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A.C.T. - Circus Pandemonium Award winner

Circus Pandemonium
by YngwieViking at 23 March 2014, 4:41 AM

As always if you are lucky or clever enough to purchase a new album by this first class Swedish band, you are in for a long trip through a mix bag of sensations, emotions, exaltations and everything in between, you are also embarked for a million of ideas and a billion of Musical references like QUEEN / KANSAS / ASIA / SAGA / MARILLION / RUSH a real treat for the audiophile geeks and Proggy maniacs, if I had to bring some stylistic parallelism with less mythical and more contemporary artists, I will propose an improbable mix of MOON SAFARI meets SPOCKS BEARD meets HAKEN meets FREAK KITCHEN meets ZELLO meets KARNIVOOL etc…An Heavenly success in mixing some antagonist parameters in a seamless fluidity… But at the end of the day the only real valid and convincing influences connection is A.C.T. themselves, as their signature style is so strong, actually improved, even magnified and embellished reaching the Eargasm climax at its peak…Better than ever.

I can’t hide that I’m totally partial, as A.C.T. is by far my favorite contemporary Progressive band, this fact strikes me hard right behind my head since their debut was published, their elegancy melted with their propensity to found those quirky melodic themes and some original bombastic arrangements, uplifted by extremely tight and skillful musicianship album after album (with 2003’s “Last Epic” as their ultimate masterpiece-so far-), their unique personality totally blew me away & persuaded me of their extremely talented combination of complexity/freshness & inspirations… Since eight years they took time to reinvent their own sound after the rightly titled “Silence” album, I was in a worried but eager state, now I’m glad that they are returning after such a long hiatus to establish A.C.T. as a major band in this genre…A rank much deserved by this act.

Back to the new album “Circus Pandemonium”, the intriguing concept is quite interesting like a cross-over sequel to “Elephant Man” by David Lynch… Telling a terrific tale about a Circus of freak, leaded by an alcoholic Evil boss, illustrated by speaking sketches, those interludes link in between the song running list, are very interesting, helpful, very theatrical and well embodied… The band itself is emerged in the tragic story line. The chronology of events is special as the tale starts with “The End”, however still keeping a deep focus and a perfect coherency… At the same time dramatic, staggering and romantic (“Manager's Wish”) a manifesto for positivism even in the darkest episodes of our lives. Many songs are playing with the human duality both in the lyrics but also in the musical score, Heaviness against sugar Pop Melodies, insane behavior and voyeurism versus courageous decision, Melodramatic interactions or rational fatalism , coward attitude opposed to feelings sincerity etc…Still climbing at the Everest of the playing possibilities,  it remains subtle then Baroque and in the same time Modern, precise and displaying a the state of the art audio.

The tremendous Lead vocals performed by Herman Saming (his optimized vocal execution in 2013’s highlight: Magnus Karlsson’s FREEFALL was more than remarkable and noticed by many) are real unique : from high pitch falsetto, soaring but delicate, to emotional whispers almost fragile then powerful and bold again with obvious serenity ! This already singing magic demonstration is even ennobled by a rigorous and ambitious harmonized choir work, omnipresent and always jaw-dropping. His talent had grown in crescendo to an impressive level rarely seen in this style. Herman’s blistering delivery seems very relaxed, this accomplishment is even enhanced by sharing the lead vocals duties with some members such as Jerry Sahlin and as Ola Andersson, and even split with for a great duet for the softest “A Mother's Love” with Sara Wendelford, a fine addition to the conceptual continuity and a definitive step to the sheer methodical way in the narration process.

As I wrote before: the musicianship is stellar, each instrumentalist is at the top of his own game, but the incredible drums patterns and the beautiful, elegiac yet always concise lead guitar spots must be mentioned in the list of the best ingredients, as they reveal a fantastic amplitude in the technical playing side but also displaying an unusual cerebral capacities owned by those impassioned Swedish blokes.

This will remain for me as a drastic moment, a cornerstone in this unceasing of daily quality music stream, I think we are blessed enough with a flow of good releases in 2014, but A.C.T.’s new born is in a absolute superiority leadership situation: “Circus Pandemonium" is beating down everything else in terms of genuine melodic Ideas/virtuosic at the highest point in a Technically brilliance and a sublime harmonic splendor… The album of the year!?

5 Star Rating

1. Intro
2. The End
3. Everything's Falling
4. Manager's Wish
5. A Truly Gifted Man
6. Presentation
7. Look At The Freak
8. Argument
9. Confrontation
10. A Mother's Love
11. The Funniest Man Alive
12. Scared
13. A Failed Escape Attempt
14. Lady In White
15. Freak Of Nature
Jerry Sahlin – Keyboards / Synthesizers / Vocals
Ola Andersson – Guitars / Vocals
Peter Asp -Bass
Herman Saming – Lead Vocals
Thomas Lejon – Drums
Record Label: Avalon / Marquee Inc.


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Edited 05 December 2022

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