SummaryGreen bald-headed boredom
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Once Conception had reached their peak with In Your Multitude they had seriously turned into one of the best progressive metal acts of all times. Surely this would mean more greatness was to come, right? I only wish that it did. Flow marks a serious change of direction of the band and while that’s not an issue on its own, most brilliance aspects that made the band’s earlier records so enjoyable had vanished here.
It would be tempting to call Flow an inferior effort because it lacks the heaviness of the previous Conception albums, but that’s not exactly my problem with it. Earlier on a mix of melancholic balladic tales, riff-heavy tunes and songs that leaned towards a more epic side of things were very much present. Here you end up with sappy nonsense such as ‘’Hold On’’ or pseudo-tough crap made out of recycled groove riffs on ‘’Tell Me When I’m Gone’’. Tore Ostby often had a thing for groove and chugs, but his style is so simplistic here that you end up with dull, lifeless and downright bland rhythms that feel like the man is just wasting his talents – trying to find any masterful riffs here is like searching for a needle in a haystack at this point.
If that wasn’t enough yet, Roy Khan sounds rather out of his element on Flow, as he lacks the grace and majesty he had demonstrated earlier on, resulting into vocal lines that are often unimpressive and downright annoying at worst. ‘’Tell Me When I’m Gone’’ features an angsty Khan more than anything else and the silly lyrics certainly don’t help, either. ‘’A Virtual Lovestory’’ has some real edge to it; as that loosely jammed opening sound quite promising, but why ruin its chorus with those annoying distorted effects? Tracks such as ‘’Would it be the Same’’ and the poppy catchy title track are far less shady, but not much better either. Sure, they stick, but that’s hardly a compliment all these songs are catchy in the worst way possible, even if Khan sounds more bearable on these numbers. Clearly the band had lost something here and this dumbed down approach doesn’t do them much good.
It’s not all bad, though. Flow features two tracks that still feature some redeeming factors, even if they don’t compare to the band’s earlier superb songs. Judging by that digitalized key line you can guess that ‘’Gethsemane’’ is a tame piece of work, but it’s still one of the better songs you’ll find here. Khan’s smooth vocal lines resonate around the dominating bass lines and clean guitars before a catchy chorus reveals itself – even if you won’t find any rising high wails present here. ‘’Cardinal Sin’’ is an actual good example of a catchy track done right; Roy Khan’s higher register sounds as inspired as ever here and Tore Ostby’s minimalistic approach somewhat pays off before he steals the show with one of his smooth, yet thundering solos.
Ultimately Flow just isn’t very good. It’s quite a waste of talent and if it weren’t for Khan‘s vocals, you probably wouldn’t think this were Conception to begin with. Besides the aforementioned two highlights there’s not really much to find here and you’ll do yourself a better favor by sticking to the band’ earlier three records instead.
Release date: April 1st, 1997
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