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FM : City of Fear
(Logo - 1980)
Category: overlooked
5 stars

In the 80's and 90's there was a British Hard Rock band called FM as well, but this is the Canadian Progressive Rock trio. I have only heard their debut 'Black Noise' and this one, so I'll refrain from comparing 'City of Fear' to other material of theirs. But it will not be easy to compare FM to another band either. I think the sound comes closest to early 80's Rush (with some UK thrown in) and to some of the 80's solo material of ex-Genesis members Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett in the sense that this is a succesful symbiosis of Progressive Rock and Pop. But other than that it's obvious that FM has a style all their own.

What's odd about the line up of this band is the fact that they're missing a guitarist. In its place are an electric violin and a mandolin, not quite your typical Rock instruments. But, oddly enough, when you play them through a distortion pedal, the result sounds just as Rock as any guitar. Lots of people might not even notice the difference. Nevertheless, it changes something in their sound to set them apart.

I admit Progressive Rock is an acquired taste. So, even though the songs on this album are short (by Prog standards), even though it's all melodic, the compositions not very complex (again by Prog standards) and a lighter Pop influence is present, your average music fan will find this a bit heavy-handed (unless the pop you listen to is of the not very upbeat variety à la Rufus Wainwright).

Many Progressive Rock fans on the other hand think it's lightweight music, only loosely related to Prog, and that 'City of Fear' compares badly to their earlier work. But if, like me, you're inbetween these two chairs you'll probably find a whole lot to enjoy here. Personally I think there isn't a single weak track on it. From the delicate ballad 'Nobody at all', over the chilly tones and suffocating atmosphere of 'Lost & Found', the synthpop of 'Up to you' and the Melodic Rock of 'Truth or Consequences' to the angry sounding Hard Rocking assault of 'Riding the Thunder', it's all good.

If the omnipresent cold background feeling of claustrophobia and alienation doesn't scare you off, then 'City of Fear' can be addictive, especially if strong melodies and well constructed songs are your thing. It's not your average sounding Prog Rock album, but that's also its strength.


(Footnote: I'm not sure 'City of Fear' is available on CD. I see second hand 'City of Fear'-LP's circulating on the net (sometimes at ridiculously high prices), but no CD's. But there's good news too. July 2005 Cameron Hawkins and Martin Deller regrouped the band. With the addition of the Italian viola and mandolin expert Claudio Vena they're a trio again.)

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