Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 32: Roll the Fire – Part 2

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

If you didn’t catch part 1 of this chapter, click here to read it first.

ARK – nothing to say about the image, or…?

While Roy Khan joined Kamelot, Tore Østby had formed the band ARK. I received the debut album with great interest, not only because Tore was one of the most exciting guitarists Norway had to offer in the genre, but he also had brought American drummer John Macaluso onboard. I first noticed his name when he joined TNT for two albums, but also John played on the first Powermad album Absolute Power which I was really into. Most people will know the track “Slaughterhouse” that was featured in the David Lynch movie Wild At Heart and the MTV intro for At The Movies. My definite choice from the album would be “Plastic Town.” It’s a killer track!

I believe this was the first time I heard Jørn Lande (now calling himself Jorn) sing. Well, he actually did the vocals for the Norwegian football anthem “Alt For Norge” for the World Cup in 1994. I never cared for that football anthem and it wasn’t until later that I found out that he did it. Jørn would release his solo debut album Starfire in November 2000. I did an interview with him at that time, but it’s unfortunately in Norwegian. It was obvious that Tore had a sixth sense about vocalists, and that he had found another brilliant vocalist for his new band ARK. Jorn would of course turn out to be one of the best and most well-known vocalists in the Norwegian Hard Rock scene. I thought his voice sometimes reminded me so much of Whitesnake’s David Coverdale that I decided to pull a prank on a friend of mine. I convinced him I had a promo copy of the new solo album from Coverdale  and played him a track over the phone. He showed up at my doorstep a couple of hours later with a bag of beer, really eager to hear new material from the mighty Coverdale. He was a bit pissed when I told him it was a joke and that it actually was a Norwegian singer. He still talks about that. Well, we had a great drinking and ARK listening session after all.

ARK turned out to be more playful, or progressive if you will, than Conception. Tore still incorporated a lot of flamenco inspired guitar parts, but the overall expression was very different. Jørn’s raspy voice of course takes it in a very different direction than Roy. You can hear that they all had great fun recording this. The core of the band was the three aforementioned, but they had several interesting guest musicians on it. Among those were bass player Ingar Amlien from Conception. The album is unfortunately not available on streaming platforms, but I still have my CD copy and I have no plans on losing it. Tore told me in an interview that the seven tracks were actually demos recorded on Concpetion’s equipment years earlier. Macaluso even used Arve’s drums during the recording sessions. On top of all of that it took them years to find a proper vocalist. With all that information I think it’s safe to say we’re lucky the songs were released at all.

In 2001, I went to a party that Roy and Tore hosted at the house they were sharing in Oslo. There was obviously no bad blood between them after the band split. Well, I thought they had split- At the time I really didn’t know the reason why that happened. As far as I remember the party was not held to give a sneak preview on the new ARK album, although I can’t rule it out. Anyway, it turned out that the new album, Burn the Sun, was finished and Tore was excited to play it for us. The threesome had been joined by well known bassist Randy Coven and Mats Olausson on keys for their second effort. R.I.P. both! A really strong and interesting lineup. The listening session took place in a bedroom upstairs as far as I recall. As I opened the door the smoke was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife. It was not stage smoke and I don’t think it was only cigarette smoke either. Tore was sitting in the corner by the stereo with a big smile on his face while turning the volume to maximum and pressing play. The whole album was blasted out loud and it totally rocked. The tracks were strong and it had a very solid production. When it came to the sequence where the coin drops in the opening track “Heal the Waters”, Tore asked for complete silence so everyone could hear the effect. An ultra fast riff, dead silence, the coin dropped, swirled and stopped before the band continued. Tore grinned even more. It was fun and, for me, an impromptu listening session of what unfortunately turned out to be the last ARK album. But what an excellent album to leave as an exit statement!

This interview with Tore was done when ARK released their sophomore album, but we obviously had to talk about the debut too.

Unfortunately I never got the chance to see ARK play live. The closest I got was to attend what was supposed to be a rehearsal. ARK was going to play an acoustic show in France and Tore invited me to his office in Oslo where the band was going to practice acoustic versions of their songs. When I arrived John Macaluso was there with Tore. I cannot recall if there was a bass player present. Jørn Lande arrived after a while and stayed in the room for a minute or two. All of a sudden he got up, slammed the door behind him and didn’t come back. We were a bit confused about what had just happened. I think maybe he wasn’t aware that there were going to be guests there for the rehearsal. We watched Tore and John play for a bit and that was it. It’s too bad really, because it would have been so cool to have a private performance by the whole band. One for the books you might say. At least this failed rehearsal made it into this eBook!

Tore told me in a recent interview that they were actually in pre-production for a third album in the US. Due to several unfortunate circumstances they never finished.

Might as well… JUMP!

That same summer I turned 30 and threw a huge party in Oslo. I invited all my friends and included Tore and Roy on the list. Social media didn’t exist back then of course, but I invited guests using email. Roy was doing great with Kamelot. He responded to the invitation saying “It’s not like I am a big rock star or something, but I would appreciate it if you put my email address on blind copy so it isn’t shared with everyone.” Oops! My bad indeed, it just never crossed my mind. I also invited some other celebrities, but that’s a story for another eBook. I gathered some buddies to play at the party with me. We played mostly Hard Rock covers like “Jump,” “Back in Black,” “Heaven’s on Fire” and heavy versions of songs like “Play that Funky Music” and “Are you Gonna Go My Way.” I have never been a great guitar player, but I practiced like hell before the show, and it turned out pretty good if I may say so myself. Someone brought a video camera so I do have some footage of the show. This was before the age of the smartphone, so it’s just pure luck that the footage exists and it’s fun to watch now. The beginning of “Jump” had the most challenging solo of the set, and I noticed Tore had arrived at the party. Bloody hell, one of the finest Hard Rock guitarists in Norway is about to witness me screw up Eddie’s “Jump” solo! Okay, obviously it didn’t sound as good as when the guitar god himself, Eddie Van Halen, played it but I got through it with my honor intact. I told Tore years later that it stressed me out when I saw him arrive right before the solo. He replied that the most important thing is to have fun and that I obviously did. And yes, I can attest to that.

Crest of Darkness

Ingar Amlien continued with his Black Metal band Crest of Darkness when Conception was put on hold. I have never been a big Black Metal fan, but I went to see the band play in a short lived Metal club in Oslo called Maiden. My colleague from Metal Express Radio, Torgeir, who did the stressful interview with Roy, filled the support slot with his band Sarpedon, so that gave me another reason to go. Crest of Darkness is pure Black Metal with the face paint and all. The first lyrics from their show was “Saaaataaaaan!” Wow, this is really dark stuff! When I am at festivals I usually go to a Black Metal show or two, just to feel the energy and experience how tight many of the bands really are musically. Crest of Darkness were really tight. The last time I did a Conception interview I had a little chat with Ingar first. It turns out that one of my current colleagues had produced the very first Crest of Darkness video. I think it was a part of a school project or something. It’s a bloody video so to say. I told Ingar but he couldn’t quite recall that. He said that the Crest of Darkness project is just for fun and that most people don’t get that. If you know Ingar, or follow him on social media, you know he is a really nice and down to earth guy who really appreciates fishing and hiking, far from his alter ego in Crest of Darkness. We’ll get back to hiking in a while by the way…

Now, let’s get back to Conception. Eight years after their last show, Norwegian Heavy Metal magazine Scream celebrated their 15th anniversary with a party at Rockefeller Music Hall. They managed to reunite Conception for a one off show. Great job guys! I remember meeting (a very bearded) Roy when he arrived. Despite having played bigger stages all over with Kamelot for some time, he was very nervous. After all this was his home turf, it was several years since his last gig with the band and Rockefeller was packed with people from the industry. Anyway, Conception delivered a stellar performance, playing a nice set of ten great songs. If they had asked me to pick the setlist for the show I would probably have ended up with the same ten tracks. Was this the beginning of a new era for Conception? Nope, after the show there was radio silence.

Conception – new era, new image.

Until 2018 that is. One of my friends in the business said “there is something going on in a cabin. Keywords: Roy, Ingar, Arve and Tore!” Oh, gooood news! I actually never thought there would be more Conception. Not long after, the band released some video footage recorded during rehearsals. They were back and promised that new music would be published soon.The first single they dropped was “Grand Again.” It is actually the first time I have set the alarm to get up in the morning to check out new music on Spotify. The song sounded unmistakably as Conception should and did. There was intricate drumming by Are and likewise an intricate riff by Tore. This sounded like where they left off with Flow. It was well produced with tasty effects on the vocals and a chorus that makes you wanna hum along. It was interesting to read reactions from Conception starving fans from all over the world. The song has an excellent flow (pun intended) and makes you wanna listen to it again and again.

Roy and Stig at the pre-listening party.

The single was followed by the EP My Dark Symphony. To celebrate the release the band hosted a listening party for the fans at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo. Unfortunately, that very same night I already had plans to attend an annual pre-Christmas party with a bunch of friends. Bummer! I wouldn’t miss the listening party so I threw my old Conception t-shirt in my bag. After the pre-dinner drinks with the guys I grabbed a cab to Rockefeller, ripped off my shirt and blazer to don the proper attire for the event. It was really nice to meet the band again as I hadn’t seen them for some years.

This Google translate is only funny for Norwegians. Sorry!

What made the biggest impression was to see and meet all the fans that had flown in from all over the world for the event. Conception was obviously not forgotten and still had loyal fans. After attending a Q&A session with the band and listening to the EP a few times I ordered another cab, changed back to my suit on the way out, and joined my comrades for traditional lutefisk (google it if you aren’t familiar with the Norwegian dish). It was quite an enjoyable evening!

In 2019, the band announced two comeback shows in their home area. The shows took place over two nights in a small town called Gjøvik. I got a ticket for the second night and asked for an interview with the band. It was interesting to hear how they felt about being back on stage together. As you can hear they claim they never broke up, merely just put the band on ice. I truly never thought I would see them together again. After the comeback the band is in charge of everything themselves business-wise. Times have truly changed. Social media is now extremely important for direct contact with the fans. Like many other bands, Conception offers die hard fans to buy experiences with the band, everything from dinners, attending rehearsals, after parties, and hiking! The guys hike in the mountains with their fans, and cook and camp with them as well. I asked what’s next and Tore suggested getting a pedicure from Roy, haha. The guys did a great show and Tore didn’t blow all his energy within the first fifteen minutes on the second night (that’s an interview reference)! This is the interview I did before the show:

During the afterparty I got to know a bunch of loyal fans. It’s so fascinating to meet people who have flown in from the US, Europe and even more distant places to witness the comeback in this small Norwegian town. Some had also been hiking with the band before the shows. I wasn’t actually that surprised though. For many years we have run “The Friday Guest DJ Hour” show on Metal Express Radio, where bands play ten songs from their most influential bands and artists. It has been a pleasure to see how often songs by Conception have been picked by artists from all over the world. They definitely set a footprint during their first active years while also being a huge inspiration to many musicians.

Later that year, I went to see Queenrÿche play in Oslo. “No Tate, No Rÿche”? Well, read the previous chapter for my take on that, but I digress. Anyway, Queensrÿche kicked ass with Todd La Torre behind the mic. By pure accident I ran into Roy at the show. A great Metal voice checking out another great Metal voice. I didn’t see him after the show. It would have been cool to hear if he was as impressed as me with La Torre. Next time I see him I’ll definitely ask. Still, the main reason for him being there might have been to catch up with Casey Grillo. He used to play drums with Kamelot, but is now in Queensrÿche.

Conception and Stig before the second comeback show at Gjøvik.

In 2020, it was finally time for a new full length album; State of Deception. Out of the blue I received a call from an unknown number. It turned out to be Roy Khan, calling from a different number than the one I had memorized in the 90s. The band was hosting a release party for the album a few weeks later at a club in Oslo called Rock In and they wanted me to lead the show. I really appreciated the request and said yes on the spot. I was supposed to offer my take on the band, their history and then do a panel interview with the band afterwards. But then of course came the pandemic.

Everything was canceled… For two years! I was so looking forward to this, but of course it was way worse for the band. The timing couldn’t be worse as they had planned a comeback tour across Europe. The album was released as planned in early April, since no one could know this would last for two years.

What falls in your beer…

I believe the show in Oslo was postponed twice, but on April 29, 2022, they were finally ready to pull it off. This time they played at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo. It was nice to finally see the guys headline a big stage in Oslo. The biggest surprise this evening was that I bumped into my dad at the show. For the record, he is 72 years old. He had been invited by a friend who’s a Conception fan. His friend told me during the end of the concert that he missed some of the older “goodies.” I believe he only knew the first albums. I kind of agree with him though, but I always respect bands that play a lot of the new material on tours even though they have a lot of classic songs to choose from. On the other hand, State of Deception was already two years old at this point. I would have wanted more from Parallel Minds, In Your Multitude, and of course Flow. I told Tore after the show, but he shrugged. I have a feeling that Roy was in charge of the setlist and wanted to push the new material. After some albums very few bands manage to please all hardcore fans. We did get fan favorite “Roll the Fire” as the encore, and as the show ended I was standing in front of the soundboard when Tore tossed his guitar pick into the crowd. I can’t explain the physics behind it but somehow it landed in my beer, haha. Now I have the perfect guitar pick if I want to cover “Roll The Fire” at some point.

The after party was amusing as always. The band and lots of fans were just drinking and talking. Prior to this, Conception had played in Gjøvik and my reporter colleague Jan Dahle (R.I.P.) from Scream Magazine wrote in the review that it was an excellent show, but that Roy needed to cut the small talk between the songs. Tore and I talked about the show and he asked me if maybe Roy was back to “too much small talk?” I don’t really mind much, but I could have exchanged the small talk for a few more old tracks I guess.

Tore dropped by Oslo in September 2022 for a Conception rehearsal and a chat.

While we wait for another Conception album, it’s time for me to again complete my CD collection with the missing pieces and get some really nice bonus tracks along with them.

This two part chapter turned out to be a lengthy one. If you made it this far you’re probably a Conception fan in the first place, but if you don’t know the band I strongly advise you to give them a chance. You will not regret it if you are into quality Metal.

For an in depth introduction to Conception I will recommend “The History of Conception” that the band have posted on their social media platforms Facebook and Instagram.

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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