“The Sum Of No Evil” marks the 10th studio release (11 if you count Stolt’s 1994 solo project “The Flower King” which started it all) from the prolific and uncompromising Swedish progressive rock group The Flower Kings.
Since the official group’s inception, Stolt and company have embraced the extended epic, appealing to that sector of the progressive rock community who cut their teeth on the side-long concept albums of Yes, Genesis, and ELP .
And after 13 years and 11 albums The Flower Kings accept the fact that their music is not ‘radio friendly’; so they continue to compose these extended tracks with little regard to the minute hand on a stop watch - putting them in the cross-hairs of critics who deem them undisciplined and the material bloated with filler.
“The Sum Of No Evil” will not win the band any converts nor will it change the minds of the critics. But it should delight their legion of loyal fans, as it contains several sweeping Flower King epics: “Love Is The Only Answer” (24:30), “One More Time” ( 13:05 ), “The Sum Of No Reason” ( 13:25 ) and “Life In Motion” ( 13:30 ). The only two tracks under 10 minutes are “Flight 999 Brimstone Air” ( 5:10 ) and “Trading My Soul” ( 6:25 ).
“The Sum Of No Evil” ranks among the top tier of The Flower Kings discography (I still regard “Stardust We Are” as the band’s best complete work). It has all you’ve come to expect from the band – excellent production value,
uplifting syrup-sweet lyrics, a blend of tightly constructed compositions and extended free-form improvisation, and an impressive collection of top notch musicians - each a master craftsman.
This is a real showcase for keyboardist Thomas Bodin. His stamp is all over this album, making extensive use of both vintage analog gear and imaginative digital samples.
The symbiotic interplay between Bodin and Stolt continues to blossom with each new project – a sort of Swedish equivalent to Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman – or Tony Banks and Steve Hackett.
The Flower Kings have latched on to a trademark identity which deviates very little from one project to the next, unlike bands who periodically re-invent themselves fearing stagnation.
To those familiar with the works of the Flower Kings they have an easily identifiable sound. You know from the first few bars of “The Sum Of No Evil” that you’re listening to a new Flower Kings album. And even though I am a staunch supporter of the band I tend to agree with some of the criticism. There seems to be no demarcation zone between songs. Tracks tend to runs together as one continuous piece, with each new song indecipherable from the previous.
You can load your IPOD with the entire Flower Kings discography and it will flow like one continuous piece; much like Ozric Tentacles.
Which is why this is a band you either love – or hate.
To the uninitiated, “The Sum Of No Evil” is a throwback to 70s’ symphonic rock, mixing elements of Yes, Zappa, ELP , Camel, and early Genesis.
Stolt approached this project with lofty goals and a self-imposed symphonic rock “purity law”, setting out to create his own “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” by stripping away any pop, jazz, experimental or ambient references from past efforts.
So if these ideals strike a positive chord with you, and you have no aversion to the whole NEO- movement or The Flower Kings in general, than “The Sum Of No Evil” deserves a place in your music collection.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on October 28th, 2007