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Wheel of Life

Review by Josh Turner

To say this disc would be as good as the band's debut would be saying a lot. The first one offered a variety of styles. The album as a whole made ultra-high marks. The fact the project was a solo effort by a bass player made the stellar quality of the end product nothing short of a mind-bender. After enjoying the main course with the conceptual opening leading into the killer title track, there were many desserts to follow. Is Wheel of Life as good as the first? To answer the million-dollar question, it is undoubtedly as good if not better. There is no question that Jonas Reingold can lay down the heavy licks. This is seen in other projects such as Opus Atlantica, Time Requiem, and Richard Andersson's Space Odyssey. A touch of this intensity made it into the debut album, which provided a bridge between both ends of the spectrum. While some encouraged melding these styles, many loyal followers from The Flower Kings' camp were not all that keen on the metal influences. On Karmakanic's second time out, the album sounds a lot more progressive than before. Something tells me that this will be much to the liking of The Flower Kings' fans. It will be less of a jump for them than it had been to the first album. Actually, it will seem more like a step closer to home base and may even appeal most to Transatlantic fans.

The album continues with the signature sound developed in the debut while still managing to journey into brand-new territory. It is innovative in its own way and is nothing short of amazing. This has become an instant favorite of mine. It is one of the best albums I've ever encountered and gets better with every spin. After each track I cannot decide if I want to hear the last one again or move onto the next. It creates a serious fork in the road because all paths seem to lead to the promise land. The highlights are spread evenly throughout the album. Same as the first, there is a focus on quality over quantity. Every inch of every song is done to perfection. Vocalists trade off. Goran Edman sings superb. There are some female voices too. In one case there is even a baby cooing. The noodling is there at times, but stops long before it becomes redundant.

There is no effort needed to keep your mind alert for what comes next. A sense of balance is maintained between the songs. At ease with your surroundings, every step takes you further along while drifting in and out of consciousness. Each exploit throughout Wheel of Life is no less than a surreal experience. Several attempts may be needed to fully absorb the meaning behind the thoughtful words and emotional instrumentals. The music has many complexities and layers that are easy to miss on the first go around. There are many hidden instances of heavenly delight that will send shivers up the spine when found. Once the special moments sink in, the experience is sheer ecstasy. While every song has some of this magic, the tracks that most prominently conceal their charm are "At the Speed of Light" and "Where the Earth Meets the Sky." These are bona fide works of genius. These impressions are made with each rotation of the wheel.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Masterplan Pt. 1
It looks and feels like a symphonic epic from The Flower Kings. With almost all members from The Flower Kings present there is no reason to get your ears checked. This is the real deal even if it branded under another name. Even with the similarities to The Flower Kings, the song still manages to groove in its own way and makes great strides. If you like the vocals by Goran, you may want to check out his latest project Crossfade. However, be forewarned. That project comes dangerously close to the mainstream. While both share the same voice, this song finds itself in a distant orbit from what might be considered commercial. In any case, these are great leaders coming together and demonstrating a brainstorm of ideas. Everyone has their say or makes their mark before it's done. There are truly wonderful solos from all players involved.
Alex In Paradise
This is spacey and psychedelic. Starting with baby talk from Jonas' son Alex, the remainder is a twirling mobile playing soothing lullabies. It comes off a lot like something you'd expect from Yes. This is the most comprehensible song on the album. While this song might grab a listener the quickest, deeper feelings are discovered upon further inspection. If looking for an example of a proud parent, there is no better representative.
At The Speed of Light
Continuing along on the stroll, this cut has some breathtaking scenery to take in. After two joyous tracks, the warm fuzziness keeps coming like flakey light-as-a-feather seeds from the whimper willows in spring. This whirrs along like the opening sequence from The Truth Will Set You Free off The Flower Kings' Unfold the Future album. Some brilliant bits are manufactured on bass and skillfully overdubbed on top of one another.
Do You Tango?
This is significantly unlike the others. It is whimsical and witty. The song starts and ends with a female computer voice asking the question posed in its title. There is even a spot where she gives a little dance instruction. The music seems to shift forward and back. It is actually moves a lot like a tango. The partnership trades off between the bass, guitars, and keys.
Where Earth Meets Sky
This has the feel of the earlier track "At the Speed of Light". The bass playing and singing reach phenomenal levels. For an epic this is highly organized. The music touches upon a romantic side and shows jubilation in the joys of the world. Nothing could be wrong at this time and place. Isolated from the ills in the world, this is a utopia frozen in time. This is an extremely enjoyable piece.
Taking a short intermission again from the vibrant tones, this one uses a less dreamy approach. Krister Jonzon washes over the exterior with a blues-inspired guitar and flaunts a carefree disposition.
Wheel of Life
This is another symphonic masterpiece. While it is hard to choose the pinnacle of the album, this might be the place. It is an enchanting piece. It is no wonder the entire collection is filed under this name. There is excellent interplay between all the elements. There is even a flute provided by Helge Albin whose methods work well with this style of music. Helge contributes a myriad of attractive tints. His playing is fantastic. The chorus sounds great. This is fusion at its best.
Masterplan Pt. 2
The similarities to the opening track are subtle. While this song is not entirely a reprise, it still makes an appropriate end to the album. Some ideas from the title track resurface as well. Goran's voice is clean and crisp in this piece. He sings in a relaxed manner without a care in the world. Krister's guitar takes us riding off into the sunset. Like the debut's final song, this one leaves us on the proper note, savoring the climax and asking for another round. When the wheel completes its revolution, the listener will be compelled to continue back to the beginning and start all over again (and again and again and again and so forth).
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