Unlike Eric Perry in his earlier, excellent review, I approached the new Flower Kings album from a position of relative ignorance. I greatly admire Roine Stolt’s work with Transatlantic, but I do not have any Flower Kings in my music library. However, after listening closely to Desolation Rose the past few days, that is about to change!
21st century media provide wonderful benefits (could something like Progarchy have even existed 15 years ago?), but any technology can also be perverted into something terribly harmful. Desolation Rose is a dark and brooding jeremiad on the dangers of corrupt media and government, perpetual war and violence, and religious fanaticism. Freedom is not a given, and Desolation Rose is a dire warning to those who would trade it for “security”, whether by indiscriminately believing what governments and mainstream media tell us, or by neglecting critical thinking when it comes to the claims of deceptive religious figures. Each song segues seamlessly into the next, reinforcing the overall impact of the lyrics. It may take a few listens for them to take hold, but once they do, they are very powerful.
A sampling of some of the most memorable lines (as best I can decipher them; I do not have a lyrics booklet):
“Lies bring comfort to the king and his nation/Like fools, we just stare at the sun.” (‘Tower ONE’)
“In the silent soil of Eden lie the bones of a predator/From the sun and the stars, a dreamless penitentiary.” (‘Sleeping Bones’)
“In silent graveyards we look for saviors/A promised land beyond our prayers” (‘Desolation Road’)
“So if you follow, go look beyond the lies/A brand new kingdom will brighten up the skies/Close to the sea, the river’s getting wider/Take off the blinders, and love will take you higher” (‘Resurrected Judas’)
“We are just the silent masses/The things you need are out of fashion/And so the clock keeps ticking out of time” (‘Silent Masses’)
“When a man is not a man, but hostage to machinery/Will they ever let you out from this dreamless penitentiary?” ‘(Last Carnivore’)
“So the state has become the offender/To the point where there’s no turning back/Now you dream of your new independence/While they tighten their grip round your neck” (‘Dark Fascist Skies’)
“We are stardust and we’re sun-kissed/We are brothers and still we’re strangers” (‘Blood of Eden’)
Just as words and phrases are repeated in the songs, musical themes recur throughout, making the album a remarkably cohesive work. The propulsive drumming of Felix Lehrmann is terrific; Tomas Bodin’s manic organ locks horns with Roine Stolt’s lead guitar and musical sparks result. Hasse Froberg’s vocals are outstanding – full of dark menace one moment, and aching lament the next. Jonas Reingold’s bass work is as melodic and inventive as Geddy Lee’s.
Highlights are ‘Resurrected Judas’, which has a nice “Trick of the Tail”-era Genesis vibe and a graceful, loping guitar solo; the straight-ahead rocker ‘Silent Masses’, with its jaunty piano riff and nimble bass line; and ‘Last Carnivore’, which is very dark and oppressive until a key change brings relief and light. ‘Last Carnivore’ is representative of the album as a whole – from the first track, the band creates an atmosphere of conflict, darkness, and oppression which isn’t relieved until the beautiful and stately ‘Blood of Eden’ makes its appearance near the end. Hearing it is like seeing clouds part and the sun shine through after a violent thunderstorm. However, lest we think everything’s going to be fine, the ‘Silent Graveyards’ show up one last time in a musical coda that ties together the various themes masterfully. Froberg’s voice rises as if he’s framing a question, and it is unsettling to realize that ‘Dark Fascist Skies’ are always lurking around the corner.
With Desolation Rose, the Flower Kings have produced an album of extraordinary power and depth. Lyrics and music combine to pack an emotional punch that cannot be ignored. Detta är en att älska.