Flower Kings, The - 2002 Unfold The Future

ARTIST: Flower Kings, The
ALBUM: Unfold The Future
LABEL: Inside Out
SERIAL: 236539
YEAR: 2002

LINEUP: Roine Stolt - guitar, vocals, keyboards * Tomas Bodin - grand piano, keyboards * Hasse Froberg - vocals * Jonas Reingold - bass * Zoltan Csorsz - drums * Hasse Bruniusson - orchestral percussion

Special Guests: * Ulf Wallander - saxophone * Daniel Gildenlow - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Truth Will Set You Free * 02 Monkey Business * 03 Black And White * 04 Christianopel * 05 Silent Inferno * 06 The Navigator * 07 Vox Humana * 08 Genie In A Bottle * 09 Fast Lane * 10 Grand Old World * 11 Soul Vortex * 12 Rollin' The Dice * 13 The Devils Danceschool * 14 Man Overboard * 15 Solitary Shell * 16 Devils Playground * 17 Too Late For Tomatoes


In recent years, The Flower Kings have really seemed to find their stride. Their 'Flower Power' double album from 1999 had some shining moments. Sure, the hour long epic 'Garden of Delights' can be seen as the epitome of prog rock self-indulgence, but, as a whole, the album was good enough and helped pave the way for 'Space Revolver' and 'The Rainmaker' (which, in my opinion, is a must have album).

Roine Stolt has said 'Unfold The Future' is a step forward for the band, musically speaking. That may be so, but in terms of accessibility, it's a definite step back - I found it took me so long to get to grips with a lot of the material on this album. The musical complexity of 'The Truth Will Set You Free' (clocking in at nearly half an hour) has more in common with the band's 'Flower Power' era than their more recent outings.

A huge piece, containing lots of peaks and troughs, I can hear many influences have been thrown into the mixture, from Peter Gabriel's soundtrack/world music experiments, Frank Zappa and, of course, the omni-present Yes (especially from their 'Relayer' period). During the lengthy instrumental passages, both Stolt and Bodin excel, but the real appeal here is the use of vocal harmonies between Stolt and Froberg.

The Songs

'Christanopel' captures the band at their most experimental. It's a minimalist instrumental piece, with Stolt playing occasional (and at times, seemingly random) guitar notes, while Csorsz and Bruniusson hammer out percussive sounds.

After four minutes, things begin to fall into place and the piece becomes more musical with the addition of Reingold's bass and more focused, jazz flavoured soloing work form Stolt, as his guitar sound becomes more prominent.

There's something here very reminiscent of Pink Floyd's post Syd Barrett experimentations, circa 'Saucerful of Secrets' and the completely kooky 'Ummagumma'.

'Silent Inferno' is the album's second epic, and it's musically far more in keeping with the Flower Kings stuff I've always enjoyed. It has a slightly harder edge, thanks in part to some solid bass playing from Reingold, which here is more rock based, as opposed to the jazz styles he often favours.

This track also features one of Stolt's stronger vocal performances and has many elements which makes me think it would not sound out of place on either 'Space Revolver' or 'The Rainmaker' - classic Flower Kings.

It seems that by this point of the album (just over an hour in), the band have finally settled into a groove, as 'The Navigator' is another great Stolt led arrangement, highlighting the other, less bombastic, side to the band's work. It's a gentle arrangement, with the main emphasis on the vocal.

For those of you who are familiar with the second Transatlantic album 'Bridge Across Forever', this is similar to Roine's section in 'Duel With The Devil' which begins 'there's a time to understand / there's a time to see the sun'. 'Vox Humana' follows suit with its gentle approach, only this time Froberg takes the lead vocal, with some fine Roine Stolt harmonies.

The more straight ahead rock approach of 'Genie In A Bottle' provides a welcome distraction from some of the more complicated arrangements on the album (an edited version could make a great single), but then, things seem to go a little wayward again.

Given that Froberg and Stolt are capable of some great vocal harmonies, I love to know what happened on the track 'Fast Lane'. The vocals here sound more like those faux show-tune style ones from Zappa's late 70s/early 80s albums, as performed by Bobby Martin and Ike Willis ('Joe's Garage', anyone?).

Thankfully, after another scary jazz interlude, things get back on track with 'Rolling The Dice', which is another rockier number with a commanding lead vocal from Froberg.

As we approach the final stretch, The Flower Kings prove they are unafraid of experimentation. 'Devils Danceschool' is jazz. No avoiding it. Their Guest saxophonist takes an almost free-form approach to the instrument and in my opinion the end result is horrible. Really horrible.

'Man Overboard' is better, with an unmistakable Flower Kings prog rock approach, which helps steer the album in a better direction. 'Solitary Shell', again, is very nice indeed, with a strong Stolt vocal accompanied by keyboard orchestration from the multi-talented Tomas Bodin.

As a closing gambit, the band offer 'Devil's Playground', another epic (25 minutes) of musical highs and lows, which clearly has elements inspired by Frank Zappa's classic 'Hot Rats' album. Once again though, the real star here is Bodin, whose keyboard orchestration is superb.

In Summary

With approximately 2 hours playing time, I feel this album suffers a little from unnecessary padding out - it could've been a single disc which rivalled its predecessors.

If you're a long time fan, despite some truly impenetrable moments, there's some music here to be enjoyed. However, I must stress if you are unfamiliar with the band or a recent convert), you may want to go for one of their other albums first.

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