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A.C.T - 2003 The Last Epic

ALBUM: Last Epic
LABEL: Atenzia
YEAR: 2003


LINEUP: Herman Saming - lead and backing vocals * Jerry Sahlin - keyboards, vocoder, lead and backing vocals * Peter Asp - bass guitar, backing vocals, percussion * Ola Andersson - guitars, lead and backing vocals * Thomas Lejon - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Intro * 02 Wailings From The Building * 03 Mr Landlord - Apartment 121 * 04 Torn By A Phrase Garden * 05 Ted's Ballad Attic * 06 Dance Of Mr Gumble * 07 Wake Up Apartment 122 * 08 Manipulator Barbeque * 09 A Loaded Situation - Surveying Room * 10 The Observer * 11 The Cause * 12 The Effect * 13 Summary * 14 Outtro


Having built a cult following among both progressive rock and melodic rock fans with their debut and sophomore releases ('Today's Report' and 'Imaginery Friends' respectively), A.C.T. have gotten as far as that notorious third album. This time around, they have expanded what were conceptual sections on their previous albums, into a full fledged concept based long player. The setting is an apartment building, where we get glimpses from the lives of the tenants and how their quirks evolve into little stories of their own. The various songs are often prefaced by where the they are taking place, i.e. 'Apartment 121', 'Garden' etc.

The Songs
Following a short, flanged string quartet intro, A.C.T. delve straight into 'Wailings From A Building', a song which manages to stay very melodic in spite of a variety of instrumental little twists and turns. The chorus of 'Mr. Landlord' continues in the upbeat, catchy tradition, whereas the verses bounce away on a near 10CC -like backbeat. Somewhat corny, but nicely so, and see if you can forget that chorus line once you've heard it. I certainly can't. 'Torn By A Phrase' makes good use of light and shade, alternating between quiet, string tinged passages and a darker, heavier riff and chorus. Bits of the instrumental middle section make me wonder if this is what Styx would sound like if they ever had a seriously strange moment? 'Ted's Ballad', on the other hand, is a pleasant breather in the album's, again with the strings utilized to great effect. 'Dance of Mr. Gumble' shows that an instrumental doesn't have to be a show-off, even if you do know how to play a riff or two - plenty of chops, but the melody always prevails! 'Wake Up' has that near-reggae thing happening again - too clever to be Bob Marley , but certainly not a million miles away from 10CC or Valensia/Valentine. 'Manipulator', track 8, has to be my favourite on the album. Dark, dramatic and powerful, and chops enough to border on overcomplexity - but A.C.T. pull this off elegantly with a strong chorus and some neat left-turns which I could have sworn was on a Destiny's Child hit somewhere (no kidding!). With no intention of writing off the album's remaining 6 songs, anyone who has made it this far, can safely assume that the rest of the concept unfolds in an intriguing and impeccably performed way.

In Summary
While A.C.T. obviously possess considerable instrumental and vocal chops, they still manage to keep a firm focus on accessible songs. More conventional melodic rock fans will find plenty of hooks to hang onto here, whereas those into modern progressive rock hardly need to be reminded that A.C.T. probably are as fine as they come these days. Rock solid, and thoroughly recommended - although I do suspect we haven't seen A.C.T. 's finest hour ... yet!

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