Two thousand twenty has been a year of returns, and this is the case yet again for the legendary band Conception. After releasing two EPs in 2018, the band has finally released their first full LP in over 20 years. The question remains: Is it any good? I’m here to tell you that “State of Deception”, which released on April 3rd, is every bit as good as you may have hoped.
By now, you probably are aware of who Conception is. The band is the original outlet for ex-Kamelot singer Roy Khan, a legend in his own right, and also one of my all-time favorite singers. After leaving Conception back in 1997 or so, Roy went on to a grand career with Kamelot, producing with them their best albums to this day. Unfortunately, Conception was left behind.
The band are reunited now, however. The lineup includes: Tore Østby on guitars and production, Roy Khan on vocals, Ingar Amlien on bass, Arve Heimdal on drums, and Lars Andre Kvistum on keyboards. You will also hear Elize Ryd and Aurora Heimdal on guest vocals on two tracks. In my eyes, the band has gelled incredibly well after all these years, and they are here to make a bold statement.
Conception could be put in the progressive metal community, for sure. I feel that their sound will be attractive to fans of prog metal and symphonic metal, such as Kamelot or Delain. However, this album proves them to be much more than those genre labels. With “State of Deception”, the band displays full throttle, genre-bending power. The music is darker, more eccentric, and far more interesting than your standard symphonic metal. This album has razor edges, almost to the point of being unnerving. I absolutely love that.
It would be a mistake to put Roy on a pedestal here, as I’m sure even he would agree. Possibly the overall highlight of the album is Tore’s brutal guitar work. I can’t get enough of the stuttering, inventive, unabashedly powerful riffs on this record, and every single time Tore breaks wide open, the album jumps several notches in quality. That said, Ingar’s bass and Arve’s drums are standouts, too, with bluesy, grooving rhythms and beats that will entrance you. Finishing all of that, Lars brings orchestral-style keys that drive the music to greater heights.
Yes, Roy does still sound amazing after all these years. Again, he is one of my absolute favorite singers, and he can hit all the notes you’d expect. He does sound more “weathered”, though, and more mature. His youthful theatricality is mostly gone, replaced instead with a gritty, stark vibe that absolutely scares me at points. Regardless, his voice is still the one I know and love.
“State of Deception” is nearly a perfect album. All of the songs are new except “Feather Moves”, which ends the album. That song can be found on their “re:Conception” EP from 2018. Now, the singles for this album were “Waywordly Broken” and “By the Blues”, two very good choices. The former is shadowy, and muses about for a bit before Tore’s guitars open wide. I love the stutter and the control. “By the Blues”, however, might throw some fans for a loop. It feels like blues and classic rock are in its very DNA, complete with a great solo and fantastically catchy chorus.
This album hits so many amazing notes. The album opens with the symphonic “In: Deception”. Far from a throwaway intro, it tempers the atmosphere with pure melody. And, you know what? We definitely need that as “Of Ravens and Pigs” makes its entrance. This song is mostly spoken word from Roy, and it feels filthy, angsty, and murky, like rolling in the mud with said pigs. I love the vicious vocal lines from Roy, and also Lars’ grand keyboard lines here. It is truly a fierce statement from the band.
Three more highlights are “No Rewind”, “The Mansion”, and “She Dragoon”. “No Rewind” is a powerful, symphonic track that will make you feel right at home. Again, the guitar phrasing is a major treat, especially in the grand finale. “The Mansion” is the ballad, and it features Elize Ryd’s guest spot. I absolutely love this song. The overall groove and feeling reminds me of some of the perfect pop/rock ballads of the 80s, and Elize’s vocals sound amazing as they filter in during the second half. Finally, “She Dragoon” is yet another piercing song with quivering vocals, commanding guitars, and a memorable chorus, and this time Aurora Heimdal on guest vocals is present in the second half. I never get tired of that sound.
“State of Deception” feels like a whirlwind of madness, social commentary, and expert composition. This feels like a band running on all cylinders, eager to experiment and produce something novel. I’m not saying this is the most original album, even of 2020, but Conception has crafted a sound here that absolutely connects with me, especially when I am in the mood for something brazen and unfettered.
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