REVIEW: THE FLOWER KINGS – “Waiting For Miracles”
Sweden’s The Flower Kings have been one of the forerunners, and among the most active bands in the modern progressive rock scene since the mid-90s. Lead by guitarist/vocalist and primary composer and lyricist Roine Stolt, they are one of the bands that helped breathe new life into the genre, as the neo-prog of the 80s was slowly drifting away. And now they return, releasing their first new band album in six years with ‘Waiting For Miracles’ and with it a bit of a throwback to earlier days.
For a bit of quick background, Roine Stolt released a solo album last year under the moniker Roine Stolt’s The Flower King, despite the name, and a number of band members joining him, it remained a solo release, and one I found to be rather flat and disappointing. The announcement that this was to be a proper Flower Kings album, is a call back to the more fun and joyous music of the 90s, and complete with vintage 70s instruments gave me renewed hope. And I was quite pleased to hear an album that reminds me of why I liked them so much in the first place.
‘Waiting For Miracles’ is an 85-minute double-album opus, something the band has done many times in the past. However, they keep the song lengths to a minimum this time around, there are no half-hour epics like we usually expect from them; indeed the longest song hardly breaks the 10-minute mark, but then they’ve always excelled at writing shorter songs as well, so this is nothing to worry about.
After the brief instrumental “House of Cards” the album proper begins with “Black Flag” and from the opening notes you know you’re listening to a Flower Kings album. The guitar works scream Stolt, and the vintage keyboard sounds produced by Zach Kamins likewise sound exactly as you would expect, not in a tired way, but a welcoming way. And the warm vocals of Hasse Fröberg blend and work as well as they always have with Stolt’s higher ranging voice. The song is a 70s style prog rocker, and a fine way to start the album.
It is quickly followed by the longest song on the album, “Miracles For America,” which just crosses the 10-minute mark. Thankfully not overtly political in nature, the band uses the time to stretch out a bit and embrace a lengthy instrumental section, where Stolt’s solos are at their lyrical best. Few people in modern prog have a clearer or more identifiable guitar tone than he does, and he’s at his best when he opens it all up. The first disk clocks in at just over 63 minutes, and has a few other gems worth mentioning. The harder rocking “Wicked Old Symphony” is a standout, as is the one-two punch of “The Rebel Circus,” and “Sleep With the Enemy.” The first is wholly instrumental, and the later has a lengthy closing section after the opening vocals. Both highlight the always tight bass work of Jonas Reingold, and the drumming and percussion of Mirko DeMaio.
The second disk is bookended by two shorter instrumental pieces, “House of Card Reprised,” and “Busking At Brobank,” leaving three songs in the middle, the disk is just over 21 minutes. “Spirals” is a quirky instrumental song, with the lone vocals being “save your miracles for America” repeated several times, and some electrically distorted. This is followed by “Steampunk,” and “We Were Always Here.” Both are rich in the classic Flower Kings sound, rich in melody, deliberate in their movement, and of course, executed with skill and taste. Comparatively speaking there are fewer vocals on this disc than the first, but that is not especially unusual for a FK album, and the vocals that are used are used to great effect.
‘Waiting For Miracles’ is a true return for The Flower Kings who are back in classical form. While it doesn’t reach the heights of their earlier classics, it is an album that is filled with brightness, light, and musical joy, and should remind any longtime listener of the band why they love them so much. For such fans grabbing this should be a no brainer, for someone new to the band, but are lovers of quality, melodic, vintage-sounding prog put through the prism of the modern age, they should find plenty to enjoy as well.