A.C.T — Circus Pandemonium

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A.C.T - Circus Pandemonium cover
3.60 | 7 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2014

Filed under Metal Related
By A.C.T


1. Intro (1:01)
2. The End (5:56)
3. Everything's Falling (4:55)
4. Manager's Wish (5:54)
5. A Truly Gifted Man (6:44)
6. Presentation (1:03)
7. Look At The Freak (1:13)
8. Argument (1:06)
9. Confrontation (1:12)
10. A Mother's Love (2:37)
11. The Funniest Man Alive (3:46)
12. Scared (Japanese bonus track) (4:43)
13. A Failed Escape Attempt (5:18)
14. Lady In White (4:40)
15. Freak Of Nature (5:59)

Total Time 56:17


- Jerry Sahlin / synthesizers
- Ola Andersson / electric and acoustic guitars
- Peter Asp / bass guitar
- Herman Saming / vocals
- Thomas Lejon / percussion

About this release

Release date: March 5th, 2014
Label: Marquee Avalon

Thanks to diamondblack for the addition


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

"Circus Pandemonium" is the 5th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive rock/metal act A.C.T. The album was released through Marquee Avalon in March 2014. It´s the first album release by the band since "Silence (2006)", so it´s been an 8 years long recording break, and I was beginning to wonder if they had disbanded without telling the world.

Thankfully that´s not the case and "Circus Pandemonium" sees A.C.T return doing what they do best: Playing melodic progressive rock/metal with great positive energy delivered with sublime technical skill. They have a distinct sound, that sets them apart from most other contemporary acts although their influences do shine through. When listening to A.C.T I´m first and foremost reminded of 70s art rock acts like Roxy Music, 10cc, Supertramp and especially Queen, but with an added progressive metal edge that reminds me of early Dream Theater.

While the music is played with great technical skill, the tracks are for the most part vers/chorus structured. The band almost always include surprises during the tracks though and while this isn´t the kind of progressive rock/metal music created to show off, there are still some pretty complex parts being played. The music for the most part sounds lighthearted and features great positive energy (sometimes to the point where I´m thinking I´m listening to a piece from a Broadway Musical), which make "Circus Pandemonium" quite the party to listen to. The instrumentation consists of bass, guitars, drums and keyboards, but it´s the high pitched vocals by Herman Saming that´s predominantly in focus. The addition of harmony and choir vocals are also an important ingredient of the band´s sound (the Queen reference is especially strong in that part of the music).

The material on "Circus Pandemonium" are generally quite clever and well written. A.C.T are very skilled composers and they pull off their adventurous ideas with ease. The combination of occasional heavy riffing and lighthearted (almost whimsical) musical ideas work wonders. Packed in a powerful and clear sound production "Circus Pandemonium" comes off as a high quality release on all parameters and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Members reviews

The Show Must Go On

So after a lengthy break of eight years, Swedish heavy prog band A.C.T have finally released a new piece of music, their fifth album, Circus Pandemonium. I found A.C.T through their critically acclaimed 2003 album Last Epic, a ridiculous and fun record, coming equally from rock opera and the bombast of a stage show as it was from progressive rock and metal. The album was hardly a groundbreaking one, but it was impossibly catchy, and actually incredibly unique – I can’t really think of another record with that kind of eccentricity and catchiness in progressive music, although recently Incura have been tackling a similar style (albeit with more of an alternative approach than progressive). A.C.T were not a huge classic band, but they were the sort that were definitely missed in their absence.

So with this new album, Circus Pandemonium, I guess I have to report some good news, and some bad news. And oddly, both happen to be the same thing – this album is more or less A.C.T doing what A.C.T have done. I can’t speak for any of the other A.C.T albums, since Last Epic is the only one I knew before this, but this is more or less the same style, more or less the same melodies and more or less the same excellent fun. Some people will rejoice to this – this album is as accomplished as Last Epic and basically just as good, and some people honestly don’t care if two albums sound the same. I know every single fan of ‘djent’ nodded their head in unison. But others will realise that this really is A.C.T writing on autopilot, with the same style and the same mindset. On this album, as the title suggests, we have the inclusion of some circus-style music, including influences from dark cabaret and different areas of stage theatrics. But realistically, when has A.C.T’s music in the past not sounded like a carnival?

I don’t really mind the continuation of the older style myself, because as I said, this is just as consistent as Last Epic, and the simple fact is that A.C.T’s sound is so unique in the first place, that them playing the same thing isn’t really going to make me mind. The melodies here are just as ridiculously as fun and just as memorable, particularly the infectious choruses of opener “The End” and “Manager’s Wish”. The energy throughout the record is also unparalleled, using fantastic dynamics in a similar way that a stage show would, particularly in the first few tracks here. But although these first few songs on the album all have pretty stellar melodies, I do actually think that they all run a bit long, especially since they rely so much on the one catchy chorus melody, and no matter how catchy a chorus, its charm dies after a few repeats. As much as I enjoy the hook “A Truly Gifted Man”, it really starts to grate after a while, and it has the sort of tonality that would make me go insane if I heard it too much.

But then on the tracks in the middle of the album, the band go in the opposite direction, and we have a string of five shorter tracks, with only two of them really having any real musical substance – the ridiculous and Bungle-esque “Look at the Freak”, and the rather sweet (although a bit cliché) “A Mother’s Love”. The rest of the tracks are all story-building ones, giving us a bit of an insight into the characters and plot of this album, which seems to be about a circus freak with no tongue and an evil circus manager and a girl who tries to save him, and I can already feel everyone rolling their eyes. I honestly wish the story had been left to the background of this album, since it’s so completely clichéd and contains so many archaic plot devices. “A Mother’s Love”, as well as a couple of the other rock-opera styled tracks, has a massive Ayreon vibe, mostly due to the way the lyrics are sung, and the use of multiple vocalists. Although the melody on this is better than anything Arjen has written in years, I still can’t shake the cliché, and the notion that the lyrics feel simply like sung dialogue, making the lyrics pretty weak (ever heard of poetic dialogue?), but also meaning the melodies come second to the story, and when the story is this bad, you don’t really want that.

In the end, Circus Pandemonium is certainly a good addition to the A.C.T catalogue, and long-term fans will certainly be glad for their return, but this really breaks nothing new for the band, and is basically as we should expect from them. Although I’ve said that this is pretty much on the same level as Last Epic, I would still return to that more than I will to this, since I feel a bit of the cliché and cheesy carnival parts of this album detract from the music, and the melodies aren’t quite as good. It’s still a solid record, however, and if you are looking for some bombastic and energetic circus-rock-opera-metal, (and you’ve already heard Incura enough), then this is a must-have.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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