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The Flower Kings - The Sum Of No Evil CD (album) cover

THE SUM OF NO EVIL

The Flower Kings

 

Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 501 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Walkscore
5 stars One of two TFK masterpieces!

While 'Unfold the Future' is often lauded as one of TFK's best albums, Sum of No Evil is often overlooked. But I think it qualifies as the second TFK masterpiece, and thus deserves much more attention. Many reviewers here on PA have rated this down, but I think this is a problematic result of the way ratings work on sites like this, and not a reflection of the true musical value of this great work. When someone is rating an album that we all know well (say, a classic album from the 70s), it is one we have listened to for years, multiple times. So, even for those albums that are very dense, complex and difficult to penetrate at first (think, a lot of the more difficult albums by Yes, GG, the Hatfield's, etc), after multiple listens over many years emerges the musicality that was initially impenetrable to the listener. So, we can say that Tales is a great, musical album and rate it accordingly. However, when a recent album is released, many reviewers will listen to it once or twice, and then review it. The more difficult-to-penetrate albums are then rated down, because they have not had the luxury of multiple listens yet. And multiple listens are absolutely essential - much of the pleasure of good music is derived from the anticipation of knowing what comes next - satisfying that anticipation releases endorphins in the brain, leading to the pleasure we experience when a great section of music we have listened to many times arrives. But an album one listens to once or twice cannot, by definition, do this, particularly one that is more complex and difficult to get initially, even when they are highly musical. Meanwhile, other more-accessible albums that one can easily 'get' on first or second listen then get higher ratings (think many of the recent neo-prog albums). Even worse, on first listen, one might catch a few musical or lyrical references to those older classic 70s albums, and if at the same time the rest of the music seems impenetrable, it is so easy to be derogatory and label the music as just "retro-prog". I think this is patently unfair, and so I make a policy of only reviewing albums that I have listened to multiple times, and also of reviewing the music AS music, regardless of when and by whom it was made, or what is on the album cover.

And this album, to me, stands up there with the best of many of the classics. If it had been released in 1975, I think it would be up there in the top 100. I think if it had the benefit of decades, by now reviewers would know it inside out and would have a different take. It is both very dense (so requiring MANY multiple listens) AND very musical. It takes a long while to cognitively map this album, but once you do, one finds an exceptionally satisfying and beautiful set of music. Even the short slower tune, "Trading My Soul", which many reviewers here on PA seem to dismiss as it strikes them as less progressive and sappy (probably after one or two listens), is exceptionally musical and poignant. It all flows together very well, and even though this album is another example of an over-extended TFK set (over 78 minutes!), it carries you along and the time flies quickly. You don't want it to end!

While TKF albums and songs are, for the most part, not notable for their lyrics, this album is an exception. I really appreciate Roine Stolt's lyrics here - instead of searching around for external topics to write about (like he did in Adam and Eve, and Paradox Hotel), Stolt here writes from the heart. Reviewers seem to have latched onto a few lines (like the title and some lyrics in the long epic "Love is the Only Answer") in their arguments for why this album might be graded down, or deemed retro, etc, without actually listening to the content of the lyrics. Now I don't know Roine Stolt (and have never met him) but it seems to me this is his most personal TFK album. Indeed, I think the entire album is a dialogue with himself about the benefits of continuing with TFK, the sacrifices he and his family have made, and even his relationship with music itself. Stolt is someone who has given his entire life to music, but despite building a small but solid TFK following the band remained precarious. On this album, it seems he is letting on that he has decided to give it one more try, to follow his heart one more time, knowing full well he was getting older, 'trading his soul', and soon would have to make some decisions and reconcile with his other loved ones. Many of the songs are full of personal thoughts (including references to some of Stolt's favourite songs, and heroes, which on this album often take on multiple meanings). "Love is the Only Answer" is not a sappy throwaway, but an internal dialogue negotiating with darkness. The closing piece ("Life in Motion") ended up having a double meaning. He was coming home again to music. But after the tour ('Kaput'!), he folded the TFK for 5 years and actually did go home. Perhaps he was too emotionally drained, perhaps the opportunity to rejoin Transatlantic was just too lucrative, perhaps a number of things, but I wonder what would have happened with TFK if this album had been the one to take off. Regardless, I see this album as a huge musical accomplishment. It contains some of TFK's best compositions, and some of Stolt's most personal and (to me) interesting lyrics. There is not an unmusical minute on it, let alone an unmusical song (whereas other TFK albums usually contain a few duds, this one is just so musical all the way through). The first (and second, and third) time I listened to this, I found it too dense to form an opinion about it, but if I had to might have agreed with those who said it is fragmented and impenetrable. It is a good thing I didn't review it then! I have by now listened to this over 50 times. It is one of the few albums in my collection that just keeps getting better with each listen (those pro-musical endorphins at work!). It is a real keeper. I give it 9.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, and so 5 PA stars.

Walkscore | 5/5 |

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