience for it. If you're a member of that audience, 'Banks Of Eden' is an album you must hear.