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Active Heed - Visions From Realities CD (album) cover


Active Heed

Crossover Prog

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Errors & Omissions Team
2 stars Active Heed is, in fact, a musical project whose leader is the Italian, Umberto Pagnini. After writing the songs he called a bunch of musicians to help him put his work on a CD. The base of musicians that played in Visions From Realities (2013) consists of the trio Lorenzo Poli (bass, guitars and keyboards), Giovanni Giorgi (drums) and PelleK (vocals). He also had some help with the vocals by Marit Børresen and Mark Colton.

Before I start to talk about the songs from Visions From Realities (2013) I have to give a warning. This album was sent to me by the band a couple of months ago and the band knew that I only reviewed Prog Rock albums. In fact, Active Heed has been reviewed mainly in the Prog Rock circuits but I must be honest and say that the amount of Prog Rock in the album is way too little.

As soon as Visions From Realities (2013) begins with 'Flying Like A Fly' one can actually notice that even if Active Heed has Prog influences, they're far from being a Prog band. In fact, as the album goes forward the only prog moments are in the songs 'Awake?!', 'Now What?' and 'Me, Five Seconds Before'. These songs have a slightly Prog influence, but they're more inclined to be acoustic Rock/Pop songs with nice and weird keyboards. But that's not really enough Prog for Active Heed to be called a Prog band. In fact, I really don't think they should be qualified as such.

As the songs go by, we notice that Pop is the big thing here. 'With Joy' is an acoustic ballad in its first minute and then it changes to something that? Kings Of Leon would play. And then in 'Forest And Joy' we have a 'Spanish' piece completely Pop oriented. 'The Weakness Of Our Spinning' is a very nice acoustic piece and 'Without Joy' a nice Alternative Rock song. And sometimes I have the impression that they look a bit like Green Violinist in some songs.

'If I Will Never Be' is a very strong track and possibly the best on Visions From Realities (2013). It has a great musical progression. But then the band goes on with 'Me, One Second Before Johan Robeck' and they're completely Pop again. To complete the album we have firstly 'Usual Plays In Heaven ? Be Kind And Talk To Me'. The first part with the mentioned female vocals and the second part has nothing to do with the first. And secondly 'Our Vast Emptiness' that has a kind of? Nickelback thing going on.

In general, Active Heed has a very strong debut album with Visions From Realities (2013), but not from a Progressive Rock point of view. This album shouldn't be sold as Prog Rock cause it isn't. From the Progressive Rock point of view the album has very little or nothing. I'm not saying this is a bad album, cause it isn't. Visions From Realities (2013) is a very good Rock/Pop album that has been very well played and very well produced, in fact it could be played in most FM Radios. If this is the band's goal, they're in the right way. But if they want to be a Prog Rock band? they'll need to change loads of things.

2.5 stars

(Originally posted on

Report this review (#1031855)
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
2 stars I really tried with this album. I really did. There's just something missing from the sound here. Not that this album is incredibly BAD in any way. However, sometimes I'd rather an album be sheer crap than for it to be simply so-so. There just nothing here for me to latch onto right now.

This is another example of the recent surge of "prog pop". Now, the other band I've heard recently, The Twenty Committee, is really good and has much heart, not to mention chops. However, with Active Heed, the pop comes through more in a lack of skill or lack of composition. The whole album is light and airy, but nothing more than uninspired acoustic guitar lines and very simple, nasally vocal melodies fills the space. Now, I can deal with pop vocals when they accompany strong melodies and interesting structure, but Active Heed just plays a bunch of pop songs with some instrumental portions here and there: Instrumental portions, that is, that are full of incredibly simple guitar work and a few good keyboard lines. Overall, though, there isn't much to speak of in way of melody.

I mean, you know there's something wrong with an album when my favorite track is "Forest and Joy"; a three-minute, repetitive song with a good hook. Seriously, I don't think prog is about a killer hook, but even good hooks are mysteriously absent from the rest of the album. The consequences of all this is that the album just goes on and on, even though it's not a horribly long album. But, when there's nothing but filler from start to finish, this feeling is unavoidable.

The last half of the album is definitely better. There are some interesting keys here and there, and maybe a little more experimentation, too. But by the time we get there, we don't care anymore. We just want it to be done. This is a decent attempt overall, but I think failure is the name of the game.

Report this review (#1032910)
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have listened to "Visions from Realities" on Progstreaming, where its vivid colored album art called my attention. First of all, I'd like to give an advice: when you listen to "Visions from Realities" start with the first song and go through all the album up to the last song without stops. Because this album is a story, it's a one-hour story told in 15 beautiful chapters. Like all stories, it has its happy and its sad episodes, being the happiest point of the story "With Joy" against the desperation in "Without Joy", it has a love story in "Forest and Joy" and some surreal episodes like "Me, One Second Before Johan Robeck". The sound of this album is, I might say, elegant. Pellek's vocals are simply incredible with his range of different tones. The presence of acoustic instruments is delightful, specially the acoustic guitar that is clearly present all through the album. Electric guitars are present but discreet, great bass that adapts to each one of the different songs. Sublime drums and keyboards (which remind me at times of Clive Nolan). In short, a great production. A great album to be enjoyed from beginning to end, very recommendable.
Report this review (#1034833)
Posted Saturday, September 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I wanted to let the world know that I just discovered a great prog gem! I like Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Van Der Graaf, Jethro Tull... and all the Italian progressive music but "Visions From Realities" goes far beyond being modern, fresh and not a repetition of old clichés. "Visions From Realities" is a concept album and must be listened to from the beginning to the last songs to better understand the complete story behind the lines. I like the choice to have left less then usual time between a song and another one. It helps to follow better the mood of the music. It is like one of those films in which you arrive at the end of the screening without realizing that an hour and a half has passed.

'Flying Like A Fly' is a happy ballad with influences of early prog folk rock. It's a perfect intro to the story with that relaxing feeling typical of the good old days.

'Awake?!' expresses the positive mood of the main character of the story with references to neo-progressive of the 80's

'Now What?' and 'Me, Five Seconds Before' and two joint songs. They are fresh and together with 'With Joy' and 'Melting Of Realities' show the high quality of the musicians who participated to the album.

'Forest And Joy' I suppose it's a description of the love life between two persons who love each other (I didn't find the complete lyrics on the internet so I'm not 100% sure in this case) I very much appreciated the classic guitar solo at the end of the song.

'The Weakness Of Our Spinning' is a moment of calm, acoustic and soft. Lyrics tell about the weakness of life and our common destiny.

'Without Joy': the title says everything. They would not have been able to better express the sense of despair and rage for the loss of a person you love.

'Every Ten Seconds Before' is a five stars masterpiece built on 7 different parts perfectly integrated the ones on the others in a gradual growth of complexity.

'FFF Flashing Fast Forward' is a 7/8 rhythm song!

'If I Will Never Be' is a slowly growing song with a magnificent final in Yes style.

'Me, One Second Before Johan Robeck' immediately caught my curiosity. I searched for "Johan Robeck" on the Internet and found the reason for the referring to. It's an ironic song for clever and open minds perfectly in line with our times.

'Usual Plays In Heaven - Be Kind And Talk To Me' I think is probably the most "commercial" song of the album and could be a great success also in other genres of rock/melodic music.

'Our Vast Emptiness' begins with a super bass and finishes with a growing in volume and number of instruments played and at its very end, it repeats the first part of Flying Like A Fly (the first song of the album) giving an impression of a kind of loop of the entire album.

This album has nothing less in quality that the best album of the progressive music production. I also appreciated the quality of the sound in general compared with the other music I use to listen to from the Internet. I'm sure Active Heed is having great success with this album and found on their website that they are already working on the second. Looking forward to hear more songs then!

Report this review (#1115387)
Posted Friday, January 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Italian project ACTIVE HEED is the creative vehicle of composer Umberto Pagnini, and rather than a common band project with a main composer handling one or more instruments Active Heed appears to be a true project band where Pagnini employs friends and acquaintances to record his material while his own role is limited to be the composer. "Visions from Realities" is the first album to be issued under the Active Heed moniker, and was self released in 2013.

Active Heed's debut album "Visions From Realities" is a production that should have a fairly broad overall appeal, with plenty of accessible compositions of a fairly straightforward nature sharing space with creations taking on an approach in terms of structure or arrangements that does have more of a sophisticated nature to them. Those fond of accessible, careful and melodic progressive rock should find plenty to enjoy on this one, especially if you have a taste for elements of a subtly theatrical nature.

Report this review (#1135949)
Posted Saturday, February 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Throughout the 70's a common practice in Italy were albums composed by one or two composers but performed by a different line-up with no instrumental involvement of the writer/s.Four decades later, in 2012, Italian composer/lyricist Umberto Pagnini follows the same tactics.He composed an album for a central figure named Forest and his emotional adventures and invited a few musicians to execute the music.Project was named ''Active Heed'', the album's title was ''Visions from realities'' and the basic line-up was Lorenzo Poli on bass/guitars/keyboards, Per Fredrik Asly (aka PelleK) on vocals and Giovanni Giorgi on drums with Marit Borresen and Mark Colton of Credo fame guesting on vocals.The album was released independently in June 2013.

At first listening the music sounded very straightforward, poppy and out of any progressive enviroment.Several spins later the majesty of the concept was finally unleashed and reached my ears.This is Progressive Pop at its best, not recommended to fans seeking for extremely intricate music, but a great work for anyone after melodic and memorable music.Split in 15 tracks, the album, according to Pagnini, is a compact story with diferent moments in the life of Forest.The music is very optimistic and enjoyable with fantastic vocals by PelleK and dense musicianship, which is based on fast paces and electroacoustic rhythms, while there is a deep keyboard background with piano, organ and synthesizers dominating the atmosphere.''Visions from realities'' is based on its well-crafted melodies and harmonies and Pagnini has dome an impressive work, producing memorable and striking material with a loud sound and a beautiful balance between instrumental and vocal sections.The atmosphere recalls some of CHRIS' solo works, where the music is performed with tension, passion, sense of melody and rich musicianship.The basic components do come from Pop Rock, but there are strong Jazz, Folk and Classical colors throughout the album, eventually creating inventive and solid Progressive Pop.

''Visions from realities'' does not head to fans of King Crimson, Magma or Gentle Giant.This is intelligent Pop Music with progressive overtones, recommended for endless spinning when you are in a bad mood.Nice stuff.

Report this review (#1212413)
Posted Saturday, July 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars A couple of months, thanks to the social media facility I got in touch with Umberto Pagnini, who talked to me about his project named Active Heed; he kindly asked me to listen to his music, first with this debut album, and later with the second one (which I am reviewing soon). I am always thankful to people who really want to spread the word, musicians who work hard and deserve our attention, Umberto is of course one of them, which is why I am dedicating this (and the following) review(s) to him.

So "Visions from Realities" is the first Active Heed child, in which the music is actually performed by Pagnini's friends. It features 15 tracks, most of them are short, however the music flows and it could be one long 50-minute track divided in 15 passages. The music you will find here has a slightly symphonic tendency, but is not the common progressive rock from classic bands, this album builds an enigmatic atmosphere surrounded by a light sound, which is easy to dig. "Flying like a Fly" is the title of the first piece, and since the very first seconds a pastoral and soft sound can be appreciated. Mellow vocals accompanied by a nice guitar sound continue for 2 minutes, then the intensity increases, and a change is perceived when "Awake?!" starts.

Acoustic and electric guitar start in a soft and catchy way, bass and drums are also there and after some seconds vocals join. Then you don't realize but you are already listening to "Now What?", and what is different in this track is the addition of keyboards as background, maybe I would've like to perceive a louder keyboard sound, taking the main role. Anyway, the music is enjoyable and I repeat, easy to dig, which might be a double- edged weapon, because you could either enjoy it or maybe get bored. The music flows as one entity, it is not easy to notice when a new song starts, at least in the first listens. "Me Five Seconds Before" is faster and with a chorus that you may want to sing, but honestly this particular piece is not that tasty.

Now a change can be appreciated because all gets quiet and "With Joy" begins. Acoustic guitar and vocals are there; the same style for a minute and then the music changes, becoming a bit rockier, but with a really catchy sound, and though I don't dare saying this is a kind of prog-pop, it is not far from it. "Melting of Realities" is a very nice track with a kind of folkish tune that perfectly complements the last piece. The vocal work is pretty good, emotional and heartfelt, this is one of my favorite passages of the album. "Forest and Joy" is a friendly tune which includes some electronic effects as background, while bass and drums constantly play and acoustic guitar adds some nice Spanish-like notes. Nice track, but I think this one is even closer to pop, which is not bad, but for purists may be out of place.

"The Weakness of our Spinning" follows the same path, in fact, the whole album could be categorized as acoustic guitar oriented music with a mellow voice and a friendly sound. I like listening to it, it brings peace, but I admit it is not for an everyday listen. The next track is one of the rockiest of the album. "Without Joy" puts more emotions and a joyful atmosphere, there is a piano as background which can be better perceived with good headphones, but sometimes I think the voice is lost somewhere. "Every Ten Seconds Before" is the longest composition with almost 6 minutes of length. The vertiginous sound of the previous track vanishes and here again a soft and catchy one reappears. The value of this track lies on its intensity and changes that produces after a couple of minutes, where the symphonic rock appears. This might be the best track of the album.

And though I like the album, I think one has to be in the mood in order to enjoy it completely, and I say this because I think the same soft and friendliness of it could make your ears feel tired after some repetitive tunes, I remembered this happened to me the first time I listened to "F F F Flashing Fast Forward", which is a nice song by the way, but not the best at all. "If I will never be" is another nice track that flows naturally; I like the keyboard/piano background, it puts different nuances which are healthy for the music in order to fight the repetitiveness it might bring.

"Me, One Second before Johan Robeck" is a track whose rhythm is constantly increasing on intensity, both musically and emotionally. After a couple of minutes there is a chaotic passage which sounds like a dark moment on a classical opera. Very nice to hear this experimentation in the album. "Usual Plays in Heaven/Be Kind and Talk to me" gives another surprise with the inclusion of a female voice in the first minute; later electronic noises appear and the male voice returns. And the album finishes with "Our Vast Emptiness", whose sound sums up the Active Heed style.

Well, I liked it and though I am sure this is far from being a progressive rock masterpiece, one could dig it without a problem. Not a memorable album, but you can give it a spin every once in a while. My final grade will be 2 stars.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#1282852)
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | Review Permalink

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