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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Conception Superpost, Part 4: Flow

Conception's fourth and final album, Flow, is irretrievably centered around concepts and themes of water. The fourth and most inexorable of the elements, water is associated with creativity, intuition, motion, femininity, and ultimate, basic life. Flow's tracks are, as the title suggests, always changing, yet they retain a cohesion of form, as water is water no matter what form--ice, steam, snow--it takes. The album is a creative one which melds a lighter, melodic sound with increasingly progressive music and lyrics more humanly emotional than anything the band had previously released. Notably the lyrics often indulge in the most basic emotions: grudges and anger, loneliness, lust. The headlong waterfall of Flow is propelled by the pulse of the band, the fluid bass of Ingar Amlien.

"Gethsemane" features a monologue in Christ's voice--standard thematic fare for the band, but in this instance the voice is a far more human one than ever before: Christ betrayed, tinged with mockery here and fearful desperation there. The rolling synth and smooth bass of the track conjure up the vagaries of storm gods, wind and water at odds, an encroaching front of inevitability. There's another deity at work in the blind orgasm of "Angel (Walk With Me)," the now-familiar voice of Lucifer, but as with the previous song, this is an eerily human demon, the embodiment of human frailty and pitfalls. Khan breaks out some growlier vocals for this song and the result is a devil you kind of do want to be seduced by, a tempter with a twisted, melting tongue. At first glance, "A Virtual Lovestory" seems like it would be better suited for Parallel Minds, perhaps, with its emphasis on technology, but the story beneath the veneer of cyberspeak is pure Venusian myth-telling--fitting, as Venus/Aphrodite is associated with the ocean as well as being a love goddess. The lyrics also recall the myth of Selene and Endymion, of loving someone from afar, someone you can never be with in the light of day (or the real world); this is also fitting, Selene being a moon deity and associated with the moon's pull on oceans and humanity. The album's title track is a microcosm of the record and was a smoother, gentler metal song ever sung? "Flow" too has underpinnings of moon myth, sacred femininity, watery birth and ancestral memory; this is the conch's hymn from "Soliloquy," the song which was sung when we climbed onto the shore from the ocean's womb.

And then, there is "Cry," Conception's first makeout song--a full-on romantic interlude for a happy couple holding hands beneath a benevolent moon. After this out-of-character track, Khan boomerangs back to regular form with "Reach Out," a thrumming, wild exposition of Satanic self-worship which espouses the position that submerged beneath our conscious minds is a veritable iceberg of wisdom, enough truth, knowledge, and ability to become our own gods. "Tell Me When I'm Gone" is a strange song which stands out even in this relatively strange album; the colloquialism "hate-fuck" comes to mind. The woman the narrator sings to, with her reptile smile leaving lipstick on men's collars, can be read as a classic Siren, a temptress who drags men to their deaths in the cold breast of the ocean. The album takes another turn for the soft and romantic with Makeout Song #2, "Hold On"--a starkly simple track consisting of muted guitar and keyboard. Then comes the outstanding stomp of "Cardinal Sin," a soaring track of wonder, stubbornness, and resilience, and the cliffhanger finale "Would It Be the Same."

The liquid fingers of Tore Ostby and Ingar Amlien are on full display on Flow, with "Cardinal Sin" containing (for my money) the most fluid, technically impressive, and purely gorgeous guitar solo in the band's career. As for Amlien's bass--he is always stellar, but on this last album all stops are pulled out and in many cases the listener is left wondering if he has twice the normal amount of fingers. The bass lines in all tracks are audible; the sound mix on Flow is smooth and cohesive, with all elements given time and attention. Flow is easily the most experimental of Conception's albums after The Last Sunset, utilizing the changefulness of water yet not sacrificing the overall atmosphere and theme.

Must-listen songs: "Gethsemane," "Cardinal Sin" (live version).

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