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A.C.T - Imaginary Friends CD (album) cover

IMAGINARY FRIENDS

A.C.T

Eclectic Prog


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Greger
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I'm not exaggerating when I'm saying that A.C.T is one of the most innovative prog/metal bands in Sweden today. "Imaginary Friends" were released in 2001 and the band was as playful as on their debut album "Today's Report" from 1999. Boring is a word so far away from A.C.T that you can ever imagine. Everything is as close to perfect as it can be. Their bombastic sound, the musicianship, the vocals, the compositions, the production, the orchestration and the innovative relationship they have to their music. You can find some reminiscences to QUEEN and DREAM THEATER, especially in Ola Andersson's guitar playing, but most of all I would compare them to a heavier version of the Swedish almost forgotten and underrated band Big Money.

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Send comments to Greger (BETA) | Report this review (#17117)
Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Frodok@lycos.
5 stars Very good second effort of this band. Perhaps melodies aren´t so straight as their previous work, but has an overall superb production & playing. I could assure that the plan of their songs has NO relationship with bands life DREAM THEATER and all that stuff, except only in the sound of the guitars. I think this is one of the most underrated band I´ve ever heard, as most of prog lovers tend to assure this is a pop/rock band. I only can recommend this: You can enjoy prog with lots of fun: Try A.C.T., Zappa, Mr Bungle, Mats & Morgan, etc...

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#17118)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
roland_ekholm
2 stars Their sound is too bombastic. I like to compare this as a pop-version of Spock's Beard and for example City Boy's album "The Day The Earth Caught Fire" is much better than this. It is also a light version of Queen and it is hard to compete with Freddie Mercury on the vocal side. Compared with those groups I understand what is missing; catchy and memorable songs. I've heard this kind of music so many times before.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#17121)
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I received this second album of ACT, a Sweden band, approx two weeks ago from the missingpiece.net. As I have listened to and enjoyed their first and third album (which also the latest) so I could predict what the music would look like with this album. And my prediction did not fall off track as this one is not different with the others. It delivers an upbeat, energetic and mostly fast tempo music with neat and precise arrangement in a cabaret style. There are frequent use of string section with violin and cellos especially during transition in quieter passages. Guitar riffs are not typical in progressive metal style but it has a balanced combination with rhythm style. ACT has successfully maintained their music consistently from their critically acclaimed debut album "Today's Report" to the last one "Last Epic".

This album comprises 6 individual tracks and another 8 tracks that form an epic called "Relationship - The Long One". As my CD is re-mastered edition it contains bonus materials, i.e. one bonus track "Mouse In A Maze" and a video footage that features "The Making of Imaginary Friends".

"Take It Easy" opens the album with an excellent combination of keyboard and guitar in a very fast tempo followed with an energetic and fast tempo music with nice melody. When the vocal enters the music it creates a happy-go-lucky nuance with an encouraging yet pretty simple lyrics like "Take it easy everyone should take it easy / You got to slow down, everyone should calm down". It's a paradox, isn't it? The lyrics suggest us to slow down but the music is an upbeat one. But it's so entertaining. This song has a great combination of vocal, guitar and keyboard plus dynamic drumming. I do really enjoy this track. Second track "Hippest Flop" performed a bit slower in tempo but still in a happy nuance with some quieter passages during transitions. The vocals harmony is really good; the music is neatly arranged. The style is dynamically changing unpredictably.

Third track "A Supposed Tour" is a hard-driving rhythm song with some progmet flavor during opening, inserted with great violin work and piano. The structure combines the upbeat and slow beat brilliantly. When it reaches the bridge or transition piece the music slows down in melodic way augmented with violin work. The composition is really good as the music is precise and neatly arranged. Something interesting happened when I observed the lyrics of this track. It seems this represents the band's anger about their planned tour. Note this: "Offered to support an act and they were overwhelmed / Took them weeks to plan that trip / Everything was done to keep the costs down, budget was low, of course ." and the other part "Manager excused himself (and said:] - Just come again tomorrow .".

The fourth track "Biggest Mistake" is longer, with 7 minutes duration, and it resembles the similarity with other track of the other albums. Musically this track delivers a continuous flow of music with some sudden change or variation between complex and quieter passage - performed in happy mood. The album title track "Imaginary Friends" casts a little bit different style where the beat is slowing down a even though still in an upbeat tempo. There is some reggae component of this track. "She/Male" starts off with simple drum solo followed with stunning guitar solo followed with rhythm that remarks the entrance of vocal. Piano accompanies the vocal in inventive way - nice sounds.

The epic "Relationships - The Long One" starts with melodic lyrical part with sort of string arrangement and piano. The vocal is great. It flows suddenly to an upbeat music "Svetiana" with vocal and lead guitar at the background. Piano work inserts the music in a similar nuance like the music of CAST (Mexico) especially on piano and keyboard. The solo violin and solo guitar in the middle are stunning, especially when they are backed with an orchestra. The end of this track 8 features nice exploration of violin / cello, guitar and piano. It then moves to the opening of "No Perspective" where the singing style is something you usually hear in musical opera. It's really good! It moves back to high energy, melodic "Second Thoughts" where guitar plays its solo wonderfully! The music flows to riff-based music to "Mr. Unfaithful" where the guitar plays heavy riffs combined with orchestration and guitar solo. Oh man . this is really great. Especially when the keyboard and guitar performs solo. It's a great composition. With this track it proves that ACT is a band that is very hard to beat. It's a great band. "Gamophobia" is a short bridge. "Little Beauty" is a beautifully crafted song with excellent opening through piano / keyboard followed with excellent vocal. The soft passages with violin solo and keyboard / piano are truly stunning. The last track of the epic has so much empty space. The ending part is not the kind of music that ACT used to play, performed mellow with low register notes on vocal augmented with violin, cello and keyboard. It's not something that please my ears. But it's probably the band's effort to push their music.

Overall, this album is not as great as the other two albums by which I gave five stars individually. The weak point is on the epuc where it does not sound like a cohesive one even though eah individual track is excellent - except the last one. To me it's like disjointed part or a collection of songs instead of an epic. But I still consider this as an excellent addition to any prog collection (four stars) with a possibility to increase potentially into five stars. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#38153)
Posted Friday, July 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars If "Imaginary Friends" is any indication of their entire catalog, then A.C.T. is a disappointment. Ola Andersson is one talented guitarist, but his work seems wasted on rather uninspiring and erratic arrangements. The band has some great moments for sure, but the songs all seem to lose direction.

A.C.T. needs to leave the disjointed melodies and weak vocal theatrics behind and concentrate on doing what they do best - playing their instruments. Tracks 10 and 11 give a hint as to what these guys can really do. The Queen and Dream Theater infliuences are there, but to me they sound like a dead ringer for a Canadian band named "Harem Scarem".

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Send comments to MostlyCranky (BETA) | Report this review (#54328)
Posted Tuesday, November 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A dead ringer for Harem Scarem? Ok.....and you are serious? It's like comparing Apples and Hondas. Obviously a statement from a neophite. Harem Scarem is a four piece rock band from Canada who play radio friendly rock/pop. ACT is much more complex, 5 piece, heavy keyboards, huge vocal arrangments, progressive rock band. Imaginary Friends is not an album for those who require simple music that sinks in with the first listen. This album may take a while to grow on you. But it has staying power. It has something for everyone..great guitars, intricate keyboards, melodies,harmonies,production, and execution. Yes, there are similarities to bands such as Queen, Saga, ELO, Dream Theater, etc.. But that is what makes it work. Those are pretty good bands to draw from. But this band takes it a step further. I love it!

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Send comments to DaveFman (BETA) | Report this review (#92084)
Posted Tuesday, September 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A.C.T. is a very nice Swedish band, focussing very much on the comercial easy listening side of progressive rock, with cheerfull tunes, nice guitars and a beautifull voice. The sounds reminds me very much of Valencia, a Dutch musician who became famous with the song and album Gaia and also Queen to a certain extend. Basically it sounds like Metal, pop, with Ska influences (Madness).

Short melody lines and quickely changing from heavy to simple, totally love this type of rock music, very cheerfull really. Not for people who want music to be depressing, for that's not happening here.

A very enjoyable album, listen yourself, fun is guaranteed.

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Send comments to tuxon (BETA) | Report this review (#93787)
Posted Sunday, October 08, 2006 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Aaah, Sweden!

Boy oh boy, we should hear more of this genre, but it's kinda hard to describe, there's so much to discover! Apart of the popish Beatles approach, ACT is fueling on Queen/ Savage Garden harmonies, Electric Light Orchestra / Supertramp melodies, Andromeda skills and Arena theatrical side. A splendid melting pot of genres all blended in a personnal fashion.

This record has lots of guitar grips and superb keyboard support, my thumbs are sore for being up all the time. BUT this recipe won't please everybody! Some will say that they spoil a lot of good grooves for the sake of (brutal and sudden) time changes, that they should exploit their heavier side since the juggernaut of talents in the bands ( read everybody).

Some on the other hand will find that the sweet, almost amusing side of the songs should be more put towards. They will say that this band doesn't need heavy guitars to be cool and that the vocals and arrangements are far enough to digest in one listening.

Like it or not, this is close to be the best of their rich discography and one heck of a kick in the arse when you discover them. It's good, it's fun, it rocks and entertain all in one. Despite they could sound like a boy band (like Mind's Eye), they are rockers with a studded pink belt.

To me, this is the most promising group of the second millenium and one of my top 10 albums.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#109840)
Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars

Their sound changed from their first release in a good direction. Now is much more powerful and the rhythmic section is really good. They really have this time that mature sound approach which was missing on the first release. The obvious influence from other bands is not evident as on the first album because the band evolved in a good direction. They made also very important steps in the composition part also.

The same approach on the cover so no change in this direction. This may be not a really good choice. Something else related with the album title could have been much more appropriate. They also maintained their comic/theatrical approach for example on She/Male, Svetlana or No Perspective and also they have an epic song like on the first release.

The conclusion that the band really found they own way of making music and this is something which need be appreciated. This deserved 3.75 stars.

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Send comments to petrica (BETA) | Report this review (#124313)
Posted Friday, June 01, 2007 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
4 stars First signs of a growing fame appear for A.C.T shortly after the release of ''Today's report'', as the Swedish hit the road to play alongside Canadian veterans Saga.Two years later the sophomore album of the band was recorded and released on MTM under the title ''Imaginary friends''.

At this point it is pretty secure to say that A.C.T had established their own personal way to express their ideas.Their QUEEN-meet-ABBA-meet-DREAM THEATER style is fairly grounded on extremely dense and technical musicianship, which surprisingly contains numerous incredible, striking melodies.Elements of Classical Music, Heavy Metal, Rock Opera and cheesy Pop are combined with generosity and intelligence with most of the tracks being pretty short, but sometimes they are tightly connected to form longer pieces.The most amazing thing about the band is the fact that the musicians are virtuosos, executing their parts with technique, but this is very far from a complicated album, this is a monster release full of memorable tunes.A great number of breaks and sudden twists leads from punching Prog Metal with symphonic keyboards to Classical interludes with strings (with no less than four guest female musicians on cello, violin and viola) and from laid-back, lyrical pictures to fast-paced cartoon-like music.The bombastic orchestrations and grandiose moments are constantly present with DREAM THEATER being a dominant influence, but they often lead to syrupy, ballad-like atmospheres with sweet vocals.All tracks are filled with rich sounds and colors, featuring pompous keyboards, strings and guitars with a Neo-Classical style in evidence.Beautiful stuff.

Fantastic release.These guys opened a whole new world for Prog music, later to be honoured by bands such as PROFUSION or SEVEN STEPS TO THE GREEN DOOR.I do not even know how to call this.Neo-Classical Pop Metal?Maybe.Great and highly recommended music.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#144600)
Posted Sunday, October 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
5 stars This definitely my favorite A.C.T album to date! There is not a single weak or average track and on top of that Imaginary Friends also features the best long track compared to the ones off other A.C.T releases. Considering all this I actually have very little to say about this album's content since I believe that the music basically speaks for itself.

I've always considered Ola Andersson's guitar style to be under-appreciated by the general public but just listen to his performance on Svetlana. He switches his performance for every single part of the song while still maintaining a great balance with the rest of the performances. This is what I call great musicianship! I really can't stand when skilled guitarists get attention for playing slick solo performances on band recordings. It's just not enough being great at your craft but instead musicians should be judged by how well they incorporate their performances in the overall band-sound.

I would recommend this album to anyone who likes complex music with a blend of melodic vocals that almost makes you believe that you are listening to a popular rock record! But don't be fooled, there are a lot of musical ideas that you probably will miss upon the first listen. But thanks to the huge replay value you will have no problem of spinning this album enough times to acknowledge this great work of art.

***** star songs: Hippest Flop (4:48) A Supposed Tour (4:41) Imaginary Friends (5:50) At The Altar (0:38) Svetlana (3:42) No Perspective (1:06) Second Thoughts (0:54) Mr. Unfaithful (7:04) Little Beauty (4:18)

**** star songs: Take It Easy (4:27) Biggest Mistake (7:49) She/Male (4:47) Gamophobia (0:46) And They Lived Happily Ever After (7:23)

Total Rating: 4,56

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#163771)
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars My personaly Favorite album!!! it has all the A.C.T elemnets in their best form!!Trully magnifiscent, inspired and VERY VERY original music here! The fisrt 6 songs are so great you can't choose between them.and then it's the big medley of smaller songs as was done on the first album(reminding a little bit of queen at times!). everything is mentionded above so i will only say that this is an album u really have to listent to and ocne you get inside theri music you will love every second of a.c.t.

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Send comments to camelspotter (BETA) | Report this review (#169664)
Posted Saturday, May 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Imaginary Friends is the second full-length studio album by Swedish progressive rock/ metal act A.C.T. Rightly put in the Eclectic prog catagory the music by A.C.T is not easily catagorized as neither rock nor metal and they actually have a very distinct and interesting sound.

The music on the album holds elements from as different bands as Dream Theater ( the Images and Words album), Sieges Even ( the Sophisticated album), 10cc, Queen, ABBA, The Ark ( the Swedish pop/ rock band) and Saga. A mix of progressive metal elements and sophisticated pop/ rock makes this a great mix to my ears. The music is very melodic and most songs are easy to sing along to, but they are complicated enough in their structure to keep a prog head like myself entertained. The album consists of six normal length songs ( 4 to 7 seven minutes long) and a longer track ( 25:51 minutes long) called Relationships which is divided into 8 smaller parts. The music has an overall cheerful mood and the lyrics are generally tongue in cheek. There´s some great humour involved in this band and one of the biggest praises I will give A.C.T for the music on Imaginary Friends is that I feel so much alive when listening to it. It brings so much joy and good feelings into my life. A very positive experience. My favorite on the album is the fast paced A Supposed Tour but album opener Take It Easy also ranks up there. But as such all songs are excellent. Intelligent and memorable compositions.

The musicianship is of high class. This music might have an easy listening pop feeling to it but it´s certainly challenging in terms of technical playing. Keyboardist Jerry Sahlin uses some great sounds IMO and lead vocalist Herman Saming has a distinct high pitched voice that might take some getting used to but he is very skilled. His voice will be an aquired taste though.

The production is very enjoyable. Sharp and clean.

The debut album by A.C.T called Today's Report (1999) was a very enjoyable album but Imaginary Friends takes their positive and powerful concept even further in the right direction and receives a deserved 4 star rating from me. Imaginary Friends is recommended to people who wants some positive progressive music. I know I´m happy.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#204096)
Posted Monday, February 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After the wonderful debut "Today's Report", A.C.T managed to release a very worthy successor...

"Imaginary Friends" is not a departure in style from "Today's Report", and it doesn'st really surpases it in terms of quality... Maybe the main difference, is that "Imaginary Friends" is even more accesible than the band's debut album. Take it Easy is a very catchy song, with a dynamic chorus; She/Male is very funny, similar to Cat Eyes of the previous album; Biggest Mistake is the best track of the album, with a wonderful chorus and ending part, although the song is very reminiscent to Saga... The epic Relationships is also very good, maybe better than the epic Personalities in "Today's Report". So this collection of easy to listen but still complex tracks are maybe perfect for a band's newcomer.

The sound of the band here follow the path of the first album, being a curious mixture of Queen, Saga, Dream Theater, jazz, cabaret... But finally getting a coherent and catchy result. The range of influences is not so high in this second offering, but it's still huge.

Talking about the musicians, the Ola Andersson's guitars are marvellous again... This man has a great style (on Svetlana he rocks!), with a wide range of abbilities, and wonderful sound. The another pilar of A.C.T's distinctive sound are the Jerry Sahlin's keyboards, they give a fundamental part of the band's eclectic prog. The rest of the guys they also play in a great level.

Best tracks: Take it Easy (an A.C.T's trademark song...), Biggest Mistake (the most catchy and emotional song of the album, although it's almost a copy of some Saga classics...) and the epic Relationships (specially Svetlana and Mr. Unfaithful).

Conclusion: "Imaginary Friends" is not better than "Today's Report"... In my opinion, it's even under the the band's debut. Nevertheless, it has more accesible tracks and a great epic, being a worthy purchase both for newcomers and A.C.T's "aficionados".

My rating: ****

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Send comments to The Crow (BETA) | Report this review (#221766)
Posted Friday, June 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Sweden, again. This country is decreasing the value of my 5-star ratings (just joke, this country is proving very prog at all). This one is another guilty pleasure, I feel very good when listening this, but yet I know that maybe I shouldn't. Nevermind, the feeling is the most important thing for me, let's leave all these negative (and unfair thoughts) behind and visit Sweden once again (not last visit I hope ... no, I know).

It's melodic. A lot, but not so much that it would make most people feel bad (every time, there will be someone complaining. Hopefully, because they present different point of view, as Prog-Jester keeps telling me from time to time. And that's good, because I keep forgetting this important fact, also from time to time). It's sometimes hard, like a metal, but in general, it doesn't induct feeling like listening something hard/heavy. I guess that melody element is softening it a lot. Vocals are very interesting, but while listening for example Hippest Flop I feel strange. Good, but again, it's perfect example of these guilty pleasures. Is it good to feel good, is it appropriate ? Well, let's assume that it is, for good sake of everyone. So my suggestion is that we should just enjoy it. That's biggest advantage of this record, but other parts are here too. These that makes goof prog album. Try to watch (hear) bass lines here (you'll be rewarded, don't worry), strings arrangement or these things.

4(+), remember, guilty pleasure ? But it's good to listen mostly these album you're sure you'll like.

EDIT: Can be quite tiring after some time. Not much you know, just it's too much emotions at one time from this album. Let's assume that it's very good album, right ?

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#251180)
Posted Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Second A.C.T. album is interesting one as well as their debut was. Not very usual combination of great melodies, excellent vocal (multi layers), very competent arrangements. Combination of pop-rock, heavy metal and art rock. Are they "Queen" of XXI century?

Difficult to say, and they don't have such great thing as Freddy's vocals on board. But ,let say seriously - they are capable to take this niche. I like strings and piano sound, rhythm changing, strong back-up vocals, perfect melodies. Lead vocalist is great even if not so recognizable as Freddy Mercury.

Really nice and different album. Happily, without overloading of metal riffs, they could destroy this great music.

Recommended! Not for heavy metal purists for sure, but for wide range of art-rock lovers and for everyone who missed these interesting eclectic sound combinations from late 70-s.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#269119)
Posted Monday, March 01, 2010 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team
4 stars What makes me like A.C.T so much is their unique blending of styles.

Since I listened to their debut Today's Report, I've payed more and more attention, cause they're Progressive Metal, but they aren't, they're AOR, but they aren't, they're are classic Prog Rock, but they aren't.

THAT makes them interesting, you can see a heavy riff AND a violin, like in 'A Supposed Tour'. You have all these pop melodies all around, and Herman Saming vocals are unique!

I guess they have a unique sound in general, I, at least, don't know any other band that looks like them!

It's good to see they are recording a new album right now as I'm writting this little review.

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Send comments to ProgShine (BETA) | Report this review (#810984)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A.C.T from Sweden is one of the intresting bands emerged in progressive field in last decade or so. Imaginary friends is their second album from 2001 and by far their best from all 4 albums released byt he band so far. This type of prog is so hunted by many listners in last decade, with fat sound and great ideas overall. The music is a mixed of everything with influences from Queen, Styx, bombastic arrangements and they toying even with some prog metal passages, but in the end A.C.T. is nothing but an excellent band with their own ideas and delivering a very solid album. All pieces are strong special, at least for me the first part of the album, with great guitars, nice voice and blistering musicianship.This is the type of singable release, happy atmosphere and fun to listen. 4 stars easy, definetly thir most complete album.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#838193)
Posted Monday, October 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars ACT is a fun-loving and disco-loving hard rock, sometimes metal band from Sweden. And with songs such as Hippest Flop (or, Hip Pest Flop, as sometimes I've seen this title written) and She.Male how could you not be fun? OK, sometimes they're serious. But mostly they love good melodic hooks. They also tend to abruptly switch between heavier and more poppy, sometimes borderline saccharine, keyboard-led sections, often within the same verse. That might seem really progressive, or jarring, depending on your point of view. What detracts me slightly from Imaginary Friends is the dirty, cavernous guitar sound, coming across as if someone turned on the surround option on an 90s boom box. But hey, ACT is the only band me and my wife can listen to together, and for that I am grateful.

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Send comments to Progrussia (BETA) | Report this review (#1140665)
Posted Sunday, March 02, 2014 | Review Permalink

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