September 10, 2023

Well, I’m guessing that there is no one who checks out Velvet Thunder who is unaware of the Swedish progressive rock titans The Flower Kings but if there is then where have you been for the last 29 years or so? Superlatives often come far too easily but The Flower Kings and Roine Stolt truly deserve every accolade heaped upon the band right from the very beginning when they hit the ground running with the remarkable Back In The World Of Adventure in 1995. The undoubted quality has always been maintained despite several prized musicians escaping the fold but always to be replaced with artists of equal or better measure. Remember too that geniuses like Tomas Bodin, Jonas Reingold and Daniel Gildenlöw have all added to The Flower Kings legend but it is the extraordinary skill and talent of Roine Stolt whose hallmark is written through the band with his unique, mesmerising vocals and truly inspirational guitar work. One of the stellar features of the band is the combination of two great vocalists with Stolt and Hasse Fröberg working in perfect harmony with each complementing the other to perfection.

Photo: Varg Lund

Look At You Now is the band’s 16th studio album and each has pushed the boundaries of progressive rock with all being born out of those halcyon days of the ’70s when the progressive giants ruled the rock world. For sure, they have a retro sound at the core of their make-up but each album sees yet another musical facet of the band’s psyche as they serve up progressive musical delights and are as adept at the three-minute classic as they are at the extended longer pieces such is the skill of the song writing skills within the group. Guitars and keyboards are very much to the fore but all are controlled with skill and precision and never is a note wasted in the band’s quest to produce the ultimate rock album which they always manage to do with ease. Quality control standards are set at the maximum and you never, ever get the feeling that the band is going through the motions as they put everything out there for your delectation. What actually helps to make The Flower Kings so special is that they are not afraid to change and experiment and are very much at home when incorporating elements of jazz and fusion into their delivery as well as a Beatles inspired vocal harmonic but all remains within the progressive credentials of the band.

The latest version of the group sees old timers Roine Stolt on vocals, guitar, keyboards and percussion with Hasse Fröberg on vocals, Michael Stolt on bass and vocals and he also provides keyboards and guitar on Mother Earth with Mirko Demaio on drums plus he also plays keyboards on Day For Peace too. Roine Stolt, Fröberg and Michael Stolt go back to the very beginnings although Michael was away from the band from 1999 and only made a welcome return in 2021 so there is a real synergy between them and their familiarity shines through in the sumptuous music they make. They have brought in several guests too to add extra relish to the work with Hasse Bruniusson on percussion on track 3, Lalle Larsson on synths on tracks 4 and 9, Marjana Semkina with a vocal on track 12, Jörgen Sälde playing neat nylon guitar on track 6 with backing vocals virtually throughout the album from Jannica Lund. The Flower Kings has that happy knack of making new material sound both retro and contemporary at the same time so it immediately sounds like an old and much loved record and, as with all of their earlier works, simply gets better with each play.

The album features 13-tracks with a running time of around 68 minutes, and by Flower Kings standards the tracks are shortish being around the 5-minute mark – although the album closer is a 12-minute epic on which the band both excel and delight. If you are a fan then rest assured that this new release will fulfil all your needs as it ticks all of the usual Flower Kings boxes with great songs, thrilling instrumentation, delightful and lush keyboards and truly exquisite guitar so much so that once on your music player of choice then it will rarely be off. Those hearing the band for the first time better be prepared for an extended time out from your other records as an extensive tour of the back catalogue will surely follow!

I knew that Look At You Now would be good as it is the Flower Kings after all, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as anything they have ever produced, so it shows that the musicians have a collective love for the music and real fire in their bellies! A must have record from one of progressive rock’s finest bands.

Look At You Now

  1. Beginner’s Eyes (4:35)
  2. The Dream (4:37)
  3. Hollow Man (5:00)
  4. Dr. Ribedeaux (3:02)
  5. Mother Earth (4:15)
  6. The Queen (5:25)
  7. The Light in Your Eyes (5:45)
  8. Seasons End (5:26)
  9. Scars (5:27)
  10. Stronghold (6:45)
  11. Father Sky (3:06)
  12. Day For Peace (3:10)
  13. Look At You Now (12:00)