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Circus Brimstone

Brimstoned in Europe (Live)

Review by Josh Turner

There wouldn't be any complaints if The Flower King's didn't make these official bootlegs available. As it is, they are so prolific it's profound. With that said, even if this was just whipped together, it's still marvelous material nonetheless. It's hard to believe this is a live recording that was packaged after the fact. In many cases, these songs sound better than their original studio productions. This has more, though, to do with their ability on the instruments than any sort of wish to suppress their singing. Actually, I prefer it when they sing.

While it's listed as an official bootleg, it's much more than a rough recording. It was originally collected from a concert that occurred in Europe during the month of April. Later in the year, it was mixed by Roine Stolt at the Cosmic Lodge. Then it was mastered by Tomas Bodin at Helicon House. They did not merely throw this one together as the press release might lead you to believe. Not sure where they found the time, but tender care had been put into cultivating these fresh cuts. They're fantastic and sure to make even the most casual fan a fanatic.

My only complaint is that the entire album is strictly instrumental. However, if there is going to be a band to jam without the vocals, let this be the one. The album is available at the Flower Kings' official site.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Cosmic Lodge
Tomas' keys whistle in the wind while Roine's guitar reverberates through the branches. Just when it starts to sound good, it gets even better. Not only does it do what the original does best, it's improved in many areas. This is a dynamic and potent piece. It's so vivid, dew drops will dance in your head. You can hear a fan holler towards the beginning. I'm not sure if this is how it will make you feel, but it's not totally out of the question. It's that upbeat and elating. Instantly, it's apparent this album is a worthwhile place to invest your time. It starts with the same energy as the original, but then plunges into a silo of creamy confectionary. Out of the vat comes a stick surrounded in milky goodness and covered in a citrus shell. It's as close as music comes to the shape and texture of a Dreamsicle. Marcus' drums are dripping in a sultry sass that zings like Zoltan and the pipes are pleasantly pristine. The way it ebbs and flows makes it one heck of a way to start an album.
Astral Dog/Hellhound
The bottom-feeding low notes will grab hold of you and suck you straight under. If the first was light and lively, this one fades to the bass in the back. Then, it goes off into Blue Oyster Cult la la land. From that point on, it's stuck in limbo as it wanders aimlessly through the gloom of an avant-garde fog. The room spins and each door looks the same. To complicate the situation, each knob is locked and the keys are stowed away. After a flurry of frantic attempts to get out, the listener will fold in a state of fatigue. It gets haphazardly hazardous, reclusive, and reckless once we've entered into the hellish part of the proceedings. Just when all seems lost, in an instant, the cloud of confusion is blown free. Outside, a pack of hounds patrol the grounds. Added to the admonition, Roine gives us flowing riffs and the foot pedals are worked with a considerable dose of calisthenics. With a snarl and a warning, we're scurried off the premises.
Circus Brimstone
You can hear some people talking in the beginning. Then it gets creepy and dirty. After they're on their way, the recording returns its patients to a sanitary place. The gleeful guitars and the unplugged pipes scrub and rinse the room clean. When everything is germ-free and disinfected, only then do the clowns come out to play. They soil the scene with their destructive and disorderly behavior. With a lack of melody and an undeniable bout of mischief, this almost borders on bedlam. In the chaos, the keys draw our attention back to more organized elements. They pacify us with their wit and whimsy. The scope of pace and patterns they exhibit parallels a circus of events. However, it's not a joking matter nor is it all fun and games. With bullying beats and menacing melodies, this is one of the darkest numbers in their discography.
The Man Who Walked With Kings
Packed within its blissful binders, this cut is loaded with sweet elation. One sip will take you down the rabbit hole and into a magical world of wonderment. With his band of merry men, Roine guides us through an enchanted forest. At the end he says, "You're an extremely nice audience." This is a humble response as they're only celebrating their hero.
Magic Circus of Zeb
This is mostly a showcase of Roine's skills. While the others jam, he skids, slides, and rolls in a series of stirring solos. This is more proof as to how they've improved upon their productions. I'm sure this song was honed and toned through many years of practice on the live stage.
Speed Wizard/Drumsolo
The spotlight is turned from Roine to the mysterious new guy. What's interesting about this release is that this is the first ever Flower King affair to feature, Marcus Lilliquest, their latest drummer. With them, there is no prejudice against a musician's age. They feature those from the beginning as well as ones from the modern day. As for this song, their corporal slices the carrots and mashes the potatoes. With subtle seasonings, he creates a real succulent stew. If that's not enough, he shoos the others aside and sends them right out of the kitchen. Like Tom Cruise in Cocktail or Emeril in the kitchen, Marcus is a spectacle to watch even when he goes solo. In a wild display on the drums, he fills up the entire stage with pirouettes, spins, and numerous tricky positions. He's as light on the sticks as the elegant Baryshnikov is on his toes. While very few will know what I'm saying, I have to tell you, this is clearly similar to the music found in the soundtrack to The Martian Chronicles mini-series. I don't know what's weirder, the fact it sounds this way, or the fact I have actually been able to make this comparison.
Retropolis
Along with Circus Brimstone, this is one of their more perilous pieces. Yet, this time it does not dawdle in the underworld as much as usual. While this is by no means less frightening, it does share elements with Far Corner's most fanciful fits. In the closing seconds, you hear from the crowd one last time, which is another reminder this came from a live show. Otherwise, you may have never gotten the hint. For an instrumental album, Brimstoned in Europe shows more range and rhythm than many larger ensembles. As it fades, you can hear Roine speaking to his fellow farmers. If you're not won over by the music, his friendly personality should be enough to give you a green thumb. For a bootleg, it's a bonafide bonanza and a bonfire of fun. As Ash from Army of Darkness would say, "Hail to the Kings, baby!"
 
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