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Flow marked the first (and only) major stylistic shift in Conception's short-but-incredible career. While their first three albums were in no way clones, they all kept an 80's power metal sensibility to them that united them in style, despite their differences.
Flow sees a move away from the power metal sound towards a more catchy and accessible sound. For most bands, this also accompanies a loss of musical integrity, yet Conception manage to keep their musical genius mostly intact, an impressive feat. While they may have ditched the crushingly heavy power metal riffs of their old albums, they retained the superb songwriting that always made their albums great, and though it may be different, Flow is still a great album worth much more praise and recognition than it receives.
Conception's musicianship on Flow doesn't need much said about it - as with all of their albums, it's absolutely superb. Tore Østby plays brilliantly, as always, with enchanting leads scattered throughout the album. Khan sticks to a lower register here than on the other albums, yet the more controlled sound works just as well, and melds wonderfully with the album's atmosphere. The drumming is tight and precise, and the bass, as always, has a distinct, hypnotizing presence in all of the songs and is never once hidden in the mix.
The album's atmosphere deserves praise - this is probably the best atmosphere of any Conception albums, with all the songs sharing a firm stylistic similarity that makes the album flow (har har har) very nicely, yet that's not to say they're at all repetitious or lacking in originality. To the contrary, Flow's songs are probably more varied than on any of their other albums, except possibly their debut. The song structures are more experimental and "progressive" than even on In Your Multitude, yet never does it sound forced for the sake of experimentation. Conception was always a band to play what sounded good, regardless of the boundaries of the genre.
Østby is a fantastic songwriter, and most of the songs on here are absolute winners. The hooks are top-notch and insanely memorable, the songs are all constructed very well, and none outstay their welcome. From the poppy rocker Flow to the serene ballads Cry and Hold On (Conception were always masters of balladry), the album delivers memorable song after memorable song. Reach Out is especially superb, featuring a wonderfully inspirational chorus that will have you singing along in no time. The Japanese bonus track, Hand on Heart, is also a gem - pick up the Japanese import if you can possibly can.
That's not to say the album is perfect - the Conception were experimenting with this album, and while most of the experiments were resounding successes, the album does have a few consistency problems. Some of the tracks simply don't work as well as they could have; the creativity and inspiration is there, but the ideas simply don't come together as well as they could. Angel (Come Walk with Me) features a thoroughly odd verse that drags the song down from it's stunningly good chorus, and Khan's excessive breathing during his somewhat seductive vocals doesn't exactly help. Tell Me when I'm Gone, notably more venomous and aggressive than the rest of the album, features yet another odd vocal performance from Khan, except this time one that works. Unfortunately, the song is dragged down by the lack of the memorable hooks that make the rest of the songs so superb.
Overall, this is another strong release from a superb band, and any fan of progressive rock/metal would be well-served by giving this a listen. In fact, anyone looking for a good, catchy, easy to listen to album will enjoy this immensely.
Conception... Better known as little more then Roy Khan's other band is much more then just that. Conception's potential to grow into one of the greatest prog/power bands ever was certainly there. It's too bad that they were relegated to nothing more then a footnote on another band's page. This album proves that much.
This album is easily one of the catchiest and powerful prog/power albums ever released. The riffs are a grab bag of a various different styles, the two main ones being a groovy style and the other is the European power metal.. It's quite easy to hear the standardized European power metal riffs (such as on the titular track) and on another song such as Angel (Come Walk with Me) or A Virtual Lovestory you can plainly hear a groovy accentuation to the music thanks to influences such as Pantera. At first some fans would balk at the very notion of "groovy mallcore garbage" being affiliated with such a high score but in this case this mixed bag of guitar styles is really what makes the album what it is. They are all well executed and spot on, they are all powerfully played and add to the atmosphere surrounding the music. They never detract from the listening experience. The sheer variation from song to song in terms of guitar playing is one of the most interesting aspects of this album.
The bass is really well done as well, and can actually be heard as opposed to many other bands. It is fairly well placed in the mix and can be heard at all times competently played and at some points in the album has some very important and interesting parts in the song as a whole, making it much more then just "another part" of the band.
The biggest reason why this band would probably get any attention at all is the vocalist, Roy, of Kamelot fame. In that band he is known as the stalwart vocalist that can do no wrong. In Conception he is ten times better. In Conception there are no limits for him, and a tone that varies greatly from his Kamelot form. He is splendid on this album, putting so much emotion into the vocals, as he is very much regarded for doing in all his works, except in a far more interesting and gruffer/distorted sound, as opposed to his high flying Kamelot power metal styled vocals.
The keys and effects on this album is abundant as one can expect of a prog/power album but they are well placed and used tastefully and do not detract from the music in any particular places except at the beginning of a couple songs where there is a spoken word intro (I am not very big on those). That is about the biggest complaint I have about this album,
The drums are once more competent, doing what they need to, complimenting the music easily and smoothly. It does not matter whether it is the start-stop music as found on some songs, or one of the quicker numbers. There is nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb, they are well placed in the mix and are an integral part of the smooth flow of the album
That is easily the key word to this album. Smooth. Everything blends together so seamlessly and smoothly that it is amazing. Whether it is the vocals, guitars, drums, bass, or keys, no one plays a singularly starring roll in this production but rather all compliment each other perfectly to create a smoothly transitioning, generally mid-paced album that can easily be listened to in it's entirety while maintaining the listener's interest throughout all the songs without any huge surprises thrown in. That is the golden element of this album.
Conception's Flow is easily one of the best power/prog albums I have ever heard. Some of the highlights are the title track, Gethsemane and Cardinal Sin. Although these three tracks are my favorite, any track on here could easily be on of your favorites because these album is track for track an amazing album. It has a great flow to it, and it is too bad that this band had to call it quits after this album.
When I think about “Flow” words like brilliance, quality, superiority and value instantly come to my mind. Let’s see why…
To begin with, “Flow” finds “Conception” moving away from their earlier power/prog style, most evident in their second album, “Parallel Minds”. Hence, “Conception’s” fourth full-length attempt does not go beyond the "strict" progressive metal boundaries.
Musically the album is very close to "Queensryche’s" progressive metal style found in “Operation Mindcrime”. This means that the band although comprised by technically proficient members, writes uncomplicated patterns which are easily followed by the listener. All the songs are between 3 to 5 minutes long. The album has an amazing flow from the first track to the last. Once you hear it you will certainly want more and more.
The vocals are grandiose. They are easily the one element which transcends the entire album in the realm of brilliance. Although Khan does not go to extreme heights as in previous reconrdings, the melodic lines of the vocals are still magnificent and the listener will definitely get carried away by them.
The guitars stay on melodic lines throughout the record with two main exceptions in tracks “A Virtual Lovestory” and “Would It Be the Same”, where a “Pantera” feeling can be found in certain riffs. Also, the solos greatly contribute to this astonishing feeling that surrounds the entire album and speak straight to the listener’s heart with their pleasant melodies and beautiful harmonies.
The rhythm section is excellent. The bass has more than simply a presence in the album since on some occasions it sounds louder in the mix than the guitar. The drums stick to easily followed patterns but they sound damn good in combination to the low end frequency!
The keyboards finally, are noticeable as they play a key role in some of the songs here. They do manage to add another harmonious layer to the already fantastic compositions.
If I had to pick the best moments in this excellent album, I would say tracks, “Gethsemane”, “Angel”, “Flow”, “Cry”, “Hold on”, “Cardinal Sin” and “Would it be the same”… or any other track in other words since I have already mentioned almost all songs.
This album is highly recommended to fans of progressive metal. Exceptional…