Desolation Rose might have been described as a classic-era throwback, what with the use of reel-to-reel tape and vintage instruments. But the Flower Kings aren’t exploring prog’s typical dreamscape themes.
Instead, longtime frontman Roine Stolt casts a gimlet eye on the problems roiling around us in this modern world, from seemingly perpetual military conflicts (“White Tuxedos”) to roundly ignored economic disparities (“Silent Masses”), from our teetering environment (“Sleeping Bones”) to the closed fists of political and religious fundamentalism (“Dark Fascist Skies”). It’s safe to say that anyone looking for mountains to come out of the sky, much less stand there, will be knocked on their sweet ass by this album’s sequence of ever-more-topical body blows.
Though brief respites like “Blood of Eden” — a song of dazzling, outsized wonder — certainly offer glimmers of hope, this is perhaps the darkest recording of the Flower Kings’ nearly two-decades-long career.
That said, Desolation Rose (thanks in no small way to Thomas Bodin’s symphonic keyboard excursions) follows a musical template that very much recalls prog rock’s early-1970s hey day — in particular Genesis’ Peter Gabriel era-defining epic The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The combining of these things, very old and very new, gives Desolation Rose both a fierce momementum and a sense of ageless resonance.