Back in the days of the 80’s, when yours truly was more or less obsessed with melodic rock and AOR – for a while there, I was totally convinced that EVERY hard rock and metal band should have a keyboard player and big, catchy choruses… – a band like FM should have been right up my alley. I mean, just look at the name. FM! It doesn’t get more AOR than that. So, in the age of 1986, when my whole world did orbit around bands like Def Leppard, Europe, Bon Jovi and the likes, FM released their, now classic debut album Indiscreet. I became aware of that band when another AOR loving friend of my brother’s brought that album to our house and, of course, I threw myself over that album. But, the fact is, I wasn’t all that impressed. My brother was. And his friend. But not me. It was a good album, sure, but it wasn’t great. And that is something I still feel today about that album. Good, but not great. Fast forward three years and we were writing 1989 in our calendars and at work, a friend of mine, also heavily into melodic rock and AOR at the time, asked me if I had heard of a band named FM. He had just bought their new album Tough It Out and told me it was awesome. Having heard that before and remembering that I wasn’t as impressed with Indiscreet, I was sceptical, but I decided to give it chance. I was blown away, to say the least and all of a sudden I had hopes for FM might be one of those bands that put out killer after killer for many years to come. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. To me, all the records after the brilliant Tough It Out has returned to the “good, but not great” quality. With the arrival of grunge and nu-metal in the 90’s, both their music and their name became impossible and the band split up for a while. The whole “good, not great” thing made me only shrug my shoulders when I heard that the band had reunited in 2009 with first their E.P. Wildside and their 2010 album Metropolis, so I missed those completely. Don’t ask me why, but something in me wanted to check out the follow-up from 2013, called Rockville. Get my surprise and astonishment when that album blew me the fuck away. To be honest, that album made Tough It Out look like a demo in comparison. At the time, I gave it only 8/10 and I say only because it has grown on me since and it deserves at least a 9 today. They also released Rockville II just months later, an album with the songs that didn’t make it to the first one. I truly get why they wanted to release those songs because leftovers like that shouldn’t be kept in a vault somewhere, the world needs to hear them. The second Rockville album was almost as great as the first one and neither has left my iPhone since 2013. And now, for the first time ever, I looked forward – big time – to a new FM release. And this time with some major expectations – and then some.
For a good reason, I haven’t paid any attention to the videos released prior to this album, I wanted to hear the album as a whole. Besides, in all honesty, I was afraid that one of the songs would leave me underwhelmed and thereby erasing some of the expectations I had for this record. I really wanted this album to be great – something that can be fatal if the record doesn’t reach my expectations. Only a minor lack of quality and the whole thing might fall apart for me. However, after opener and first video “Digging Up The Dirt” is finished, I worry no more. The song is bloody fantastic. With some in-your-face guitars, a late 80’s groove and enough catchiness to sell, this song is melodic rock heaven. In a fair world, this is a major hit. The following track, “You’re The Best Thing About Me” is also single material and AOR at its best. It shows a big Def Leppard influence and a melody that Desmond Child would sell his mother to write. Next up is another pre-album video, “Life Is A Highway”. First I thought it might be a cover of the old Rascal Flatts song, if it had it would have been getting a front spot in my Cars and Lightning McQueen loving son’s playlist right away, but it wasn’t. Instead, this original turns out to be a hard rock AOR groover and a hit to be. I’m thinking driving real fast with your top-lift down with this one in the car speakers – awesome! “Fire And Rain” blew me away hard. It’s a bluesy hard rock song with a twist of AOR and my guess is that it will become a future live favourite. “Incredible” has the perfect title because it really says it all – that’s what this song is – incredible. It’s a Bon Jovi – esque ballad with shitloads of soul. And that’s Bon Jovi when they were great, not the band of the last 15 years that totally blows, that I’m talking about. “Call On Me” is a brilliant pop song with rock undertones, catchy as hell it puts a big smile on my face and makes me move from the first chord, can’t sit still to that one. One thing that I have liked with the album so far is that it’s pretty unpredictable for being an AOR band. Usually, AOR-bands stick to their formula and are pretty anal about their genre. But, FM are beyond that, FM throws in influences from all over the place, be it soul, blues, hard rock and in the next track, “Cold Hearted”, they throw in a bit of sleaze. If that’s intentional, I don’t know, but a little sleaze has never hurt anyone and here it only enriches the song’s 80’s melodic hard rock. Add some catchiness in both riffs and melodies and you can figure out just how great this song is. “Shape I’m In” is a hard rock hit if there ever was one and it must be a future single. Must be! It takes us right back to 1985, but with a 2015 twist and the song is so damn catchy, I’m almost lost for words. “Big Brother” is another really great melodic hard rocker. The song has a swinging and soulish beat and groove and it reminds me a bit of another of FM’s `brother´ songs, “Brother Take Me Home” from Rockville II. “Somedays I Just Want To Rock And Roll” – what a great title and I guess that someday came when they recorded this album, because this both rocks and rolls. This is what you get if you mix “Hide Your Heart” (Kiss, Bonnie Tyler, Robin Beck, Ace Frehley and Molly Hatchet) and The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar”. As a matter of fact, the whole song has big Rolling Stones vibe over it, only in a more melodic rock way. It’s as cool as it’s gets! “I Want You” is another high quality single candidate. With a fantastic hook and a bluesy and soulful groove, the song should go down well even outside AOR / melodic rock circles. The album closes with the amazing ballad “Walking With Angels”. Even though I can be sucker for a great power ballad, this is not one of those. This song feels real to the bone with a lot of heart and soul. It shouldn’t leave anyone untouched.
I heard already by first listen that this album would be a winner, but now, both two and three times later, it’s more than a winner – it’s a real killer, a contender for the Album Of The Year. Best FM record to date? You bet. There’s not one bad second on the whole album, every song is just bloody fantastic and the record really knocked me down for six. The production is really sharp as well. The album is self-produced with mixing help from one Jeff Knowler and judging by the way this record sounds, these guys knows their way around the studio. The sound is loud and in your face, but not too much on the red because it works just as well in your stereo as it does on your phone / mp3-player. I also like that the sound feels heavy, not as in metal, but it brings depth and the dynamics are killer. The whole sound actually reeks of fun, you can almost see the boys smiling faces while recording this. Like a fine wine or whisky, FM just gets better with age as song writers and musicians. The performances are exceptional and lead singer Steve Overland is just amazing – the guy has always had a killer voice with lots of both soul and blues, but in 2015, the guy is better than ever. Not to offend anyone, but to not buy this record as a lover of melodic rock is just foolish – a lose lose situation. Me, I gladly call myself a FM-fan now. Please come play a gig or two in Sweden. I’ll be the middle-aged guy without hair at the front-row, smiling ear to ear.
Jon Wilmenius (10/10)
1. Digging Up The Dirt
2. You’re The Best Thing About Me
3. Life Is A Highway
4. Fire And Rain
6. Call On Me
7. Cold Hearted
8. Shape I’m In
9. Big Brother
10. Somedays I Only Want To Rock And Roll
11. I Want You
12. Walking With Angels