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Khanception: What Does KHAN and CONCEPTION’s Surprise Return Mean?

- May 09, 2018 at 05:02PM
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On April 1st, 2018, a song emerged purporting to be from Roy Khan. The song was entitled “For All”, a simple but beautiful piano-driven ballad featuring the Norwegian’s emotive vocals. A significant portion of the metal world exploded at this news alone, but the real bombshell was just around the corner - the surprise reunion of lauded progressive metal group Conception, complete with the promise of new material. There has been a lot of speculation about what brought Roy Khan back into the spotlight after seven years of radio silence, and what it means for both Conception and the legion of fans who followed him from Conception to Kamelot. Let’s unpack some of that speculation....

First, it may help to provide context for who Roy Khan is, and why his return is such a big deal. Born in Norway to Thai and Norwegian parents, like many children of the ‘70s and ‘80s he grew up on rock records, and found an affinity for singing. After studying as an opera singer for three years, Khan made the transition to metal with the band Conception. [1] His emphatic voice suited the progressive metal style of the band perfectly - think if Queensrÿche leant more on European power metal - although his discomfort with growing his hair famously resulted in wearing a wig during early shows.

Check out this live clip of Conception performing “Parallel Minds”.


Conception went on to release 4 highly-regarded albums - Flow and Parallel Minds in particular are strongly recommended - before the band broke up in part due to Khan’s next significant transition - but more on that later. Guitarist Tore Østby went on to pursue his other band Ark (with Jørn Lande among others), and not much was heard from Conception apart from two individual reunions for festivals - ProgPower USA and the Norwegian magazine Scream’s 15 year anniversary.

Khan, meanwhile, had been picked up by the popular American power metal band Kamelot, masterminded by Thomas Youngblood. Having successfully gone skydiving with the band to prove his dedication, Khan proceeded to record seven defining albums (the run from Karma through Epica to The Black Halo is often regarded as flawless) between 1998 and 2011, along with relentless touring. While his stage presence was captivating, he was fairly retiring offstage, chatting with fans but rarely staying long so as to conserve his voice. Fans were (and still are) extremely praiseworthy of both his vocals and his lyrics, which focused on a variety of topics including fantasy, religion (on both sides of the matter) and human nature.

Then, on April 22nd, 2011, the shocking news came that Khan had decided to leave Kamelot. While there are many theories as to what brought about this decision, the official - and totally justified - line was health issues stemming from burnout, and a desire to spend more time with family. Youngblood and the others soon found a replacement singer, the wonderful Tommy Karevik of Seventh Wonder, who had already sung with the band as a guest vocalist on their 2011 European tour. Khan wrote a post on his MySpace blog [included below] detailing his departure openly, ending on a revealing note that “God was there after all” - no doubt in reference to a line in the chorus of “The Great Pandemonium” from his last album with Kamelot where he sang “I spoke to God but he wasn’t there”.


From that point on, Khan was completely absent from the public eye. Two years later, photos emerged of him singing psalms in a local church - and audio samples which were removed at his request. Everyone assumed that Khan was finished with the music business and the realm of metal (well, except as a fan). Every so often a song would emerge online saying “NEW ROY KHAN SONG”, but usually these were Conception or Kamelot songs done up as a hoax - until April 1st, 2018.

It was unfortunate timing that Easter Sunday fell on April Fool’s Day, as many were skeptical when “For All” was released to the world. But the song was confirmed as legitimate, complete with lyrics praising the glory of God. Just a few days later, the Facebook page for Conception posted a cryptic video of Roy Khan and Tore Østby together, humorously hinting at the return of Conception with new music, and link to a PledgeMusic campaign to raise the funds for it.

Have a listen to the song “For All” by Roy Khan.


So, Khan is back and Conception are making/have made new songs, but a few questions are on the lips of every Khan and Conception fan - will the band be performing live or touring, and what will the subject matter of the music be? Will Khan return to secular topics, or will his faith shift the direction towards Christian metal? There is also the matter that some of Conception’s songs - “My Decision”, which contains the lines “I have no god to rely on 'cause I am all I need/compared to a life in submission I do prefer my sins”, or “Angel (Come Walk with Me)” with “It's only me my friend/Your private Lucifer”. It seems unlikely they would figure in a 2018 Conception setlist.

As mentioned, this is all speculation, but it will be exceptionally intriguing to keep track of Conception’s developments as songs are released. For now, you can check out the rewards on the PledgeMusic campaign here, and follow Conception online!

This is the song “Roll The Fire” and it’s hot!


Footnotes:
1. There is a story, if not wholly substantiated, that his opera teacher made him choose between singing opera and singing metal.
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