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Conception > Flow > Reviews
Conception - Flow

Green bald-headed boredom - 45%

colin040, August 19th, 2020

Once Conception had reached their peak with In Your Multitude they had seriously turned into one of the best progressive metal acts of all times. Surely this would mean more greatness was to come, right? I only wish that it did. Flow marks a serious change of direction of the band and while that’s not an issue on its own, most brilliance aspects that made the band’s earlier records so enjoyable had vanished here.

It would be tempting to call Flow an inferior effort because it lacks the heaviness of the previous Conception albums, but that’s not exactly my problem with it. Earlier on a mix of melancholic balladic tales, riff-heavy tunes and songs that leaned towards a more epic side of things were very much present. Here you end up with sappy nonsense such as ‘’Hold On’’ or pseudo-tough crap made out of recycled groove riffs on ‘’Tell Me When I’m Gone’’. Tore Ostby often had a thing for groove and chugs, but his style is so simplistic here that you end up with dull, lifeless and downright bland rhythms that feel like the man is just wasting his talents - trying to find any masterful riffs here is like searching for a needle in a haystack at this point.

If that wasn’t enough yet, Roy Khan sounds rather out of his element on Flow, as he lacks the grace and majesty he had demonstrated earlier on, resulting into vocal lines that are often unimpressive and downright annoying at worst. ‘’Tell Me When I’m Gone’’ features an angsty Khan more than anything else and the silly lyrics certainly don’t help, either. ‘’A Virtual Lovestory’’ has some real edge to it; as that loosely jammed opening sound quite promising, but why ruin its chorus with those annoying distorted effects? Tracks such as ‘’Would it be the Same’’ and the poppy catchy title track are far less shady, but not much better either. Sure, they stick, but that’s hardly a compliment all these songs are catchy in the worst way possible, even if Khan sounds more bearable on these numbers. Clearly the band had lost something here and this dumbed down approach doesn’t do them much good.

It’s not all bad, though. Flow features two tracks that still feature some redeeming factors, even if they don’t compare to the band’s earlier superb songs. Judging by that digitalized key line you can guess that ‘’Gethsemane’’ is a tame piece of work, but it’s still one of the better songs you’ll find here. Khan’s smooth vocal lines resonate around the dominating bass lines and clean guitars before a catchy chorus reveals itself - even if you won’t find any rising high wails present here. ‘’Cardinal Sin’’ is an actual good example of a catchy track done right; Roy Khan’s higher register sounds as inspired as ever here and Tore Ostby’s minimalistic approach somewhat pays off before he steals the show with one of his smooth, yet thundering solos.

Ultimately Flow just isn’t very good. It’s quite a waste of talent and if it weren't for Khan's vocals, you probably wouldn't think this were Conception to begin with. Besides the aforementioned two highlights there’s not really much to find here and you’ll do yourself a better favor by sticking to the band’ earlier three records instead.

This review was originally written for

Into the Flow of Commonality and Commercialism - 58%

bayern, October 12th, 2017

A girl I know, or rather knew, got upset by my crucifixion of the album here in a Bulgarian magazine, and terminated her communication with me; she hasn't spoken to me ever since my review got published, more than seven years now... screw her (literally as well, but in the distant past) as I can't possibly change my lukewarm, to put it mildly, attitude towards this album. It beats me why it remained, and still does, very highly revered among the band fans… it was such an obvious turn from their staple dark, hard-hitting approach to progressive power metal that to remain on the positive side for me meant to kind of denounce the guys’ earlier, much loftier achievements.

Conception appeared at a time when the old school had almost completely packed up and was ready to leave, but their firmly chosen stance to roam the fields of classic metal was nothing short of awe-inspiring, and not only but the high quality of musicianship exhibited throughout their first three instalments pretty much made them the champions of progressive metal in Europe. It’s debatable whether “In Your Multitude” was the pinnacle of their career, but apparently the band thought so as the adherence to the rigid retro progressive power metal canons suddenly wasn’t such an urgent agenda anymore…

and they couldn’t have expressed this change of mind any better than with the album reviewed here. The brooding hard-hitting riffs from the previous recordings have been replaced by mellower, more light-hearted ones, and a somewhat trippy spacey vibe has been instilled dissipating the dark aura with which the guys have become synonymous. On top of that, out friends have opted to befriend the groove, to a fair extent at that, as well which must have been deemed heresy by some hardliners back then…

in other words, there’s quite a bit to be cautious about this effort which starts with “Gethsemane”, a warm bouncy proto-groover largely carried by Roy Khan’s vocals, a vocal prodigy, one of the finest voices to ever grace the metal field, the top performer here who has to be in shape otherwise this opus here wasn’t going to make it even to the average level. And it can’t be any other way with relaxed feelgood rockers like “Angel (Come Walk with Me)” and “A Virtual Lovestory” which completely lack the verve and the bite of earlier anthems like “Roll the Fire” or “Missionary Man”, to give a few shining examples from the band's past, the title-track not helping much with its Alice in Chains-esque alternative rock vibe.

Yes, it’s a different Conception we have here, one that would be hard to like, and one that may have been inspired by the deplorable “Strange and Beautiful”, Crimson Glory’s flop as evident from the soap opera which is the ballad “Cry” which may indeed make you cry cause this showing is quickly turning into a self-parody, the cheesy “Reach Out” being another tribute to the fashionable groove. “Tell Me When I’m Gone” is just a doomy clumser the guys messing it up even more by attempting other influences… to no avail as it’s already too late for this album to be saved although “Cardinal Sin” sounds angrier and more intense, capturing some magic from its predecessor, an atmospheric pounding cut which is by all means listenable after the inordinately long string of spoilers. “Would It Be the Same” isn’t a disappointment either, the band restoring some dignity at the end with sprightly vivid rhythms Khan dexterously dealing with the chorus and the other vocal histrionics. “Hold on” is a poignant atmospheric ballad, the closer of this confusing effort, which successfully interprets the morose serenity of “Sanctuary” from the preceding opus.

The closure is more like it, but again it’s not enough to compensate for the overall generic, derivative nature of this album. Conception had given up the progressive power metal idea, plain and simple; they simply saw no reason at some stage to carry on with it, having provided some kind of a culmination of it and all, and had decided to go with the flow hence the very appropriately-chosen album title. There was no ambition left in the guys after three very strong showings, and as the old school resurrection campaign was still on a blueprint phase, with no tangible sights of it yet, merging with the mass seemed like a (il)logical alternative.

Progressive is a distant memory for most of the time here, and the smell of a flop becomes quite palpable with these very simplified optimistic, melancholic sounds floating all around… but again, this all must be in the mind of the beholder… sorry, reviewer, as quite a few of the band fans didn’t see anything wrong with this shift, and remained in the band camp. I guess a brilliant vocalist from the ranks of Khan is obviously sufficient for an outfit to be forgiven such shortcomings… which are not very likely to occur in the near future as the band have terminated all attempts at reforming after a few false starts in the new millennium. Whatever it takes to prevent a similar “immaculate” conception of the “go with the flow” variety from coming to life…

Acessible and poppy, yet just as awesome - 90%

Oblarg, May 30th, 2010

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.

Too Bad... - 95%

SJDJ, February 5th, 2010

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.

"Flow"... has an excellent flow among other things - 100%

abatzkon, November 11th, 2006

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…