It’s that time of year when I start doing multi-features to try to catch up on the year’s releases that I missed or didn’t have time to review. One anomaly this year was the influx of EPs that I received in the last couple months. Many of them were debuts from smaller bands, but two specifically caught my attention as being from experienced musicians. Check out my reviews below for the long-awaited return of Conception, as well as the debut from Threads of Fate.
I never thought we would see the return of Roy Khan, one of my absolute favorite vocalists. After his departure from Kamelot, it felt like there was a gaping hole in the progressive metal community. Well, he’s back with his original band, Conception, and though we’ve only gotten an EP out of it, called “My Dark Symphony”, the taste we get therein is definitely something to arouse hope in my heart for the future.
Conception have been around since the 90s, and they had a few albums back then. I almost think of them like Seventh Wonder with Tommy, a training ground for Kamelot greatness later. Nowadays, the band consists of Tore Østby on guitars, Ingar Amlien on bass, Arve Heimdal on drums, Roy Khan on vocals.
This is progressive symphonic metal, maybe more progressive than Kamelot has ever been. The guitar work is dark and lush, the atmosphere is dreary and beautiful, and the lyrics are sorrowful and heartfelt. There are so many wonderfully engaging grooves and melodies, and the tracks display something of a variety that I did not expect.
So you know, Roy sounds fantastic still. I do think his voice was a bit over-produced here, but I would not count that against him. He honestly sounds as good as ever, maybe even a bit more mature and showing a little more richness in his voice, which I didn’t know was possible.
This is an EP, yes, but it feels like a true album in some respects. I could go over every track, but I will only discuss highlights for the sake of brevity. “Grand Again” is a perfect rediscovery of the psaltery and theatrical voice of Roy Khan. The drumming on the song seems to accentuate his melodies, too. “The Moment” is my favorite. It has this Asian vibe to it that sounds amazing, almost like a metal version of Incubus’ “Aqueous Transmission”, only with an amazing guitar solo and beautiful orchestration, too. The title track ends the affair, and is magnificent, being very symphonic and fantastical in approach.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who was confused with the weird EP single thing that launched first with different artwork. I wasn’t sure if that was the EP, or what was the deal. Marketing issues aside, the results for the full EP are fantastic, and I hope we hear Roy back very soon.
Threads of Fate are also progressive symphonic metal, which is why I decided to review these EPs together. This, however, is the band’s debut, titled “A Funeral for the Virtuous”; and features elements that are simply head and shoulders above many other symphonic releases this year.
The band consists of John Pyres on vocals, Jack Kosto on guitars, and Vikram Shankar on keyboards and bass. Jake Dick guests on the drums. You may recognize Vikram from both Redemption and Lux Terminus, both having new releases earlier this year.
Now, I would place Threads of Fate more in the realm of Ne Oblivescaris or Wintersun, especially the latter. The guitars are fuzzier, the vocals are both clean and harsh, and the keys take the forefront more often than not. The music is even more epic and glorious than you might expect, but it’s also blacker and darker, though not necessarily in an emotional sense. It’s not unrelenting, either, as some of this bands in this genre of music can be: There are many breaks in the music that allow us to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the melodies, and the music comes across as more cinematic and illustrious as a result.
The keys—Vikram is crazy talented, as his debut with Lux Terminus showcased early this year, but with Threads of Fate he shows his symphonic and more atmospheric sides. Vikram creates heart-pounding melodies and orchestrations that make the end of your fingers and toes tingle, and this is accomplished on all four tracks without a flaw. I’m also impressed with John’s vocals, as he has a wide range of harsh vox alongside crystal clear and emotively pure singing. While I’m not the biggest fan of the chosen guitar style, they are done well and I’m also impressed with Jack’s guitar soloing, as he’s clearly talented.
The EP has four songs, and I want to highlight two of them. “The Reaping” is a glorious song with whimsical melodies and a great contrast going on between the keys and the darkness of the rest of the music. There is a stunning guitar solo near the end that flows right into a piano fill that absolutely feels miraculous. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. The title track is grinding and orchestral, with bright flashes of melody set up against dark vocals and gritty riffing. The intense melody in the keys on this track is truly hypnotic and the marvelous finale and addictive chorus are spectacular.
Threads of Fate have caught my attention. I went into this because Vikram is one of the best musicians in the business today, and came out impressed with the whole band and the overall direction of this project. All four songs are tremendous, and I really hope a full album appears at some point.
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