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Back in dark territory. - 74%

hells_unicorn, December 19th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent

As Beethoven once said, or at least he did according to the 1992 HBO original movie Beethoven Lives Upstairs, music isn't something that you can just quit, and that goes doubly so for anyone who has seen the measure of success that Roy Khan experienced during his 13 year run with Kamelot. When he exited the stage and the fold of said band in 2011, the author of this review's instant reaction was "he'll be back", and though it took a fair bit longer than he would have hoped, 2018 has seen the reformation of Khan's bygone original project Conception after more than 2 decades of studio silence. Suffice it to say, anything put out by this band would have the mortal enemy of heightened expectations dogging it to kingdom come, thus it should be noted that approaching the newly unveiled EP that is My Dark Symphony comes with a couple of very explicit caveats, namely that this isn't a Kamelot album, nor is it the Conception that fans of the original band knew back in the 1990s.

Naturally the question becomes, "what is this album if it doesn't fall into either of these 2 precedents", the answer of which is somewhere between the two and with a fair bit of emphasis on the Kamelot side of the coin being closer to where Khan left things seven years ago. It comes off as more of a modern progressive metal album with a power metal set of hooks, coasting along at a much more restrained and free-flowing character than the speed and symphonic bombast of Poetry For The Poisoned and Ghost Opera, yet borrowing fairly heavily from the atmospheric aesthetics of both. Jazzy drumming with off-time rhythmic motives indicative of a latter day Fates Warning influence and a fair degree of tribal sounding beats interplay with moderately heavy yet dry sounding guitar riffing and droning synth-lines to form the backdrop of what will be filled by Khan's crooning, almost angelic queen vocals.

When considered in its entirety, the picture that emerges is a mostly positive one, but also a fairly lopsided one that might lead one to conclude that this should have been released under Khan's solo project. Apart from said icon's flawless vocal presentation and all the drama and passion that goes with it, there isn't really a whole lot to this collection of songs. There are a few occasional hints at the sort of skilled musicianship that often accompanies a progressive album in the vain of Anubis Gate or Pain Of Salvation, such as the moody and occasionally flashy guitar solo that adorns the otherwise coasting anthem "Into The Wild", and though relegated to a near monolithic tempo, the drum work does have some occasional fits of intricacy to break up the trance-like character of things. Treated song for song, this is by no means a bad album and the songs avoid being overlong bores, but as an entire package it drags a fair bit.

Opinions may vary as far as how much of an impact this will make in the minds of most Roy Khan fans who have been missing his presence for the past several years, but for anyone hoping for something along the lines of Parallel Minds or Into Your Multitude, let alone younger fans who might be expecting Khan to morph his original band into a late 2000s Kamelot clone like Warrel Dane did with Sanctuary back in 2014, this is going to fall short. As an appetizer for coming attractions that may turn the clock back to the mid-90s, there is definitely a fair degree of potential here, not the least of which being Khan's vocals which have lost none of their luster since 2010. This would be worth hearing at least once, but these songs probably won't be filling too many arenas in Europe the way Kamelot has been doing consistently even without their iconic helmsman.

Later published to The Metal Observer ( on February 4th, 2019.

Oh well. - 51%

Empyreal, December 17th, 2018

After over 20 years gone, prog metal legends Conception are back with a new EP called My Dark Symphony, which honestly sounds like something that would have been sold at Hot Topic a decade ago rather than the return of a bunch of erudite prog metal gods. The music is fittingly confused, too.

First, the good – Roy Khan is back and he sounds very good. He is honestly the main strength of this, though his voice has deepened with age he has not lost anything of his taste for a compelling, svelte melody line. He can over-use the vocal effects at some point, but the raw talent shines through anyway.

Everything else is pretty directionless at best. The problem is that these songs come off as interesting little progressive ideas that the band failed to turn into truly compelling songs. Each one jumps around to some other little niche of the band's creativity, from the chugging modern prog of “Grand Again” to the jazzy pianos of “The Moment” - every track has some feature that makes it stand out, but that's about all they have, with none of the power or focus of this band's classic works. “The Moment” segues into a quite bad, over-ambitious chorus section that spoils the song's nice piano backdrop. On the contrary, pop-metal tune “Quite Alright” is only its soaring, melodic chorus, with the verses and riffs being pointlessly angry, down-tuned nonsense that don't fit and only seem to exist to carry the song along in a plodding manner.

“Into The Wild” is actively annoying, with its drum-led almost tribal feel going precisely nowhere at all with the guitar chugging underneath – maybe a good chorus could've saved it, but there isn't one here. The final title track is a six-minute ballad-y dirge that doesn't possess anything really captivating. You can hear the band trying out ideas here, experimenting and fucking around, but they didn't string their ideas together well. The ideas here are so disparate and so contrasting with one another that they come off as almost gimmicky, just ear-catching things to distract the listener, rather than genuine choices. It just feels lazy and half-assed a lot of the time.

It's a shame because there was another song called “Feather Moves” that they released, which was actually pretty great, with its crawling bass-line and building momentum into a killer chorus. That one was only on a single release. Here's hoping they draw more from that song if they do a full album.

Quite alright - 80%

kluseba, December 17th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent

Twenty-one years after its last release, Norwegian progressive power metal quartet Conception is back with an extended play entitled My Dark Symphony. This is also the first release involving former Kamelot singer Roy Khan since Poetry for the Poisoned eight years earlier.

The beginning of this extended play made me a little bit nervous. The instrumental opener ''re:conception'' doesn't impress much and ''Grand Again'' starts with chugging riffs and heavily processed vocals reminding of Queensryche's infamous records released about a decade ago. Less than a minute into the second song, Roy Khan's charismatic low clean vocals appear and sound as if he had never been away from the metal scene. The track offers complex songwriting with unusual distorted guitar sounds, menacingly looming symphonic backdrops and rhythmic drum passages that need some time to grow. It's an ambitious track that is hard to digest but has the potential to grow.

After a slightly underwhelming start, Conception offers four tracks that prove that this band isn't only back for good but maybe stronger than ever. ''Into the Wild'' sounds like intellectual contemporary progressive rock with smoothly integrated electronic beats and hypnotizing vocals. ''Quite Alright'' has an eerie atmosphere with vocal samples that is contrasted by an almost airy chorus that. ''The Moment'' features fragile piano sounds and almost jazzy rhythms that lead towards a harmonious gothic rock chorus that is simply unforgettable. I would describe it as the best track on this release. Closing title track ''My Drak Symphony'' does its title justice and is indeed the most symphonic song, influenced by epic movie or video game soundtracks. The almost oriental guitar solo and the hypnotizing vocals blend in perfectly and make the song varied and atmospheric through six entertaining minutes.

While the opening duo is average at best, the final four songs are atmospheric, diversified and innovative progressive music with electronic and symphonic inspirations. It's a very promising release that shows that the band hasn't come back to cash in after twenty-one years but wants to release new relevant material. Fan reactions are overwhelmingly positive and while I'm a little bit more cautious, I have to agree that this extended play has such a unique sound that I can't wait to hear more from the Norwegian veterans soon.