Year of Release: 2002
Label: InsideOut Music America
Catalog Number: IOMA 2047-2
Total Time: 136:35:00
A double album from Sweden's premier prog rock outfit is always a daunting proposition for me, and with the band touring within a fortnight of buying this album, I had to dive in at the deep end and give it an intensive listen to become familiar with this new material, as any of it could have ended up in the live set.
After a couple of spins all the way through, and then selecting individual tracks, my overall view is that Unfold The Future is an improvement on The Rainmaker. It's a more consistent album in terms of the band's performance, with the individual players striking a good balance between gelling as a group and still ensuring that their individual contributions to each song come through clearly.
But as good as this album is, it's still hampered by the band's seeming inability to weed out the wheat from the chaff. If this had been slimmed down onto one disc it would be have been a killer album, but with over two and a half hours of music, it can become a slog working your way through some the indulgent jam sessions that crop up inbetween the better songs.
"The Truth Will Set You Free" is the album's piece de resistance, running at over half an hour long. But the way it flows from start to finish makes it a real pleasure to listen to, and worth the price of the album. It's joyful, entrancing and has a real groove that I don't think the band has had before, courtesy of the bass playing of Jonas Reingold.
The only problem after such a strong start is that the rest of the album struggles to reach similar highs. "Silent Inferno" starts off at a cracking pace and shows the harder rock side of the band. There is some inspired guitar soloing in middle section before the song moves into a slightly funkier feel, reminiscent of late 70s Camel, before reprising its striking opening theme.
The other epic "The Devil's Playground" also makes for interesting listening, but it's more of an exercise in creating feel and atmosphere rather than memorable melodies. Looking at the photographs in the booklet and the lyrics and it's not hard to pick up on the song's theme of society's progress and the moral/ethical price to pay for this.
It opens with a string arrangement that resembles an overture to a tragedy, and a simple but affecting guitar melody. But no sooner is the mood set than the band shatter it with a sax and guitar hook reminiscent of early King Crimson. It's catchy, but totally at odds with the song's intro. The song then moves onto more familiar ground with a great guitar melody that soars above the other instruments, before settling into a series of powerful chord progressions that recur through out the songs. But then they go and spoil it with a wacky marching piece that's more Tellytubbies than Flower Kings. They redeem themselves with a fast-paced section which allows Tomas Bodin to swirl his organ all over the song to great effect before the song concludes, but I felt that this song could have been improved by making it leaner and shorter.
The shorter pieces scattered inbetween the longer songs are a bit hit and miss in places. Some of the experimental jams really don't add anything to the album and I found them distracting and irritating.
But songs like "Navigator" tell a different story, with the change of tempo and the gentle keyboard accompaniment to Roine Stolt's vocals showing the more reflective side of the band. "Vox Humana" follows in a similar vein, with a more acoustic feel, and I liked the santa sleigh-bells in the background. "Man Overboard" is also a sweet little number, and unlike some of the other songs, this one ended far too soon!
Of the more straight-ahead rock songs, "Monkey Business" is probably the most satisfying, with it's wild guitar soloing and keyboard crescendo towards the conclusion. "Fast Lane" sees Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlöw take over lead vocals as this song nips along just like it's title suggests. But contrary to expectation this isn't any metal track. In fact it reminds of me of soul music on speed, with plenty of organ and a staccato snare beat driving things along.
This review probably sounds like gripes from a prog-head wanting a return to the older days, but in fact, I liked some of the jazz influences, particulary Jonas Reingold's fretless bass embellishments which gave the songs a nice polish, and the addition of saxophone adds a new dimension to the band's sound. I realise that this is the direction that the band wants to pursue, and I'm happy to follow them, but there were times when I felt the album lacked the emotional heights of numbers like "Last Minute On Earth" or "There Is More To This World," and singer Hasse Fröberg didn't seem to make such and impact on this album.
Bottom line - if you like the band, and the Space Revolver album in particular, then you'll love this. If you haven't heard the Flower Kings before, then this probably isn't the album to start with, unless you're feeling particularly adventurous. While many fans will rejoice at a return to the double cd format, citing freedom for the band to expand and explore the songs, for me it's the equivalent of a heavy meal that would have benefited from having the fat trimmed. But it's no turkey either, and the standard of musicianship is as high as ever, and in "The Truth Will Set You Free" the band have produced another impressive epic to stand alongside "Garden Of Dreams" and "Stardust We Are,' and that alone should make it worth the casual fan's time.
However, I wonder if Roine will ever have the courage to hand the reins over to an independent producer and allow an outsider to exercise judgement on which songs should make the final cut? Now that would be progressive.
Also released by InsideOut (IOMCD 112/SPV 089-65392 DCD)
Disc One: The Truth Will Set You Free (30:40) / Monkey Business (4:20) / Black And White (7:40) / Christianopel (8:30) / Silent Inferno (14:25) / The Navigator (3:15) / Vox Humana (4:30)
Disc Two: Genie In A Bottle (8:10) / Fast Lane (6:35) / Grand Old World (5:10) / Soul Vortex (6:00) / Rollin The Dice (4:15) / The Devils Danceschool (3:45) / Man Overboard (3:40) / Solitary Shell (3:10) / Devils Playground (24:30)
Roine Stolt - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Hasse Fröberg - vocals
Jonas Reingold - Fender bass, fretless bass
Zoltan Csörsz - drums
Tomas Bodin - Grand piano, keyboards
Hasse Bruniusson - percussion
Ulf Wallander - soprano saxophone
Roine Stolt - The Flower King (1994/2001/2004)
Back In The World Of Adventures (1995)
Stardust We Are (1997/2000)
Scanning The Greenhouse (comp) (1998)
Edition Limitée Quebec (1998) (only 700 copies!)
Flower Power (1999)
TFK fanclub disc (2000) (free CD exclusive to fanclub members only)
Alive On Planet Earth (2000)
Space Revolver (2000)
Space Revolver Special Edition (2CD set) (2000)
The Rainmaker (2001)
The Rainmaker - Special Edition (2001)
Unfold The Future (2002)
Live In New York: Official Bootleg (2002)
Fan Club CD 2002 (2002)
Fan Club CD 2004 (2004)
Adam & Eve (2004)
Harvest (fan club CD) (2005)
Paradox Hotel (2006)
The Road Back Home (2007)
The Sum Of No Evil (2007)
The Sum Of No Evil (Special Edition) (2007)
Banks Of Eden (2012)
Meet The Flower Kings - Live Recording (DVD) (2003)
Instant Delivery (DVD) (2006)
Instant Delivery - Limited Edition (2CD/2DVD) (2006)
Genre: Symphonic Prog