vrijdag 22 oktober 2010

A.C.T. - 2001 - Imaginary Friends

Imaginary Friends

01. Take It Easy (4:27)
02. Hippest Flop (4:48)
03. A Supposed Tour (4:41)
04. Biggest Mistake (7:49)
05. Imaginary Friends (5:50)
06. She/Male (4:47)
07. Relationships:
- a. At The Altar (0:38)
- b. Svetlana (3:42)
- c. No Perspective (1:06)
- d. Second Thoughts (0:54)
- e. Mr. Unfaithful (7:04)
- f. Gamophobia (0:46)
- g. Little Beauty (4:18)
- h. And They Lived Happily Ever After (7:23)

- Jerry Sahlin / synthesizers, vocals, backing vocals, vocoder; synthetic drums (7e)
- Ola Andersson / electric and acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Peter Asp / bass, backing vocals
- Herman Saming / lead vocals, backing vocals, silent trumpet
- Tomas Erlandsson / drums, percussion, backing vocals; lead vocals and keyboards (7h)

A.C.T. is a very popular and well-known modern progressive rock band from Sweden, having released music since 1999. They have evolved into a respectable band that has had more than a decent impact; more impressive, however, it how their songwriting and style gets better with every album, their latest Silence being considered an incredible one. The band's musical style is eclectic, but also keen to a lot of influences, some (like QUEEN, SAGA, SUPERTRAMP, MUSE, RUSH, DREAM THEATER or ELO) being largely accepted, others (like IT BITES, ZAPPA or STYX) being more particular, and some (like GENESIS, KANSAS, JETHRO TULL, TOTO or the BEATLES) being much superficial.

The band, initially under Ola Andersson on guitars, Tomas Erlandsson on drums, Jens Appelgren on vocals and Jerry Sahlin on both keyboards and drums, was created out of friendly discussions and leisure musical sessions and was named FAIRYLAND. During the entire rehearsals and the eventful years of playing and discovering their outfit, the line-up saw some changes, Appelgren departing and three new musicians joining in: Simon Niklasson on bass and dynamic writing, later Peter Asp as guitarist/bassist, and Herman Saming as vocalist, often leading the charm and lucky good impression of A.C.T.'s clear crystal voice. In 1995, at the suggestion of Jerry Sahlin, FAIRYLAND finally changed into A.C.T., both in name and in perspective. Taking on a new musical direction, A.C.T. went all the way to a finale at a local competition, "Musik Direkt" - which gave them the opportunity to make some demos. The next year, they were favorites all the way to the grand finale in Stockholm, where losing the competition was a small setback compared to the fame and good spirit they've witnessed since.

A.C.T. are as good and exciting on stage as they are profound in the studio. They opened for a lot of good artists, like Yngwie Malsteem, FISH or SAGA. Their modern or progressive relation is stable both in a popular and well-supported way.

As for their music, A.C.T. themselves call it a mix of melodic, progressive rock, pomp or pop elements, but the evolution is straightforward maturity with every album. Being highly proud of their sound and their songs, the mutual feeling is making music of a noteworthy production and an intense popular complexity. Silence (released 2006) is, most specially, a very brave and complete album of the band's expression and work, comprising melodic or upbeat progressive rock, metal bits or classic rock interpretations, songwriting deluxe shape or complex rhythm arrangements. As already mentioned, the classic, popular or notoriously more easy progressive influences are a large idea, but A.C.T. also discovers its own skill mystery and individuality experience, most notably on Silence.
  I received this second album of ACT, a Sweden band, approx two weeks ago. As I have listened to and enjoyed their first and third album (which also the latest) so I could predict what the music would look like with this album. And my prediction did not fall off track as this one is not different with the others. It delivers an upbeat, energetic and mostly fast tempo music with neat and precise arrangement in a cabaret style. There are frequent use of string section with violin and cellos especially during transition in quieter passages. Guitar riffs are not typical in progressive metal style but it has a balanced combination with rhythm style. ACT has successfully maintained their music consistently from their critically acclaimed debut album "Today's Report" to the last one "Last Epic".
This album comprises 6 individual tracks and another 8 tracks that form an epic called "Relationship - The Long One".
"Take It Easy" opens the album with an excellent combination of keyboard and guitar in a very fast tempo followed with an energetic and fast tempo music with nice melody. When the vocal enters the music it creates a happy-go-lucky nuance with an encouraging yet pretty simple lyrics like "Take it easy everyone should take it easy / You got to slow down, everyone should calm down". It's a paradox, isn't it? The lyrics suggest us to slow down but the music is an upbeat one. But it's so entertaining. This song has a great combination of vocal, guitar and keyboard plus dynamic drumming. I do really enjoy this track. Second track "Hippest Flop" performed a bit slower in tempo but still in a happy nuance with some quieter passages during transitions. The vocals harmony is really good; the music is neatly arranged. The style is dynamically changing unpredictably.
Third track "A Supposed Tour" is a hard-driving rhythm song with some progmet flavor during opening, inserted with great violin work and piano. The structure combines the upbeat and slow beat brilliantly. When it reaches the bridge or transition piece the music slows down in melodic way augmented with violin work. The composition is really good as the music is precise and neatly arranged. Something interesting happened when I observed the lyrics of this track. It seems this represents the band's anger about their planned tour. Note this: "Offered to support an act and they were overwhelmed / Took them weeks to plan that trip / Everything was done to keep the costs down, budget was low, of course ." and the other part "Manager excused himself (and said:] - Just come again tomorrow .".
The fourth track "Biggest Mistake" is longer, with 7 minutes duration, and it resembles the similarity with other track of the other albums. Musically this track delivers a continuous flow of music with some sudden change or variation between complex and quieter passage - performed in happy mood. The album title track "Imaginary Friends" casts a little bit different style where the beat is slowing down a even though still in an upbeat tempo. There is some reggae component of this track. "She/Male" starts off with simple drum solo followed with stunning guitar solo followed with rhythm that remarks the entrance of vocal. Piano accompanies the vocal in inventive way - nice sounds.
The epic "Relationships - The Long One" starts with melodic lyrical part with sort of string arrangement and piano. The vocal is great. It flows suddenly to an upbeat music "Svetiana" with vocal and lead guitar at the background. Piano work inserts the music in a similar nuance like the music of CAST (Mexico) especially on piano and keyboard. The solo violin and solo guitar in the middle are stunning, especially when they are backed with an orchestra. The end of this track 8 features nice exploration of violin / cello, guitar and piano. It then moves to the opening of "No Perspective" where the singing style is something you usually hear in musical opera. It's really good! It moves back to high energy, melodic "Second Thoughts" where guitar plays its solo wonderfully! The music flows to riff-based music to "Mr. Unfaithful" where the guitar plays heavy riffs combined with orchestration and guitar solo. Oh man . this is really great. Especially when the keyboard and guitar performs solo. It's a great composition. With this track it proves that ACT is a band that is very hard to beat. It's a great band. "Gamophobia" is a short bridge. "Little Beauty" is a beautifully crafted song with excellent opening through piano / keyboard followed with excellent vocal. The soft passages with violin solo and keyboard / piano are truly stunning. The last track of the epic has so much empty space. The ending part is not the kind of music that ACT used to play, performed mellow with low register notes on vocal augmented with violin, cello and keyboard. It's not something that please my ears. But it's probably the band's effort to push their music.
Overall, this album is not as great as the other two albums . The weak point is on the epuc where it does not sound like a cohesive one even though each individual track is excellent - except the last one. To me it's like disjointed part or a collection of songs instead of an epic. But I still consider this as an excellent addition to any prog collection with a possibility to increase potentially into five stars. Keep on proggin' ..!

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