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A.C.T.: Silence

A.C.T. continues to be an enigma. On one hand, this charming band embodies all that is righteous about progressive music. The Swedish outfit melds classic influences like Yes, Supertramp, Saga and Queen with gleeful yet quirky wit and a vast palette of musical styles from heavy metal to pop balladry. But on the other hand, those same attributes make A.C.T. (no one in the band will say what the acronym means) nearly impossible to pin down. I've spent all day with Silence, the band's fourth album (and first for prog powerhouse InsideOut Music), and I'm no closer to writing the perfect review of this frickin' thing than I was the first time I pressed "play."

Consisting of 19 tracks, Silence is divided into two sections: The first half is a collection of 10 individual songs some heavy ("Hope"), some full of pomp and circumstance ("Call In Dead") and nearly all of them bursting with eclectic pop tendencies. The second half is a nine-part song suite dubbed "Consequences," which tells the tragic tale of Joanna, a young woman desperate for a child. It doesn't veer too far from the record's first half, but it proves this quintet can musically and thematically carry an idea for 23 minutes just like the prog masters.

Not as immediately intriguing as 2003's Last Epic, Silence packs more punch than A.C.T.'s first two albums (Today's Report from 1999 and Imaginary Friends from 2001). But it's not the kind of thing that will appeal to all hardcore prog fans. Vocalist Herman Saming often sounds like an affected Jon Anderson, and the pop overtones may be too blatant for some listeners. A.C.T. is clearly an acquired taste and even then, you may never be able to fully appreciate just what, exactly, these guys are trying to accomplish. Enigma, indeed.

Track Listing:
1) Truth Is Pain
2) Puppeteers
3) This Wonderful World
4) Out of Ideas
5) Hope
6) Into the Unknown
7) No Longer Touching Ground
8) Useless Argument
9) The Voice Within
10) Call In Dead
11) Silent Screams
12) Introduction
13) The Millionaire
14) Joanna
15) A Father's Love
16) Memory to Fight
17) The Diary
18) A Wound That Won't Heal
19) The Final Silence

Added: March 30th 2007
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Offical A.C.T. Web Site
Hits: 6462
Language: english

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A.C.T.: Silence
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-03-30 10:21:05
My Score:

Silence marks the debut of Sweden's A.C.T. on Inside Out, and expands on their classic pop-driven prog heard on their previous efforts Today's Report and the more intriguing Last Epic. The album consists of two parts -- the first ten songs being the independent pieces, marked by the Saga-like vocal harmonies of "Puppeteers" and "This Wonderful World", the latter decorated with a sweet classical arrangement in its ending. The fervent bass opening of "Out of Ideas" suggests the band are going to launch into a rocking song, but it quickly takes on a symphonic vibe, with lush keyboards, a gentle string attachment, and a neat guitar solo behind Ola Andersson's Jon Anderson-styled vocal delivery. The album does offer a heavier approach with the arrival of the anthemic main riff of "Hope", a song that is right up there with the material Asia offered in the early 90's. Touches of Supertramp, ELO, and Queen come in and out of the songs in the blink of an eye, but what they keep intact throughout is the use of gripping vocal harmonies, supported by symphonic and vintage keys, and melodic guitar effects.

As is the case with previous A.C.T. records, the second half of the album is dedicated to a lengthy piece, simply titled Consequences. This epic-scale composition contains three independent stories: the heavy, more intricate opening of "Silent Screams", complete with wide-open strings, ties in with the delicate acoustic intro of "Introduction" -- according to a recent interview of the band, this is sort of like the storytelling of a Quentin Tarantino piece. "Joanna", one of the high points of the CD, is drenched in a tense synth patch, as a driving bass line carries it into a more rocking domain. The interlocking guitar theme sounds quite interesting and does a nice job depicting the tragic story of a young lady who gets killed in a car accident after having a fight with her boyfriend. The repeated piano melody during the slowed-down section is really beautiful and I love how it transforms back into the mammoth arrangement it is as they weave heavy bass and guitar rhythms into the mix. Also, the vocal melody of "A Father's Love" is truly moving. The third and last mini-concept of the album starts with "The Diary, examining the confusion of a lost little girl who is mentally deranged. The state of her mind is excellently captured with hook-strong vocals harmonies that alternate between innocent whispers to psychotic bursts of drama, with the addition of a wide range of sounds. Perhaps the most Asia-meets-Saga type of composition, it also boasts nice instrumental interplay between bass, guitar, and keys respectively.

The production was done by Andromeda keyboardist Martin Hedin and is to be praised for its use of space and transparancy. A.C.T. have delivered a fine record, but something inside me says, their best is yet to come.

A.C.T.: Silence
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-27 20:21:46
My Score:

A.C.T.'s fourth album, and first for InsideOut Music, sees the band once again honing their style of pop and metal inflected progressive rock. At times a bit too slick for the metal crowd, and certainly some aspects of the band are a tad too rockin' for the hardcore prog crowd, A.C.T. kind of fall into some strange no man's land as far as trying to figure out just where they belong. Sort of like a strange combination of Sparks, Queen, Saga, Dream Theater, Supertramp, and Yes, the band nevertheless have a pretty unique sound that has gained them many fans over the course of their career, and Silence has been a much anticipated release among them.

The album is a odd mix of quirky prog rock, catchy pop melodies, and the occasional metal crunch, making for quite a varied listen. A song like "This Wonderful World" conjures up memories of New England, as well as Sparks, with soaring pop vocals flying over the top of majestic keyboards and jangly guitars. On "Out of Ideas" the upbeat and busy styles of Spock's Beard or Echolyn come to mind, while the progressive metal romp of "Hope" allows for some crunchy riffs to come into play, as well as some fiery & intricate interplay amongst the musicians.

The closing, 9-part epic Consequences sees the band acting a little more serious and pulling out more of their prog tendencies, but that pop flavor still exists, which is really the band's style. Overall, Silence is a very eclectic listening experience, and an album that will take many spins to full comprehend and appreciate. Rarely does a band come along that delivers a product with this many layers, but it's all here-pop grandeur, symphonic & complex progressive rock, and a touch of metal. It might not be for everyone, but it certainly will demand your attention.

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