“Heatwave” is the latest EP of the Swedish progressive rock band A.C.T. It is also the second EP of a planned four and a direct continuation of “Rebirth” from 2019.
As always, A.C.T take the listener on a journey through different time signatures, catchy hooks, magnificent choruses, complicated arrangements and gorgeous melodies, at all times leaving the listener to anticipate, frequently incorrectly, the music’s direction.
I had the wonderful pleasure of coming across A.C.T. back in the glory days of the CRS, and was at the gig (probably selling CDs at the back) when they played the Oakwood Centre in Rotherham on the same bill as Ritual, if I recall…….(deep sigh).
But for the uninitiated, who are they?
Initially under Ola Andersson on guitars, Tomas Erlandsson on drums, Jens Appelgren on vocals and Jerry Sahlin on keyboards, they were called Fairyland. Well, we all have to start somewhere. Members of a music school in Malmö, time progressed and with various line-up changes, Fairyland changed its name into A.C.T in 1995 and reached the final of a Swedish music competition in 1996. In 1997 a new demo was recorded and the band toured extensively in Sweden, eventually recording its debut album, Today’s Report, released in 1999. Following the release of this album, and possibly after some similarities were identified in their musical style, A.C.T embarked on a Scandinavian tour with Saga.
And so a series of really good albums were released. In 2001 it was Imaginary Friends and the band went on a European tour with Fish. In 2003, Last Epic was released, and the band went on a European tour with Ray Wilson. In 2006, A.C.T signed to the label Inside Out and out came the album Silence. We had to wait until 2014 for Circus Pandemonium (and boy did I find that a tricky album to get hold of!)
So this album is a part of a group of EP’s that started with one called Rebirth. I must’ve missed that one too – note to self…..
A short intro leads to the first track Checked Out, and an ever so typical A.C.T. sound, tight rhythm section, punchy and upbeat melodic guitar, bass and keys, quickly followed by those classic vocals, sweet harmonies and cleverly intricate interplay, breaks, twists and turns. Just like they’ve never been away. Which they haven’t – we’ve just lost sight of them. They pack a lot into their songs. And just wait for the guitar break and keyboard interaction….! Such snappy chops, so intense, rhythmically complex, and yet intensely melodic. Yet this time, they choose to venture into darker, choppy waters. How quickly can five minutes go, for goodness sake?
Still not familiar with them? Well there’s still that Saga vibe – but don’t hang your hat on that one. This band has it’s unique style and personality. Brother displays an intense depth, five/four rhythms somehow waltzing effortlessly as they glide through jaunty verses to a plaintive, dark chorus. And then Dark Clouds has such an epic intro going into an emotionally vulnerable section and achingly beautiful chorus, it dawns on you how these guys have developed a depth and maturity that rips into your emotions at will. Why do these songs pass through so quickly – I want more!
Title track Heatwave has it all – glorious quirky pop sensibilities (remember the Hoosiers, Mr A, anyone?), serious prog credibility as you try to follow their kaleidosopic workouts, and a great sense of drama to boot. Ending with lengthy closer The Workout, they reinforce all the above with classic intensity, a slightly retro atmosphere and diverse soundscape, taking you on one final musical rollercoaster ride. This time round, they take more time to develop mood and motion, giving you breathing space to recap and marvel at their prowess, their ability to pull those melodies and harmonies out of nowhere, and hearing them throwing out riffs at will, but being tighter as the proverbial duck’s bottom.
And so we have around 25 minutes from a sadly undervalued band that can pack a punch in a short time which many bands fail to do in a full CD. Over in a seeming instant, play it again and again and wallow in it. If you’ve not heard A.C.T. before, you won’t go wrong with this one. If you have, look forward to their signature sound with increased maturity and depth whilst still displaying fun and frolic.
1. Heatwave Intro
2. Checked Out
4. Dark Clouds