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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.