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Conception - State Of Deception

State Of Deception
by Kai Naiman at 05 April 2020, 12:32 AM

Just hearing the name CONCEPTION bring many anxious fans to ecstasy since this band can easily be considered as Norway’s Progressive Metal patient zero. In times when Norway was (and possibly still is) mostly known for Black Metal – this band stood front and elaborated some of the genre’s most acclaimed releases, 1993’s “Parallel Minds” and 1995’s “In Your Multitude”. At that time, it seemed like the world wasn’t prepared for that sort of genius, and the band split for two decades, while working on other projects that included KAMELOT, ARK and CREST OF DARKNESS. Two decades later, the world finally seemed prepared enough for them – and secretly, at a secret camp in the snowy fjords of Norway, CONCEPTION stunned their awaited fans by releasing “My Dark Symphony”, their latest EP, and with the new decade hurling by, the band’s fifth full-length album, “State Of Deception”, saw daylight.

Possibly deriving its name from the similar-titled 2009 US Holocaust Memorial Museum book, which depicts the history of the Nazi propaganda during the second world war, written by Steven Luckert and Susan D. Bachrach, “State Of Deception” begins with “In Deception” – a short orchestral piece that builds up tension in a cinematic warlike fashion. Follow-up “Of Raven And Pigs” seems to add magnitude of the thematic-construct and theatricalism. The track, in a similar fashion to that of the rest on the album, seems to be build around a unisonic and unaltering formula – and in this case, the same two repeating bars of octave power chords and a simplistic drum arrangement, with the additional layers of instrumentation and vocals placed on top. This, unfortunately, reduces the excitement of the theatricalism shown by the band, no matter how inherent the potential of it is. In turn, the track might lose the listener’s attention quite quickly, and it does become a slight bore before the track comes to its palliative closure.

“Waywardly Broken” is slight step in the right direction; having a more-than simplistic song structure and same two-bar repetition throughout most of the track, it brings more build-up with added dramatic keyboards in the background, and pushes Roy Khan’s somber and striking vocals forth – a pleasantly enjoyable track in general. This tendency of slowly ramping up the speed resumes with “No Rewind” – one of my favourite tracks on “State Of Deception”. Pampered with a faster and more eccentric composition, this track is one of those ‘throwback’ tracks - the more aware fans will encounter a moment of déjà vu, considering this track could’ve easily been placed on the 1998’s collection of “Flow”. The arrangement and especially the guitar solo courtesy of Tore Østby is extremely reminiscent of that era. Towards the end of the track, the pandemonium changes pace to a darker and more symphonic “Poetry For The Poisoned”-esque feel – especially when Roy Khan’s vocals get distortedly shadowed by the other instruments and orchestra.

The extremely familiar slower melodramatic piano and string combination, that surrounds the even more subtle-in-details and near-divine vocals Roy Khan’s fans will remember from his KAMELOT days are back with “The Mansion”. This is quite an unprecedented area for CONCEPTION, though, but given the band members are twenty year older and in their 50’s, this selection of tone is understandable – and for what it turned out to be, it definitely stands in par with the rest of the tearful collection. The lines “because she wanted to live in a mansion of her dreams” are heavily accented by Khan’s vocals and a dramatic and abrupted drum-pause. Elize Ryd of AMARANTHE makes an appearance at the dramatic interlude prior to the beautiful and minimalistic guitar solo. By the closing chorus, Khan raises the stakes and smoothly raises the tones higher, and again, proves he is still one of the best in the business.

“By The Blues” is a more of Hard Rock-driven single. The vocals’ stretchy and melancholic undertones transit to a quicker and less punctuate rhythm. Although simplistic still, the drums and bass lines are groovy and engaging. The lyrical concept is a lighter one, with occasional silly or cynical phrasal selections. It is relatively an underwhelming track, yet enjoyable in the first few spins. CONCEPTION moves on to a more melodramatic and sentimental territory yet again with “Anybody Out There”. If anyone is familiar with the phrase, it’s loaned from PINK FLOYD’s “The Wall”. Unlike its origin, while tense and inconsolable, this track is a somewhat heavier at bay, and amid the dark spectacle, portrays Roy Khan’s most melodramatic vocal reach yet. At this point, the album does seem a little all over the place when thinking about track placements – but the next two tracks will consolidate the uncertain listeners.

“She Dragoon” is easily the best track on the album; with the nuances of both “In Your Multitude” and “Flow”, it is the track most anticipating fans wanted the entire album to sound like – it’s a more energetic and bombastic track, almost bringing the Progressive Metal entirely back from the grave of two decades ago – prospecting listeners will not want to miss out on this one – as it truly captivates the essence of the younger CONCEPTION energy through and through. Finally, the remastered version of “Feather Moves” feels almost identical to that of “My Dark Symphony” – it’s a beautiful, slower and more mellow retrospective track. If you have failed to listen to it yet thus far, I highly recommend you to.

It does seem like CONCEPTION left the best for last with this one, and yet, somehow, the entire album isn’t for everyone’s taste. It’s a darker, more mature record, and given twenty years had passed since the band’s last opus, I can definitely understand the circumstances of which this album sounds the way it does, but I must say – after the excellent “My Dark Symphony”, “State Of Deception” feels more watered-down and ultimately underwhelming considering the expectation one might’ve had for this record. Regardless, this is a beautiful novel collection provided by the recollected pioneers of the Norwegian Progressive Metal scene, and for what it’s worth – at times, it definitely is an interesting, charismatic and virtuous record.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. In Deception
2. Of Raven And Pigs
3. Waywardly Broken
4. No Rewind
5. The Mansion
6. By The Blues
7. Anybody Out There
8. She Dragoon
9. Feather Moves (Remastered)
Roy Sætre Khantatat – Vocals
Tore Østby – Guitars
Arve Heimdal – Drums
Ingar Amlien – Bass
Lars Kvistum – Keyboards
Record Label: Conception Sound Factory


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Edited 06 June 2020

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