FM - Heroes And Villains - 2015 - 5/5
Marking their 30th anniversary, British melodic/AOR rockers FM release a 'soundtrack to your summer' style album, Heroes And Villains. True to original FM form, this is an album that's packed with anthemic tracks that maintain a classic melodic sound, all whilst bringing a refreshing series of uplifting tracks that will translate fantastically well to a live audience. Personal preference: this is possibly one of their best releases to date.
'Digging Up The Dirt' is an ideal starting point for this album. It’s driven by Pete Jupp's solid drum beat and a snappy riff from Jim Kirkpatrick that is maintained throughout the song until Kirkpatrick comes to the foreground with a bluesy part-slide guitar solo... pretty dreamy! This track sets a very high standard for the album and is an indication of the treat that’s in store!
Track two, 'You're The Best Thing About Me', enables Steve Overland to reach highs with his vocals that completely flaunt this man’s talents. Though I hate to admit it, I get big Leppard-esque vibes, verging on the specific sound of 'Animal' in the first few bars. This song still has the unmistakable FM AOR sound, and quite honestly, I feel a little harsh for comparing it to Hysterias’ 'Animal' because this album certainly isn't an imitation attempt, not by a million miles.
Another uplifting, feel good melody leads us into track three, 'Life Is A Highway'. This tune is one to blast through the speakers if you're stuck in the mid-week rut, or ... if you just fancy listening to a beautiful 'kicking back, wind in your hear, windows down' sort of track. With smoothly layered vocal harmonies and a familiar musical approach to classic rock, FM hit the nail on the head with this beauty. Phasers and flangers aplenty, track four’s 'Fire And Rain' delivers a hard-hitting groovy blues sound that’s fully equipped with a catchy chorus trimmed with more creatively written, jovial lyrics. Treat (no, that's not a grammatical error) number five, 'Incredible', takes a similar route to their much-loved 'Closer To Heaven' and 'Story Of My Life'. This track is laced with moving lyrics accompanied by a simple yet striking rhythm. Again, Steve's voice is the focus of this track and it floats effortlessly around the song structure.
The following two songs, 'Call on Me' and 'Cold Hearted', take it back to the up-tempo punchy rhythms and melodies. If you're familiar with FM's previous releases, you'd recognise 'Cold Hearted', track seven on this album, as it was originally featured on 2014's Futurama. It’s a surprising, yet brilliantly fitting addition to the dominating style of Heroes and Villains. Following these songs is the ridiculously snappy 'Shape I'm In'. A polished guitar solo, constant pulsating beats, and 3/4 point key change makes this song destined to rule the radio.
Though I'm not completely sold on the synth section of the intro, I get completely blown away by Jim Kirkpatrick's soulful guitar playing in track nine, 'Big Brother'. "Sitting in your ivory tower" … sort of familiar, eh? Sure, we hear "looking down from your ivory tower" on FM's 1989 release, Tough It Out. Also, if I jog my memory back to track six, the lyrics "this is the story, story of my life" make an appearance. This is a very clever trait that the band has adopted, throwing us into comfortable territory of blossoming FM days.
'Somedays I Only Want to Rock & Roll' could be a stellar theme tune to an animated movie. It's a happy-go-lucky song that follows suit of the earlier tracks on this album. I can't fault it, it makes me smile from ear to ear.
Nearing the end, 'I Want You' gives Jem Davies on the keys plenty of room to go to town and show what he's got whilst contrasting perfectly with the surrounding sounds.
Closing this album is 'Walking With Angels'. There’s no denying that it's a moving, soft showcase of Overlands vocal range, but I find this to be slightly out of place in comparison with the bulk contents of this album.
There was no doubt that FM were coming back stronger than ever and Heroes And Villains has reassured their ever-growing fan base that they are most definitely sustaining their reputability in the world of AOR and melodic rock and have plenty more to give in coming years.
This album has an abundance of songs that the majority of people can enjoy, rock music fan or not. Though it's true to FM's concrete set sound that they've worked so hard to establish, it's a very commercially marketable album that could put a smile on almost anyone’s face. It's got no real faults, no unnecessary frills, and no obnoxious showboating. It's purely exciting, enjoyable rock music at the highest standard and a must have addition to your collection
4. Fire & Rain
6. Call on Me
7. Cold Hearted
8. Shape I'm In
9. Big Brother
11. I Want You
Review by: Christiane Robinson