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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Flower Kings

Unfold The Future

Review by Steve Alspach

Sweden's most prolific progressive band returns with another two-CD album of songs that shows the band's willingness to try any and all musical styles. Fans of this band will find this to be another excellent album in the band's catalogue.

The personnel for this album is: Roine Stolt, guitars and vocals; Tomas Bodin, grand piano, keyboards and backing vocals; Hasse Froberg, vocals; Jonas Reingold, bass; Zoltan Csorsz, drums; Hasse Bruniusson, percussion; Ulf Wallander, soprano and tenor saxophone; and Anders Bergcrantz, trumpet.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
The Truth Will Set You Free
Roine Stolt must have taken some of the things he learned from Transatlantic back with him. This 31-minute opening piece is a multi-movement that is reminiscent of "All of the Above" from the first Transatlantic album, and the Kings throw about every shred of their musical know-how into this one. There is a main chorus that appears sporadically throughout the song, but the chorus sounds a bit clipped - just when you think that this theme will develop more fully, the composition immediately goes into another mode.
Monkey Business
This is a hook-driven number that lyrically has some dark tones to it. The track's sentiment is that evolution hasn't brought man that far along despite the refrain that states that "I'm not a monkey anymore" - or a fighter or loser or hunter, for that matter.
Black and White
This is one of those "two-part" songs that the Flower Kings tend to do often. The first part is a grand, keyboard-laden section, and the second part is a 12/8 Yes-inspired instrumental bouncefest.
Christianopel
A smoldering seven-minute instrumental, this starts off as Crimson-like improvisation, then the band (Stolt, Bodin, Reingold, and Czorsz) find a understated groove.
Silent Inferno
Another tune that, at 14:25, allows itself to explore differing moods, the opening is a bit dark, and there is a lengthy instrumental passage where drummer Zoltan Czorsz and bassist Jonas Reingold play off of each other in a riff-trading session. The choice of Zoltan as the new drummer is an excellent one, and Reingold shows that he can pull sixteenth-note runs with the best of them.
The Navigator
The Kings shift modes from progressive to a more baroque flavor on this number. As opposed to the other pieces on this disc, "The Navigator" is surprising in its simplicity.
Vox Humana
A short cut, this almost acts as a coda to the first CD by borrowing some themes from "The Truth Will Set You Free."
Disc 2
Genie In A Bottle
This song is mainly in 5/4, but the band finds a funky groove, thereby throwing it a bit off-kilter by giving you the next bar before you're ready for it. The group goes into a "song-within-a-song" movement halfway through, a common Flower King tactic.
Fast Lane
One of two cuts written entirely by Bodin, this number has a lively 5/4 tempo on the verses, but also has a sharp 7/4 break where Czorsz lays a backbeat-laden rhythm over a delicate Bodin riff.
Grand Old World
This one sounds much like something David Sylvian would pen with its languid 6/4 tempo, soprano saxophone soloing, upright bass, and slightly nostalgic chord pattern.
Soul Vortex
This is a short, instrumental interlude. Though groove-based, there is still a sense of improv throughout. Stolt takes lead and sounds like Peter Banks at times with the volume pedal and octave playing. Reingold takes the lead on bass towards the end of the song
Rollin' the Dice
The other composition written by Bodin, this is a powerful rocker where Froberg pushes his vocals to the limit in places, and Bodin and Stolt join forces in a powerful manner. Kudos to Csorsz for laying down some funk to the songs  pattern.
The Devil's Danceschool
Well, somebody in this band was listening to early 70s Miles Davis! Reingold and Czorsz bust loose with some fast and furious playing, and Anders Bergcrantz takes the lead on trumpet, complete with electronic effects.
Man Overboard
This song is reminiscent of Rick Wakeman-influenced Yes or Renaissance in its delicate lead-in to the verse, and that verse and the chorus sound very similar to the four-piece era Genesis. In fact, the twists and turns in the chorus are very similar to Tony Banks' composition style. The abrupt ending acts as a lead-in to the next song.
Solitary Shell
This is a short piece utilizing mainly piano and synthesizer. Bodin's music takes a neo-baroque feel, and the song shows a rather simple (for the Flower Kings) arrangement.
Devil's Playground
The Flower Kings have almost always ended their CD's with a song of hope and optimism, but this is a bit of a surprise. This closing epic minces few words in its lyrics ("This is how you raise the Cain, This is what you teach our children, Back on duty, dog eat dog, Clueless in the devil's playground"). Of course, at 25:26, this track does roam some, including a bit of a goofy pseudo-march in the middle of the piece, but there are also some rather dramatic instrumental passages. The end result is that "Devil's Playground," like "Stardust We Are," proves to be a mammoth closer to the album.
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