When The Flower Kings went on hiatus in 2008 the future of the band seemed in jeopardy. Fueled by mixed reviews of their recent albums (“Adam And Eve” - 2004, “Paradox Hotel” - 2006, and “The Sum Of No Evil” - 2007), and the constant barrage of criticism suggesting musical stagnation played heavy on the band's psyche … especially founder Roine Stolt. So the members agreed to a temporary hiatus, never mentioning the word – 'break-up' – but preparing for the worse.
Stolt went on to pursue other projects including the formation of the band Agents Of Mercy (“The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight” – 2009, “Dramarama” – 2010, and “The Black Forest” - 2011), his continued work with Transatlantic (“The Whirlwind” - 2009 and the tour that followed), the jazz fusion project 3rd. World Electric (“Kilimanjaro Secret Brew” - 2009), another stint with Karmakanic (“Who's The Boss In The Factory” - 2009), and assorted guest appearances on a variety of albums including Steve Hackett's “Genesis Revisited II”.
This left the other members of The Flower Kings in a state of musical Limbo.
Yet even though their future with The Flower Kings may have been uncertain, that didn't mean the members sat idly by waiting for a phone call from Stolt.
Keyboardist Tomas Bodin recorded two solo albums “Cinematograaf” - 2008 and “You Are” (as Eggs & Dogs) - 2009; bassist Jonas Reingold continued his work with Kaipa recording “In The Wake Of Evolution” - 2010 and “Vittjar” - 2012; and guitar/vocalist Hasse Froberg went on to form the band we'll be reviewing today … Hasse Froberg Musical Companion.
The 2010 debut album, “Future Past” (reviewed here by Ron Fuchs) consisted of material written by Froberg that probably didn't mesh within the established Flower Kings formula. HFMC presented him with the opportunity to stretch and step out from under the shadow of the band, belting out harder-edged rock and roll.
Now don't get me wrong, the ever-present specter of The Flower Kings hoovered overhead influencing him slightly on various tunes … but just not in a prominent role. Greater influences seemed to come from hard-rock bands like Queen, Zeppelin, and Magnum, as well as Europe, Enchant, and a very strong YES influence as evident on the track “Piece Of The Sky”.
Well apparently for his 2012 follow-up HFMC album “Powerplay”, Froberg proudly acknowledged his role as a major contributor to The Flower Kings legacy, and allowed the spirit of the band to once again fill his soul. Because “Powerplay” is as close to any Flower Kings album as you can possibly get without actually being an official release from the group. It could easily be misconstrued as an official Flower King release to the ear of even the most rabid Flower King aficionado.
It's quite possible Froberg recorded “Powerplay” to fill the void left behind by The Flower Kings; unaware at the time that the band would soon be returning to the studio to produce what would become their strongest album in many years, “Banks Of Eden”. And the result is his second HFMC album was overlooked by many fans since both “Powerplay” and “Banks Of Eden” were released in the same year.
“Powerplay” may well have been an unfortunate casualty of “Banks Of Eden” success.
Yet “Powerplay” is the perfect companion piece to “Banks Of Eden”, and should be filed right alongside your Flower Kings collection; and pulled out when you're looking for something a tad edgier. HFCM and their album “Powerplay” comes across as a ballsier variation of TFK … think - The Flower Kings meet Dream Theater.
There is a lot more growl and power in Froberg's vocals as he belts out the harder-edged tunes like “The World Keeps Turning” and “Godsong”.
But with tracks like “My River To Cross”, “The Final Hour”, “Waves”, “Is It Ever Gonna Happen”, and “The Chosen One” you can't help but be confused, assuming you're listening to a collection of strong outtakes from a previous Flower Kings release.
Needless to say if you're a fan of The Flower Kings this is must have. And for older fans who at some point simply lost interest in the band, well you might find “Powerplay” even more appealing than “Banks Of Eden” because it has an aggressive bite to it.
Froberg assembled a top notch group of musicians for his project, each a master at their craft. The line-up for the Hasse Froberg Musical Companion includes: Hasse Froberg (vocals and guitars), Anton Lindsjo (guitars and vocals), Kjell Haralksson (keyboards and vocals), Thomsson (bass and vocals), and Ola Strandberg (drums and vocals).
Highly recommended for Flower King fans and anyone with an appreciation for good progressive music.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on July 17th, 2013