The Flower Kings -
By Royal Decree

(2CD 2022, 52:19/ 41:48, InsideOut Music)

The tracks:
CD 1
  1- The Great Pretender(6:59)
  2- World Gone Crazy(5:07)
  3- Blinded(7:52)
  4- A Million Stars(7:20)
  5- The Soldier(5:26)
  6- The Darkness In You(5:17)
  7- We Can Make It Work(2:53)
  8- Peacock On Parade(5:22)
  9- Revolution(6:03)
CD 2
  1- Time The Great Healer(6:17)
  2- Letter(2:26)
  3- Evolution(4:50)
  4- Silent Ways(5:04)
  5- Moth(4:41)
  6- The Big Funk(4:44)
  7- Open Your Heart(5:20)
  8- Shrine(1:11)
  9- Funeral Pyres(7:15)

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Regular visitors of this site should “know” by now that I am really an aficionado of The Flower Kings, which also means that I was really looking forward to this 15th studio album of this Swedish “flower power” ensemble. In 2020 Roine Stolt & Company surprised and overwhelmed me with their amazing album Islands (see review) and now hardly eighteen months later The Flower Kings release a brand-new album and again it is a double one with a playing time of more than 94 minutes; so again, sheer progressive musical rock bliss indeed!

By Royal Decree sees the return of bass player Michael Stolt (yes, the brother of..) although Jonas Reingold handles the bass on nine of the eighteen tracks as Reingold has obviously been very busy with playing in the band of Steve Hackett. Sad but true, you will not find any epics on this album as fifteen of the songs clock between the four and eight minutes mark, while there are also three rather short tracks to be found on By Royal Decree. In fact, the music/ sound on this album mostly reminds me of the classic and utterly beautiful Stardust We Are album, which was released in 1997. Furthermore, you can enjoy some material from the Stolt archives, songs that were composed even for 1994... Open Your Heart, a ballad like song, is one of those songs that could be “labelled” as Stardust We Are stuff; meaning lots of melody, and an awesome typical Stolt guitar solo; top notch indeed! By the way opening track The Great Pretender is also one of my favs as it is 100% pure Flower Kings, complex but also with really familiar melodies. Stolt's signature guitar leads are again all over the place and as usual they are breath-taking, for example World Gone Crazy or Funeral Pyres. The musical intro of the song Revolution, being a super guitar melody, which rather sounds Jan Akkerman-like, is another musical treat, while the instrumental Evolution shows again what a great band The Flower Kings is; excellent musicianship by DeMaio (drums), Kamins (keys), Reingold (bass) and Michael Stolt (bass guitar) indeed!

Need I say more? No, I guess, as By Royal Decree, is again an utterly creative and entertaining, melodic prog rock gem of the highest standards. Is this the best Flower Kings album ever? I really cannot answer that, as I am a huge fan and I am utterly fond of all their albums, so... Of course, this album will end up exceedingly high in my top ten list of 2022; that is a fact that cannot be ignored. Buy or die, prog rock fans, and enjoy at maximum volume!!

****+ Martien Koolen (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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