Released: 20th April
Released By: Frontiers Music Srl
Steve Overland – Vocals \ Guitars
Merv Goldsworthy – Bass
Pete Jupp – Drums
Jim Kirkpatrick – Guitars
Jem Davis – Keyboards
Digging Up The Dirt
You’re The Best Thing About Me
Life Is A Highway
Fire And Rain
Call On Me
Shape I’m In
Somedays I Only Wanna Rock
I Want You
Walking With Angels
Sometimes you have to feel sorry for FM. To consistently deliver albums of such high quality means that fans’ expectations go up and the band of course are under increasing pressure to come up with the goods every time. To say that they comfortably manage to produce those goods does them a disservice as I’m sure that the time and effort taken to write, record and produce the 12 tracks on the album is considerable. Unfortunately, they DO make it seem easy. Yet again we have an album of the highest quality that sits neatly alongside the best of their work to date.
A huge career gap was finally closed thanks to THAT headlining show in October 2007 at Firefest in Nottingham and the subsequent comeback album Metropolis was released to critical acclaim in March 2010. Since then we’ve had album length E.P.s to ensure the fans are kept happy, Pledge campaign albums Rockville I & II and now latest release Heroes and Villains.
Every band who has successfully embarked on a second career needs a new creative spark to keep things moving. Look at Europe for example. A ten year gap from recording has now seen them deliver their 5th album of blues tinged classic rock and they seem as driven as ever to continue. FM’s spark arrived in the form of Jim Kirkpatrick whose guitar work on everything from Metropolis to date has been phenomenal. One only has to look at the band on stage to realise the energy and hunger is there in spades. It’s no surprise then that opening track on Heroes and Villains, Digging Up The Dirt, has a great big riff underpinning the track. Steve Overland’s vocals need no comment other than to say that the smoothest set of pipes in melodic rock sound as strong as ever allowing the listener to settle into the groove of the album within the first 30 seconds. All the trademark FM styles are there. Merv Goldsworthy and Pete Jupp make everything sound big, Jem Davis’ keyboard sound is fresh and modern and not tinged with any 80s parp or pomp that can mire AOR albums.
You’re The Best Thing About Me with its Def Leppard inspired vocal harmonies again allows Steve to prove why he’s rightly regarded so highly as a vocalist. Life Is A Highway sneaks a little bit of American Girls from their brilliant début into the mix just to keep the long term fans happy. Fire And Rain brings in a classic rock groove with some “whoah oahs” thrown in for good measure at the beginning of the track. Definitely a track for consideration when deciding what to play live when the band tour the UK in Spring.
Now of course, no FM album is complete without the ballads. There are tracks littered throughout FM’s history that other bigger AOR acts would have loved to have written and Incredible ticks all of the boxes that denotes a future fan favourite as well. They save the best for last though and the album plays out with Walking With Angels, opening with soft acoustic guitar playing, beautiful harmonising from the band and Steve doing, well, simply what Steve does best as he sings “I found heaven on the day that I found you”. This song deserves to be huge and may be one of the best tracks the band have ever written.
FM never rush a release but ensure the fans are catered for with the aforementioned E.P.s. March 2014 saw the release of Futurama containing Cold Hearted as a taster for the new album and that now finds itself sitting comfortably in the middle of the track listing like an old friend that was waiting to reacquaint themselves.
To identify a firm favourite that sums up everything I like about FM, then look no further than Big Brother. I’ve always preferred the harder rocking side of FM and Big Brother delivers in style. A great anthemic chorus that makes for a perfect driving track. Picture the open road, the sun is out, the roof of the car is down and FM is on the stereo. Ideal scenario right? In reality, you’re probably stuck in traffic on the motorway, the roof is up because it’s raining and visibility is pretty poor. Big Brother is however playing on the stereo so it does at least get you through the pain and keeps that element of road rage tucked away whilst you turn everything up to 11. “FM- Keeping Britain’s Roads Safe“.
The classic rock elements on the album are as prevalent as the AOR side of things and this is ably demonstrated on Somedays I Only Wanna Rock And Roll which would feel perfectly at home in a small dimly lit, smoky venue in the 70s being played by a band like The Faces.
To sum up the modern FM would be to compare them to Bad Company at their height. Smooth classy vocals, great guitar work and a rhythm section to die for. What sets them apart from the rest and adds to the sum of all things then is addition of Jem’s subtle but defining keyboard work. FM have always had keyboards in the mix of course but the style and delivery gives them that classic rock feel rather than the 80s AOR band of old. In the same way Europe have redefined themselves and gotten a new lease of life, so FM have managed the same and are thriving once more.
Keep it up lads, this is again, fantastic!
Written by Adrian Hextall
Ratings Adrian 9/10
FM commence their tour on May 1st 2015