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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 (www.metal-observer.com) on February 4th, 2019.