8,5/10

Having never been afraid to take chances, prog rock royalties The Flower Kings´ albums have ranged from the symphonic majesty of “Stardust We Are” to the fusion infused “Unfold The Future” over to the dark and forebodingly brilliant gloom of “Desolation Rose”. Their new 92 minute double album consist of 21 songs and is constructed in such a way that it can be listened to in bits and pieces while being one song in 21 parts accordingly to Mr Prog Guru himself, Roine Stolt (guitars, Lead and backing vocals). There are plenty of recurring themes wowen in throughout the two discs which rewards repeated listens.

“Islands” came about under different circumstances than their “regular” records, if you pardon the expression. So instead of spending most of the year on tour, a certain virus threw a spanner in the works. So the floral majesties had to re-think things and then hunkered down in their flower bunkers and created an album of quite some stature. Loaded with tons of swirling keyboards, soaring guitar solos from the criminally underrated Mr Stolt and heartfelt vocals from one of the best singers around today; Hasse Fröberg, this makes for a very pleasant listening experience indeed. Songs like the almost pastoral “Goodbye Outrage” is paired with the terrificly proggy “Journeyman”, once again showing all the colours in The Flower Kings palette.

And so goes the voyage, across seas of forever in perilous waters that finally takes us to discover the magnificence of “Islands”. Instrumental workouts like “Looking For Answers” and short but awesome “Hidden Angles” whisks the listener away for aural adventures where both Roine Stolt´s sublime guitar playing and ivory tinkler Zach Kamins shines like crazy diamonds in Lucy´s sky, both superbly supported by Jonas Reingold´s inventive bass lines, Mirko DeMaio´s dynamic drumming and Hasse Fröberg´s more than solid rhythm guitars.

Other favorites are the nine minute whirldwind of “Solaris”, “Serpentine” that sounds like Danny Elfman doing a Genesis song, the beautiful serenity of “Northern Lights” and the low key “Telescope”. Just about the only thing I´d really miss is the EPIC Flower Kings song, like “Stardust We Are” or “The Truth Will Set You Free” because remember kids; every music piece shorter than ten minutes are called ditties, not songs. The recurring themes do make up for this a bit, though and it is a very cohesive record which is applaudable considering that it was recorded by band members in their respective studios in Sweden, USA and Austria. But next time I´d like a 25 minute song, guys! Heckin´hell, I demand it!

Stargazed Magazine focuses mainly on metal in different forms and so does the lions share of its readers. So why review a progressive rock album completely free of growling, breakdowns, eight string guitars or histrionic vocals (preferably performed on a mountain with the wind in the hair while beating a bare chest)? It is because the pure quality of the performances and the immaculate song writing simply begs to be discovered by more than the already converted prog heads out there. So is “Islands” the perfect jump-on-point then? Frankly, no. I´d point the new listener to either 2013´s heavy and introspective “Desolation Rose” or the let´s-prog-our-symphonic-asses-off-glee of  “The Sum of No Evil” as starters and then maybe something like “Islands” or “Stardust We Are”.

The fans of TFK will love this to bits, of that I am confident and I am just so happy that they once again deliver another brilliant record. Well done, guys, well done!

Artist: The Flower Kings
Title: Islands
Label: Inside Out Records
Playing Time: 92 minutes
Date of release: 2020-10-30
Rating: 8,5/10
Place of origin: Sweden
Standout track: Solaris, Looking For Answers, Goodbye Outrage