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The Flower Kings’ Roine Stolt on taking the Swedish prog-rockers back to the future for the uplifting By Royal Decree

Guitarist and vocalist Roine Stolt of Swedish progressive rock group The Flower Kings performing live on stage at Scala in London, on December 8, 2019.
(Image credit: Will Ireland/Future)

Roine Stolt moved backwards to progress for his Flower Kings’ latest double album, By Royal Decree. While prepping the band’s 15th full-length, the Swedish prog great had been remixing a series of Nineties-period Flower Kings records for an upcoming set of reissues. That nostalgic look back also included rediscovering decades’ worth of unused recordings he had tucked away. He liked what he heard.

“I was listening back to music we did 20 years ago, and music I’d done even before that. I could feel there was something different. Some of it felt more exciting – maybe not as professional, almost childish,” Stolt suggests of riffs he found while combing through digital file folders of song ideas, some of which are finally coming to pass on By Royal Decree

The record integrates that youthful drive with a regal elegance, whether riding royal purple undulations of ’70s-styled prog (The Great Pretender), pomp-and-circumstance lead waggling (Revolution) or dew-glistened psych-pop (We Can Make It Work). That joy extends to awe-struck lyrics about astral scenes (A Million Stars) and the promise of a better tomorrow (Time the Great Healer).

“There was a feeling you can get from the older albums that was lost on some of the later albums – some of those were kind of gloomy, to be honest,” Stolt admits, adding, “I wanted to get back to that positive feel [on By Royal Decree], with joyful melodies and bigger arrangements.”

The Flower Kings’ collective exuberance also makes sense when you consider that while 2020’s Islands was comped together via remote session work due to Covid, the players all converged upon Varnhem, Sweden’s Fenix Studios to track this 18-track, pop-timist epic.

A prominent piece of Stolt’s sound this time around is his whimsically multi-faceted wah work, with his Cry Baby yielding anything from a memorably treble-crushed series of bends on his Evolution lead, to a more traditional, funkified plinkiness as he supports an oboe solo on Blinded

“I’m [generally] not looking for the wah effect,” he says. “Basically it’s about shaping the tone or pushing the amp so it screams a little more.” 

Though Frankensteined by design, By Royal Decree is seamless, even leaving Stolt guessing how it was stitched together. “I’d have to look at the receipts,” he says with a laugh. “I’m at the point where I really can’t tell what’s the old stuff and what’s new. That is a good sign, because obviously the formula works.”

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Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling (opens in new tab). This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.