Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home
Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tomas Bodin

I Am

Review by Josh Turner

This concept comes from the fantasies of Flower King's keyboardist Tomas Bodin. Right from the get go, you know I Am is going to grow on you. It is complex, but yet so sophisticated. It is rich in nutrients and planted in the most pristine of progressive soils. There are many elements in this happy mix and they all manage to play well with one another. Tomas has carefully picked out all the weeds and nurtured every plant in the production. The musicianship from everyone else for that matter is top-notch all the way. They each work hard to cultivate the land. No single contribution is rushed. Not a single laborer lays down on the job. The crops are faithfully tended with tender care, resulting in the most bountiful harvest seen on this side of the genre for quite some time. I liked Pinup Guru and Sonic Boulevard very much. Those were each marvelous and melodious creations in their own right, but this album takes Tomas' talents to far greater heights. Unlike his earlier releases, this one has vocals and plenty of them. This is no journeyman's attempt at writing lyrics. Instead, the verses are insightful, innovative, simply put, they are downright incredible. I'm so astonished; it seems implausible he was able reach the summit in a solo journey of his own making. The vocals alone will come as a shock to any longtime fan.

To be fair, Tomas was assisted by some of the best specialists in the field. Still, it is hard to believe he was able to design such a framework all by himself. He has shown himself to be the Da Vinci of music as he reveals the secret code to making songs divine. As for the others, The Flower Kings have a mighty new knight in the rhythm section. His name is Marcus Liliequist. In case you were worried, this guy can play. Jonas Reingold still doesn't have a bad record to his name. Wherever he contributes, he puts a glorious spark in every song. This isn't a bassist who chose his instrument because he can't play the guitar. The way he plays the bass makes it seem like a whole new instrument. Anders Jansson's singing is some of the best heard on any Flower Kings offshoot. It's along the lines of Goran Edman's delivery on the Karmakanic albums. For anyone familiar with that particular project, you know this says a lot. In addition, Anders is assisted by Pernilla Bodin and Helene Schonning, who each lend their lovely voices. Last, but not least, JJ Jocke Marsh provides a new angle on this popular line of fashion. Without Roine's flower power, the magic comes from a whole new realm. Not entirely sure what his initials stand for, but here he is the outlaw Jesse James. He's quick on the draw as his solos take us through a series of intense shootouts. After every duel, he rides off into the sunset unscathed, only to come back scrapping in other skirmishes.

There is so much energy and emotion, so much pleasure and pain expressed throughout the passages, there can be no question this comes from the core of this keyboardist. Just as Jonas proved with Karmakanic, Tomas is substantially more than an instrumentalist. While he undoubtedly plays the keys with amazing ability, he demonstrates himself to be an excellent composer, lyricist, and producer as well. When it comes to making music, he can do it all and does no wrong in the process. Think of whatever may have been his best solo album to date. This is leaps and bounds ahead of the next best thing. I had high expectations coming in and I Am exceeds every one of them. The album is unreal and unexpected. It's an extraordinary work of art. This is basically what the term "masterpiece" was meant to describe.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
I found the music on this album to be very similar to the songs found on Karmakanic's Wheel of Life. Each one has some crossover with the song "Where the Earth Meets the Sky". This one is probably closest in nature to that exceptional epic. While it sits somewhere in the horizon, it also enters the colorful prism of the title track on Karmakanic's Entering the Spectre. As we would expect, there is less emphasis on the bass and a great deal more on keyboards. Clearly, its limbs grow from the same seeds as The Flower Kings. Past albums foreshadowed a future unfolding in Tomas' mind. You can hear many old themes revisited. This sets free much of the truth found in The Flower Kings' earlier efforts. There are elements from Retropolis, Space Revolver, and especially Unfold the Future. Each one that surfaces is reworked and improved upon with sheer craftsmanship. With growth and maturity, Bodin has blossomed into a fabulous songwriter and storyteller. In the beginning, it takes a few minutes for this particular song to reach maximum speed. Anders slowly starts to disentangle the tale. Then the others join in on the hunt. Marcus' drumming is like his Norwegian neighbor Robert Risberget Johansen from Gazpacho. While a little less busy than Zoltan Csorcz, there are some similarities to The Flower Kings' previous prodigy as well. Marcus is such a smart fit for this style of music as every note is timed just right. The audio effect creates faint tingles in the earlobes, which in turn, sends shivers all the way through the entire nervous system. Jonas, on the other hand, takes a more high profile approach. There is no question it is him and he is just where we want him to be. He's forefront in the mix and plays the bass as if it were a lead instrument. Jocke's guitars are just as engaging. His style is a blend between two of my favorites: Roine Stolt and Krister Jonzen. In some places, you'll find it hard to accept it is neither one of these dreamy shredders. With all these wistful riffs, he still finds the time to introduce an edge of rock and blues. All this playing is great, but Tomas is easily the brightest star in the heavens. At times, he takes a classical approach and incorporates whimsical circus tunes. Various parts take Mr. Hope out and about on his typical adventures. Others are the envy of David Bowie's extraterrestrial imagination. Long before I was ever told Bowie was one of his influences, I could hear Ziggy Stardust in the music. There is a definite Deep Purple bit brought in later on as well. Looking at the composition and the singing as a whole, this is something that would be easier to accept from Pain of Salvation (think of the similarly titled album Be). This might be the strongest piece on the album; then again it was the first one I encountered. When I heard it, I was knocked flat. It took me a full count to get back to my feet. While I got such an incredible first impression, it continues to impress me more on every listen. While the others are slightly shorter and subtly different, you will be pleased to hear praise for those as well in the coming comments. To some degree, all the epics are equally exceptional.
After such an overwhelmingly outstanding piece, you'd expect the rest of the album to be downhill from there. As mentioned, this couldn't be further from the truth. This one opens with a calm and comforting piano. The passage soothes the soul and takes us to a better place. All of a sudden, our attention is distracted by the introduction of an insidious-sounding guitar much in the vein of Big Wreck's Ian Thornley. This song is more dark and mysterious than the last. Yet, it's still delicious enough to nibble on for an epic amount of time. One of the instrumental parts reminds me of Liz's song in Pinup Guru ("Me and Liz"). There are several flowery parts to follow that bloom in the coming sunrise. While un-credited, it is pretty obvious Roine sings on this one. If not, Anders is doing an excellent job impersonating him. Regardless of whether or not Anders is sharing the vocals, his voice shows devout depth, notable breadth, and remarkable range. As if we did not get enough, this piece also gives us a barrage of down-home blues and a hailstorm of jazz. Additionally, credit should be given to Tomas for how he handles religion and spirituality in this piece. I cannot imagine anyone, whether they are atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew, who is not touched by the words and thoughts Anders conveys in the passage called The Prayer. The story shares many similarities to Neal Morse's Testimony. However, the religious content is a little less heavy-handed and much more ambiguous. This makes it easiest for many to relate to the spiritual side of his story.
This song leads seamlessly from the last and it opens as if it were a Broadway musical. Roger Waters' watermark is imprinted on this section as it refracts from Pink Floyd's reflection. After Anders gives us some great moments in the previous two pieces, his singing is delivered most passionately here. This is probably the most cohesive of all the compositions. To put it bluntly, it just manages to rock the most. Everything is tied together taut, leaving us with no loose ends. There is an undying downpour of David Bowie forecast throughout the piece and the predicted storms come to fruition. A tornado barrels through with the fury of jazz fusion. The weather whirls around with symphonic satisfaction and the ending comes as a torrential shower of Transatlantic. If just one of the three songs were on the album and nothing else, this album would still be highly heralded by me. I have trouble picking out my favorite. It is an unbelievable feat to have one fine epic on an album. It is remarkable having two. It is totally unheard of to have three. While rare, you will discover that this is what Tomas has accomplished. They are all so good; it should be a sin to partake in such pleasures. While nothing is ever perfect, this is the best album I've ever heard.
More CD Reviews
Metal/Prog Metal
Progressive Rock

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2024 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./