Garden of Dreams is remarkable in The Flower Kings’ career. They had recorded epics near the half hour mark before, but in this hour-long composition they take it even further and fit in almost all the elements that would normally be part of an entire album, and yet make it feel like one continuous track. There are many recurring themes very cleverly portioned out through the composition.
The first 3rd of the composition is the excellent prog rock that is The Flower Kings’ trademark. #1 starts with the band warming up together with an orchestra and an opera singer (!) Then comes a short, dramatic overture that leads into #2; a sweet ballad in major about the innocence of childhood, that gets more dissonant as the lyrics speak about growing up. #3 starts with a minor instrumental part in 5/8, with industrial sound effects and themes played by synth and guitar, leading into a dynamic vocal part about searching for the “primal garden” in a world of “business”. A short ambient interlude with choir and synth arpeggios takes us to #4; a slow, typical Flower Kings ballad, with Roine using his full voice register and delivering the composition’s most heroic guitar solo. It is interrupted by #5 that brings back the 5/8 and a dramatic instrumental part with excellent interplay. If you’re gonna listen to just one of the tracks, this is the Flower Kings at their best. It suddenly changes to a more positive mood with strumming acoustic guitar, and slide guitar playing a melody that will come back later. Then it speeds up in #6 which is a crazy jam with synth and hammond organ solo, and a guitar solo that is like a continuation of the earlier one. In #7 we get the chance to breathe a little, with soft vocals and some lighter guitar improvisation to a marching drum beat. Eventually the Mellotron and bass does a transition to the next part.
The second 3rd is where things are getting a bit more psychedelic. #8 is a musical-esque waltz, with Hasse singing nonsensical lyrics in a more classical tone than usual. It goes into a soft vamp with nature sounds, that is interrupted by a heavy riff in #9. This is pretty much a classic rock tune, with threatening lyrics about “d’Evil”. After a short guitar solo battle (Roine playing both), the horror theme continues in #10 with percussionist Hasse getting chased by his own instruments (!?) Then suddenly comes a funky part with a universal message about love sung in three part harmony, and a cheerful guitar and synth melody. It gets a bit jazzy with an acoustic guitar solo, before it breaks down in #11, and Roine sings the melody from #5 over an ambient background, with lyrics foreboding the finale. In #12 it all gets interrupted by a horror transition with pipe organ and the opera voice from the beginning (so this was what he was warming up for!), leading into an experimental section with a techno synth bass pattern, guitar and synth effects and a classical choir in the background. It all fades into a short Mellotron interlude in #13 over an approaching thunderstorm. Then the progression of the song stops for a few minutes, with bass voices repeating the word “Alleluia” on one note over some ambience, sometimes with a dissonant boy soprano responding, and weird huffs from the rest of the choir. This is a very effective breakdown that I think could only work in a one hour song. Eventually the whole choir enters in a crescendo and the thunderstorm comes back, and as it settles the Mellotron plays another interlude, leaving us with a tension.
The last 3rd is where it all somehow comes together again. #14 starts with classical piano in slow 3/4, and then Roine sings a solemn part in a lower register than before, which builds and gets more dramatic in the middle. In #15 the beat is finally back; it starts as a funky polyrhythmic shuffle with electric piano solo and a guitar melody, and then continues in more rock shuffle with the finale themes played by guitar and synth. This feels almost like it could have been the finale. It continues with an instrumental version of #4, and then breaks down into the first phrase of #2 played on synth. #16 is a slow, folky version of the melody from #10, first played on piano, then building up with more instruments and a guitar solo. It goes into an instrumental version of #9 with a synth solo. In #17 it goes into major and half tempo, and you can feel that this is really the finale. It hints several themes heard throughout the song, with some surprising key changes. In #18 we’re back in the original major key, and Roine sings the finale themes with increasing intensity, with lyrics about finally having found the garden in “evermore”. It goes down in intensity and ends with soft vocals, and of course, a long ambient chord. This ending makes one feel contented, like there’s nothing more to say.