Round Table Review
Roine Stolt's The Flower King - Manifesto Of An Alchemist
Edwin Roosjen's Review
The Flower Kings started about 25 years ago. Not with an album by The Flower Kings as a band, but with a solo album by Roine Stolt called The Flower King.
Now almost 25 years later Roine sort of returns to that time. Manifesto Of An Alchemist is not an album by The Flower Kings but by Roine Stolt's The Flower King. To confuse people even more, there was also a tour called Roine Stolt's The Flower Kings Revisited, featuring the last 25 years played with a variety of musicians from The Flower Kings family.
We have seen projects and bands like Transatlantic, The Sea Within, Agents Of Mercy, The Tangent and Kaipa. And now The Flower Kings band seems to have (re)turned into some sort of project, which is strange because The Flower Kings as a band was managed almost completely by Roine Stolt anyway.
I do not understand the reason for it but if the music is great then who cares, as it is about time that we had some new music containing the words "Flower" and "Kings" in some form.
For Manifesto Of An Alchemist Roine does a lot of vocal parts himself as far as I can hear. On guitar and vocals is the very steady Flower King member Hasse Fröberg (who also played on the album The Flower King). On bass we have Jonas Reingold and Michael Stolt, Roine's brother. A bit strange to have two bass players but I guess Roine really wanted his brother on this album, just like on The Flower King, and I guess he understands that no album carrying the name "Flower King" in some form, can do without Mr Reingold. His bass playing with nice solos is one of the better elements on albums by The Flower Kings.
On the drums we see Marco Minneman who also plays in The Sea Within, plus Max Lorentz on Hammond organ, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Rob Townsend on sax, flute and percussion and Nad Sylvan on vocals.
The first song, Rainsong, is not really a song. It is Roine singing "It's Raining While You're Waiting" and it moves from the left speaker to the right and back. Who does that? Roine does that! It is a really strange opening but I remember they started with a countdown and some table tennis sounds on Paradox Hotel. For me it is a sign that Roine is going to do whatever he wants on this album and he does not care about normal music rules. It is game on.
Stolt has stated that several songs/tunes on this album have been present for many years but never found their way onto an album, and_Manifesto Of An Alchemist_ is a trip down memory lane, transferred into new songs.
The first real song Lost America is a real rocker and some rocking parts remind me a bit of Roine's solo album Wallstreet Voodoo. This is a great song that has acted as a pre-album single, being pre-released on Spotify.
Ze Pawns is a slower song with many lengthy guitar solos. High Road sounds a bit like The Whirlwind by Transatlantic. The instrumental song The Alchemist sounds like the instrumental song The Magic Circus of Zeb on the album The Flower King. The flow of the guitar melody gives me that feeling. Later on it becomes more jazzy, with flute melodies. The jazzy flute sound is also present on Six Thirty Wake-Up.
A lot of elements of the history of The Flower Kings are present on Manifesto Of An Alchemist, which lasts almost 70 minutes; Many songs last about ten minute, so there are many epic moments to sink one's teeth into.
Also a few average length songs that sometimes work or not. Personally I like Next To A Hurricane, a very pleasant little song, Baby Angels does not grab me, bit of a strange song to me.
Manifesto Of An Alchemist is a very good and interesting album. It sums up the catalogue of The Flower Kings and is also a nice tribute to the album The Flower King. It is everything you expect when Roine creates another Flower Kings album (that is not a Flower Kings album).
At the time I am writing this I do not know the reason why he called it an album by Roine Stolt's The Flower King but as long as we get music like this, he can call it whatever he wants. I think Manifesto Of An Alchemist will be on many "Best Of" lists at the end of this year. It will certainly be on mine.
Guille Palladino's Review
What else can be said about Roine Stolt that has not yet been said? Perhaps now it is the time to say that he has become the most important figure in Sweden’s rock history, and after a few years with incredible activity alongside Jon Anderson, the supergroup The Sea Within and touring with The Flower Kings and Kaipa Da Capo, the indisputable Flower King of symphonic progressive rock is back with his new album entitled Manifesto Of An Alchemist.
On this album Stolt returns as the main vocal figure, alongside his distinctive and evocative guitar playing, as he did in his prog debut The Flower King in 1994. This time he is joined by a deluxe line-up which includes bandmates Michael Stolt, Jonas Reingold and Hassë Froberg (The Flower Kings), Marco Minneman (The Sea Within), Nad Sylvan (The Agents of Mercy and Steve Hackett Band) and introducing Zach Kamins on keyboards.
Without any doubt the musical influence in this album comes from the work Stolt did during The Flower Kings years, maintaining all of the main characteristics from that band, which reflect early symphonic progressive rock groups such as Yes and Genesis. The music is marked by sharp dynamic changes, polyrhythms, heavy bass, vocal harmonies, abstract and occasionally non-sensical lyrics. This time Stolt has added some other contemporary and jazzy influences, which makes this album very fluid, easy-to-listen-to and richly orchestrated with all of the trademark elements of Stolt's musical journey during the last four decades.
This album has many highlights during its playing time. Some of my favorite moments are Lost in America” with its rich choruses and great hard-rockin’ riffs. I also like the way in which Fröberg's and Sylvan's voices appear in an incidental way in some songs like _Ze Pawns and The Spell Of Money. Then there is the beautiful instrumental Rio Grande with some great rhythmic changes; the fussion-like mood in The Alchemist with great bass and sax arrangements; the evocative 70s-influenced Six-Thirty Wake Up, and finally The Spell Of Money with some reminiscence of The Beatles to The Flower Kings themselves, whose influence is omnipresent.
This album is a must-have and one of the greatest works released so far this year. For me this is the album that I always wanted The Flower Kings to record. So I recommend it widely to all our readers and Stolt’s die-hard fans. Enjoy it!
Héctor Gómez's Review
Having released as recently as June, The Sea Within, a heavily promoted and much anticipated project, the prospect of having a new Flower Kings ... well ... another Roine Stolt album released before the end of the year, came as a rather pleasant surprise. Bearing this in mind, two questions come to mind. Firstly why is it a Roine Stolt solo album and not a one from The Flower Kings? Secondly, and most importantly, is it any good? Is it some kind of dark horse?
Regarding the first question, I'd say that, even with the contribution of Jonas Reingold and Hasse Fröberg (and yes, the absence of Tomas Bodin), this album effectively sounds and feels more like a Stolt solo release, alluding to both 1994's foundational The Flower King and 2005's bluesier Wall Street Voodoo. This means that, even if there are two more-than-capable keyboardists present in the recording (Zach Kamins and Max Lorentz), this is definitely more of a guitar kind of album.
As for the second question, I'd say it is not anything resembling a prog dark horse, but I'll concede I like it better than The Sea Within debut, even if it's only because there hasn't been an outrageous amount of hype surrounding it.
There's not much new under the sun here, it's just a nice, pleasant, entertaining slab of symphonic, bluesy, jazzy rock done the old Stolt way. It's not a two-plus hour, sprawling double album à la Stardust We Are or Unfold The Future, but a fairly solid 69 minutes of music with plenty to enjoy.
There is unfortunately some filler to be found. Let's just say I can't stand the impossibly schmaltzy Baby Angels. Also, there are many nice passages, including some quirky Zappa-isms, present on the epic of this album, High Road. Alongside the breezy but innocuous Next To A Hurricane, this is the most The Flower Kings-sounding track here, but after the first 7 to 8 minutes it just meanders and basically goes nowhere. This goes to suggest, as was the case with The Sea Within's own Broken Cord, that Stolt might have lost his knack to write compelling and articulated long-form pieces.
Now that we have the chaff sorted, let's get to the wheat.
Both Lost America and The Spell Of Money, 10 minutes a-piece, are fantastic, retaining the spirit of TFK but adding a welcome gritty edge to the proceedings, even if nothing here sounds as remotely dark or hopeless as some passages on, for instance, 2013's Desolation Rose. The band sounds brilliant. Stolt's guitars are as expressive as ever, Reingold's basses are as tasty as it gets (lest we forget Michael Stolt's contribution), and Marco Minnemann's drumming is beyond impressive, although he tends to overplay here and there (yes, I know those snare/toms/double kick rolls are too dazzling to avoid playing them, but...).
Having said that, my favourite tracks on the album are the three instrumentals, which are themselves very representative not only of the whole album, but probably Stolt's entire career. The eight minutes of Rio Grande are pure, intense prog fusion bliss, in the style of Pioneers Of Aviation, whereas the sort of title track The Alchemist expertly blends the more obvious jazz leanings with some playful eccentricities. This reminds me of Andy Summers' solo albums, and that can never be a bad thing in my book. Six Thrity Wake-Up, on the other hand, represents the gentler, ethereal (a bit à la Genesis) side of The Flower King's personality, not least thanks to Rob Townsend's beautiful and evocative job on flute.
So, there is nothing really truly outstanding here, just an expertly performed and produced record by a host of heavyweights in the prog scene. Was this to be the King's farewell, it would make a fitting, albeit slightly low key, final chapter. But I get the feeling that it won't be. Not in the slightest.
Roine Stolt will take The Flower Kings catalogue on tour later this year, as well as playing tracks from this new album. The tour begins in South America on November 16, playing The Flower Kings music with a band that also includes Hasse Froberg and Jonas Reingold. Stolt will then bring this set to Europe in December where he joins forces with fellow prog legends Spocks Beard.
South America 2018
16th November – Carioca Club, Sao Paolo, Brazil
18th November – El Teatrito, Buenos Aires, Argentina
19th November – Teatro Nescafe, Santiago, Chile
21st November – Teatro Del Patronato Peruano Chino, Lima, Peru
23rd November – C3 Stage, Guadalajara, Mexico
24th November – Auditoria Blackberry, Mexico City, Mexico
InsideOutMusic 25th Anniversary European Tour feat. Spock’s Beard & Roine Stolt’s The Flower King
30th November – Cosmopolite, Oslo, Norway
1st December – Kulturhuset Studion, Stockholm, Sweden
2nd December – KB, Malmo, Sweden
4th December – Zeche, Bochum, Germany
5th December – Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
6th December – La Machine, Paris, France
7th December – De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands
8th December – Hedon, Zwolle, Netherlands
9th December – Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK
10th December – Academy Club, Manchester, UK
28th February - Club Soda, Montreal, Canada
1st March - Salle Jean-Paul Tardif, Quebec City, Canada