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Into the Flow of Commonality and Commercialism - 59%

bayern, October 12th, 2017

It beats me why this album 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 The brooding hard-hitting riffs from the previous recordings have been replaced by mellower, more light-hearted ones, and a somewhat trippy, spacey vibe has been instilled dissipating the dark aura with which the guys had become synonymous. On top of that, our 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 glorious 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 inordinatey 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 flow... sorry, 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 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 another similar “immaculate” conception of the “go with the flow” variety from coming to life…