Sweden played a crucial part in the progressive rock revival of the 1990s, but amid dark-sounding King Crimson-influenced bands like Anekdoten and Anglagard, the positive-thinking Yes-enlightened act the Flower Kings felt almost out of place. Yet, the Flower Kings became, along with the American Spock's Beard, the '90s prog rock band with the largest fan base, the biggest sales, and the widest international appeal.
The Flower Kings came to life in August 1994, but retrospectively, their first album came out before their inception. That year, guitarist/singer/composer Roine Stolt, who enjoyed relative European fame in the 1970s as a member of the Swedish progressive rock band Kaipa, brought together ex-Jonas Hellborg drummer Jaime Salazar and ex-Samla Mammas Manna percussionist Hans Bruniusson to record a solo album, The Flower King. Stolt's music was graced by a Jon Anderson-like aura and combined complex structures with catchy heartfelt melodies, and the prog fans welcomed the album with open arms. Roine brought in brother Michael Stolt (bass, vocals) and longtime friend Tomas Bodin (keyboards) to perform the material live, and thus the Flower Kings were born and The Flower King, the album, is now usually perceived as the band's first.
Back in the World of Adventures was released in November 1995 on the band's own label, Foxtrot Music, and contained the stage favorite "Big Puzzle," while the Flower Kings started to tour in Europe. It was shortly followed by Retropolis (May 1996), the band's most '70s-influenced album to date, which yielded "The Judas Kiss" and "There Is More to This World," still arguably one of their best anthems. Retropolis helped the Flower Kings reach Japan, South America, and North America (especially Quebec). The mammoth two-CD set Stardust We Are, which included "In the Eyes of the World," "Church of Your Heart," and the 25-minute epic "Stardust We Are," was released in 1997. With four albums (including one double CD) released in less than four years, music critics around the world started to wonder how Roine Stolt managed to write this fast. Obvious filler material on Stardust We Are had people thinking the band should have been a bit more selective and made it a one-CD affair. Still, the band's fan base was growing, as were the sales. A compilation album, Scanning the Greenhouse (containing a fantastic rendition of Genesis' "The Cinema Show") was released to prepare Americans for the band's first U.S. tour, and a limited-edition CD containing live improvisations and unreleased tracks was issued by Ipso Facto for the Quebec market, while Roine Stolt released his critically acclaimed solo album Hydrophonia -- all in a year's work.
Another two-CD set, Flower Power, saw the light of day in early 1999. Even more ambitious, it contained the 60-minute suite "Garden of Dreams" and the quirky "Psychedelic Postcard," which paid tribute to one of Roine's main (although rarely detected) influences: Frank Zappa. Flower Power was the band's first album to be released in the U.S. by Inside Out Music America, which acquired rights to the band's complete catalog for domestic distribution. The Flower Kings' first live album, Alive on Planet Earth, was released in 2000 while Roine was touring with the supergroup Transatlantic (with Pete Trewavas of Marillion, Neal Morse of Spock's Beard, and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater). A new studio album, titled Space Revolver, followed later that year with bassist Jonas Reingold replacing Michael Stolt. Unfold the Future appeared in 2002, with the live set Meet the Flower Kings following in 2003. Paradox Hotel was released in 2006. ~ François Couture, Rovi