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ACTIVE HEED

Crossover Prog • Italy


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Active Heed biography
Italian project ACTIVE HEED is the creative vehicle of composer Umberto Pagnini. The project was born, developed and written in full by him. To help him realize his creation he called upon a trio of musicians he knows to record his material, with additional vocals by up and coming Norwegian artist Marit Børresen and Mark Colton of Credo fame.

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Visions From RealitiesVisions From Realities
Import
Imports 2013
Audio CD$11.91
$32.50 (used)
Higher DimensionsHigher Dimensions
CD Baby 2014
Audio CD$20.34
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ACTIVE HEED discography


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ACTIVE HEED top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.45 | 57 ratings
Visions From Realities
2013
2.82 | 11 ratings
Higher Dimensions
2014

ACTIVE HEED Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ACTIVE HEED Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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ACTIVE HEED Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ACTIVE HEED Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Higher Dimensions by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2014
2.82 | 11 ratings

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Higher Dimensions
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by lucas
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Band with varying line-up (only the vocalist, Per Fredrik Åsly, aka PelleK, is left from the recording sessions of the first album, published in 2013), Active Heed is the brainchild of Umberto Pagnini, a big fan of progressive rock, who writes the lyrics and the music, without being involved himself in the performance. In order to make his compositions come true on 'Higher dimensions', he asked a bunch of experienced musicians to lend him a hand: Cristiano Roversi (Moongarden, Mangalla Vallis) on keyboards and bass, but also in charge of arrangements, Gian Maria Roveda (Moongarden, Mangalla Vallis) on drums and Mirco Ravenoldi (Catafalchi del Cyber) on guitar. With vintage keyboards, Hammond organ, ubiquitous mellotrons, pastoral passages brought by a luminous acoustic guitar or an enchanting flute ("Ternary level one"), aerial guitars and hesitating drums (Genesis' "Apocalypse in 9/8" often springs to mind), Active Heed's music, while accessible, doesn't hide its progressive influences. Besides, the young vocalist steming from the world of metal music, this other influence can be witnessed in passages lead by roaring guitars on one hand, surprisingly akin to to thrash metal (the versatile "The war of tempos", "The number of God", "No speed limit", and "Not left and not taken") and in rhythm accelerations on the other hand. The metal leanings are nonetheless far less obvious in the low-pitched and theatrical voice (quite close to Michael Sadler) that can switch from melancholy to enthusiasm, always in a moderate way, far from the eccentricities of our singer's beloved musical genre. This humble attitude could be perceived by some listeners as a lack of dynamism, but in the end it fits quite well the overall atmosphere. Moreover, the melancholy that soars from PelleK's voice is not a brake to melodic arrangements. In fact, even if we are standing on a complex ground, our ears are caressed in permanence by melodic winds, borne as much by whirling synths and aerial guitars, as catchy and passionate choruses. When the first Active Heed album got released, it divided reviewers, many of them regretting that the pop side was brought too much forward. With 'Higher dimensions', Umberto Pagnini seems to have taken into account the criticisms and prog elements abound this time, yet, much to our delight, they are there only to provide more depth to the melodic purpose of a band that stays far from any flashy showing-off. The only complaint I have is with the brutal stop of some tracks ("The war of tempos", "A little bit expired", "The numbers of God", "Crop squares" and "A pet called prime").

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 Higher Dimensions by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2014
2.82 | 11 ratings

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Higher Dimensions
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams

1 stars I'm going to preface this review by stating one thing: out of all the albums I've heard in 2014 thus far, this is by far the absolute wurst. I mean, it's real junk food. I can't help it, really. Last year, Active Heed (Umberto Pagnini) released their/his debut album, "Visions from Realities". It was met with questionable praise, and, honestly, wasn't even progressive at all. Well, give me a lollie and smack me silly, but this sophomore album "Higher Dimensions" is exactly the opposite of its name. It's abysmal. Even excretory at points. Totally laughable.

That sounds harsh, right? You'd be right. "Higher Dimensions" is like the leftovers in the refrigerator that you forgot were there, and now there's something disturbingly ripe and hairy about them. Utter squash, in other words. Avoid it completely. The band (actually just a studio band that plays the music that Umberto writes) attempts to mix the classic prog bands, such as Genesis or Yes, with the smoother sounds of Arena or Pendragon. Just mentioning those amazing bands in this review, in all honestly, is utter bologna. Even though a band names influences, it doesn't mean that the band will try to make the sound their own somehow. Active Heed, however, tries to copy the sounds of the past, but fails miserably and excruciatingly. It's like comparing spam to steak, or shrimp to lobster. It's like a bad cover band, and the beer at the show tastes like piss. In other words, you got nothing out of the experience.

So, you're asking, what's actually going wrong here? Well, you see, Active Heed seems to think that there's a recipe for progressive rock. Add a bit of keys, a dash of guitar solo, and make sure you don't forget to throw in some time signature changes, or else no one will call you prog (that's the mistake he made on the first album). So, they tried to follow the recipe, but ended up with garbage clippings instead of filet mignon. Time signature changes are literally thrown in, seemingly randomly, for the complete heck of it. The bass player is playing the notes, but there isn't a single instance of groove or rhythm anywhere. The guitarist plays some solos here and there, but there isn't an ounce of soul or emotion in any of them. The vocalist is singing, but, in all honesty, is bound by the worst vocal melodies I've ever heard and also some of the dumbest lyrics, too. I couldn't get over how horrendous the vocal melodies are, as the vocalist seems to be singing just to be singing. It's a completely phoned-in performance by the band, and I can understand, as the writing is 100% cheese and by-the-prog-book.

Each song manages to be "blah" in its own way. Honestly, you'll find yourself wishing for the end of each one, too. Every time I heard the sound of synth, my heart rose, but I ended up being disappointed, like a stale dessert bar at a two-bit wedding reception. You get your hopes up for some smooth chocolate, some moist cake, or maybe even some old- fashioned pie. What you get, though, is definitely old, but also moldy, putrid, and gives you a headache. The final track is the high point of the album. "Not Left and Not Taken" has a decent keyboard solo at the end, and even some aura, too. It doesn't make up for the rest of the song or album, though. A few good spots in moldy bread do not warrant keeping the whole thing. Throw the entire loaf in the dump.

I don't like to be mean. I really don't. Yet, Active Heed has made a name for themselves by spamming the Internet. Ironically, their music is like spam, and not even the crispy fried kind. I almost wonder how many of their fans have actually heard their music. I've lost count of how many times I've gotten a message asking me to like their page. In reality, this album is way worse than the first, as at least that one sounded like a genuine effort. This album only gets worse with each listen, and the stale, rotten vocal lines make listening to it a real chore. The band plays well, but the notes are uninspired and seemingly forced together to try to achieve "prog". What this band is missing, however, is that prog is not the sum of a list of parts, but rather an attitude and an ambition that are clearly missing from this album. In the end, this album is completely bland, vanilla, and worthy of the trash heap.

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 Visions From Realities by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.45 | 57 ratings

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Visions From Realities
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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.

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 Visions From Realities by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.45 | 57 ratings

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Visions From Realities
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator 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.

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 Visions From Realities by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.45 | 57 ratings

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Visions From Realities
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by ProgJapan

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!

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 Visions From Realities by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.45 | 57 ratings

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Visions From Realities
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by MagdalenaProg

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.

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 Visions From Realities by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.45 | 57 ratings

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Visions From Realities
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams

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.

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 Visions From Realities by ACTIVE HEED album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.45 | 57 ratings

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Visions From Realities
Active Heed Crossover Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions and Crossover 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 progshine.net)

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