I saw the Swedish band A.C.T. a couple of times when they played for the old Classic Rock Society in Rotherham. Both were great performances and I have a lasting memory of them reminding me musically of one of my favourite bands, Canada’s very own Saga. I also remember lead singer Herman Saming being a very enigmatic and energetic front man, who liked his hats on stage. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them live since.
‘Trifles and Pandemonium‘ was the last album of theirs I bought, but the prohibitive costs of importing copies from abroad have prevented me from purchasing the current EPs, which is a shame because I really like this band. They never cease to put a smile on my face, from their infectious blend of complex progressive rock mixed with the accessibility of mainstream AOR, so I was pleasantly surprised when they agreed to let me review their latest release, ‘Falling‘, which is the third EP of a planned quartet. I have, much to my chagrin, only heard parts of the previous two. Whilst they apparently have an overarching narrative embedded in the three EPs and upcoming fourth, this third part can stand on its own. With six original tracks, the premise being – just like the dinosaurs – the human race faces extinction in the very near future as something terrible hurtles toward Earth at maximum velocity.
This exposes the traits of human nature and our actions, facing adversity and how we respond. Despite the gloomy plot line, the band’s effervescent personalities and upbeat tempos move this EP along quite nicely. They have a distinctive style and sound, but also like to experiment a little as well. One should never sit on one’s laurels.
Fall In is a short instrumental with the sounds of disturbed animals and the foreboding sound of something approaching swiftly, which explodes into the second song, introducing our first character as they are desperately Digging A Hole and building a survival shelter in the backyard. Are they a conspiracy theorist believing the end of the world is coming, or do they know something as they ignore their partner, who would prefer, if this were the end, to spend what time they have left together enjoying one another’s company. It reminds me of one of my favourite films, Take Shelter, in which Michael Shannon is plagued by apocalyptic visions and tries to stay sane, as his obsessive behaviour causes his marriage to Jessica Chastain’s character, livelihood and health to fall apart. Are the apparitions of the world ending real or is he suffering from a possible hereditary illness?
We then meet Emelie, The Girl Without A Past, who can recall nothing of her life but is bestowed with a special gift that allows her to see into the future and our impending doom. No amount of medical help brings back any memories and no one seems to know of her past. So, can her visions of what’s to come be trusted? Look to the skies for your answer (but try and avoid walking into a lamppost). When relationships have run their course, it is sometimes hard to admit it is no longer working and any feelings you had have faded into the distance. You don’t want to be there, claustrophobic, you can hardly Breathe, yet you carry on living the lie, pretending everything is OK for you. You have tried to say how you feel and leave before, but then something happens that makes you realise you have little time left. You reassess and decide to spend what precious minutes remain together, as your partner professes, they cannot breathe without you.
Is there nothing that can be done to prevent the oncoming threat? The longer we leave it to do something, the less chance we have of survival, it’s A Race Against Time if we are to save ourselves. The bells toll the end, run and hide with your loved ones, say your goodbyes. The immensity of what approaches leaves mankind in awe. Terrifying yet exciting in varying measures, you will witness the greatest spectacle ever seen and be a part of it. Is there any point in running to find a place of solace? The naivety of some fixated on the spectacle, the realisation for you that once done there will be nothing left, no one to remember or tell the tale of what is about to happen. Should you disillusion them? No, hold them, treasure them while you can and say One Last Goodbye to the one you love.
Siren’s wail, people scream at the shuddering impact, the object destroys everything in its path and all fades to silence as the Fall Out begins. Somewhere, the last notes of a piano are heard before being swallowed into the darkness. Incorporating sound clips and effects to enhance the feelings of a torn humanity, the building tension of those involved is portrayed by the music and lyrics, conveying their emotions. From tender keyboard passages and bursts of guitar coupled with the driving force of drum and bass, we hear the stories of those affected, good or bad it doesn’t matter now, as they face judgement day.
Masters of their craft, A.C.T. once again delight with tight playing, crisp vocals and the energy they imbue with their intricate arrangements. I am still amazed they are not more widely known.
In the meantime, I’m off to see how benevolent my bank manager is feeling.
Released 1st March, 2023
Check out the band’s website here:
A version of this review was originally posted on The Progressive Aspect.