Conception - Flow
Noise Records
Power/Progressive Metal
10 songs (43'55")
Release year: 1997
Noise Records
Reviewed by Erik

All good things come to an end, even great things. In the world of true European metal with a power/progressive flair, few had a better run than Conception, especially considering their relatively small discography. This young Norwegian quartet became somewhat of a legend in fandom for their quartet of top-shelf metal offerings from 1991-1997, displaying genre-bending technical prowess that seemed to contradict their age and experience. From the competent but restrained debut The Last Sunset on through their popular final disc Flow, Conception brings a level of class and virtuosity to the table that is difficult to top even today.

Perhaps the best overall summary of Flow is seamlessness. Never does each individual part fit together with the precision and grace as well as on this album. You'll instantly notice that the razor-sharp guitar distortion from In Your Multitude has become thicker but with a smoother, much less aggressive tone, like drinking honey mead rather than tequila or battery acid. Roy Khan brings possibly the most riveting vocal performance to date, lifting what was already great material to another level. The surprisingly mature songwriting, crisp production values, prodigious individual performances and emotional nuances . . . every single aspect is spot-on here. While the heavy, sharp edge heard in the previous two albums is dialed down a bit, the hook and groove element is more prevalent than ever, allowing the music to sink in easier and more quickly. Think of it as straining a creekbed in the West years ago -- the sand gets filtered out and you are left with nothing but gold.

Atmosphere. Flow is just dripping with it, and it helps separate this album in particular from most other power/progressive acts of the time. The soloing is kept to a relative minimum, and keyboards help the sweeping flow within the songs, but never overpower at any point. Progressive gives way to pop, you might think, but the construction of each track is so much more than that! With every listen, the pure quality and inspiration poured into the mix are more prevalent, and the genius of Conception reveals itself once again. Gethsemane opens proceedings with a smooth yet effective pulse that leads into an insanely catchy chorus, followed by a slower, slithering groove in Angel (Come Walk With Me). Tore Ostby gets his heavy metal grind on with some great bar chords before the solo, and then tones it back a bit to create a lush effect for A Virtual Love Story, albeit bringing the heaviness and some great squeals during the chorus. His Latin flamenco touches are present as usual on later tracks, showcasing a unique style that is often breathtakingly diverse. Several of these songs also feature highly distorted vocals as well, adding a modern edge.

Similar subtlety belies the riffs on the title track, while Cry pulls back and churns out a smoldering underscore at first before building up towards the end. Reach Out is next, featuring haunting verses that prowl in the depths, and the band utilizes more of those great chunky riffs in Tell Me When I'm Gone, the speedier Cardinal Sin and album closer Would It Be The Same. Roy and Tore, in particular, display simply mind-blowing artistry, easily placing them as one of the best singers and guitarists (respectively) in metal, and when they have such a great bass and drum duo backing them up, the result is nothing but excellence. Flow was merely an easel on which the quartet painted an unconventional yet brilliant work of art that most fans and critics passed by.

Nothing would be more gratifying than to say here that Conception was only getting started, but such things were not meant to be. Despite the obvious mastery of their craft, sales spoke louder than music, and the band unfortunately split up and went their separate ways. Roy would go on to the more popular Kamelot, Tore to Ark and other side jobs including D.C. Cooper's solo debut, Jorn Lande's Starfire album, and Pyramaze. They even reunited once at the ProgPower VI festival in Atlanta in 2005 while I was there, and to my shame I only recognized Roy from Kamelot at that time. But with Flow, for one last glorious album, Conception was once again at the very top of their game, and the European metal scene as a whole is not the same without them.

Killing Songs :
Erik quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Conception that we have reviewed:
Conception - In Your Multitude reviewed by Erik and quoted CLASSIC
Conception - Parallel Minds reviewed by Erik and quoted 92 / 100
Conception - The Last Sunset reviewed by Erik and quoted 86 / 100
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