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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Conception Superpost, Part 2: Parallel Minds

The voice being intricately linked to breath, it makes sense that Parallel Minds is both Conception's album of air and the album which (arguably) best showcases Roy Khan's considerable vocal talents. Air is the element of the mind and denotes intellectual pursuits; air attributes include mercuriality or flightiness, intelligence and wisdom, communication, and multifaceted interests, and the element is fundamental to life. Air may be the pure ether of the highest atmosphere or the darker mists clouding the earth. In these senses, Parallel Minds opens up as a study in studies, a myriad deep dreams and lofty goals, and an introverted, thoughtful album.

"Water Confines" is a delightfully selfish and self-centered song; the narrator focuses on personal goals and high dreams, yet struggles with living up to his own sense of himself--he finds that perhaps he can't do it all himself, that maybe principles are not enough to live on. "Roll the Fire" (everyone's first Conception song, right?) is an intense, interior track, a review of years lived and a measuring of life's worth against encroaching shadow. The labyrinth of the mind is explored in "And I Close My Eyes"--a frantic pant of a song, musically dense and threaded with stream-of-conscious, free association lyrics. In comparison, the following track is almost bizarrely simple; "Silent Crying" is a dream of shadows and whispering secrets, and the fight to be free of one's own mind. The album's title track is a veritable electrical storm of guitar and vocals, lyrically covering everything from knowledge which is beyond belief and wisdom which lies in the bones to binary law and science's paramountcy to paranoiac ranting which throws the words of the majority back in their faces. Arguably "Parallel Minds" is the first appearance of Satan in Conception's lyrics (certainly not the last), and this is fitting, since one of his epithets is the Prince of Air. "Silver Shine," like "Silent Crying," is concerned with weighty memories and the effects of lies and truth on relationships, because what are words but shapes in the air?

Then comes the one-two punch of "The Promiser" and "My Decision." It is difficult to separate these tracks; each spits in the face of the WASP establishment and each complements and completes the other. "The Promiser" speaks of corrupt men believing their own lies, while the narrator is too smart for the false tricks of religion--"My Decision" rams the point home with a blatant endorsement of atheism and elevation of self-reliance and brainpower. One song warns of placing too much trust in words (the words of the promiser, words from a TV screen, the voices of the masses) , while the other admonishes the listener to find his or her own voice. "Wolf's Lair" is a come-down, a reprieve before the big finish, a plateau of teasing, silver-tongued words of exactly the kind "The Promiser" warns about...only this time the words come from the Tempter himself. Parallel Minds concludes with the nine-minute saga of "Soliloquy," a three-part journey from gasping arousal through unfiltered divine knowledge to suffocation and paralysis derived from too much knowledge. Musica universalis is referenced in "Soliloquy - Sweet Lavender" in terms of "the conch's hymn," a connection of principles including those metaphysical and mathematical and a perfect reflection of an album consumed with deep thoughts and higher learning. It is notable that the conch's hymn is heard at the moment of sexual climax; intellectualism aside, the narrator comprehends the significance of carnal, material reality. This theme would be explored further on In Your Multitude and perfected on Flow.

Khan's vocals are often the most-talked-about aspect of Conception's music. Twenty-three years old when Parallel Minds was recorded, his recent training for the opera is clear on this album and the ones to come. As an instrument, Khan's voice is rarely equaled in the world of progressive and power metal music; and as an album, Parallel Minds is unparalleled, har har, in providing opportunities for that instrument to be used. Khan's presence is also felt in the lyrics, as he began cowriting most of Conception's music with Ostby, revealing himself to be an interesting, thoughtful lyricist. The interweaving of voice with stellar guitar, bass, and drum creates Parallel Minds as the first truly tight and cohesive album in Conception's catalog, with many hints of what was to come: oblique, smoky lyrics and astounding musical technique.

Must-listen tracks: "And I Close My Eyes", "Soliloquy".

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