FM – “Thirteen”
By Colonel Angus
The backstory on this band and a young Colonel Angus can be found in the pages of Kerrang! Magazine. My friends and I would go to our local record store and purchase any metal magazines we could fine. Circus and Creem were no longer cutting it for us young metalheads. We would scour the pages of Kerrang! and look for new exotic (we were Americans so anything outside our borders was exotic) bands to get into. We thought of ourselves as true music fans by liking bands that were not being played on FM (no pun intended) radio. We would each purchase a release found in the ads and share the records. Even though I was already into SLAYER and heavier music, I was still a fan of melodic rock like JOURNEY and FOREIGNER. In fact, “Foreigner 4” is one of my all-time favorite albums. Well, my pick on that particular week was FM’s “Indiscreet” and while my friends were not very impressed, I loved it start to finish. Hell, even IRON MAIDEN covered their tune “That Girl” for a B-side so that right there gave them all the credibility they needed in my book. While my metalhead group didn’t venture any further into their catalogue, I continued getting their releases. “Tough it Out” built on the debut and they continued putting quality melodic rock until “Dead Man's Shoes” which marked their last album before a long period of inactivity. After a decade and a half, the band returned with “Metropolis” and since then, they have been consistently putting out new disks every couple of years.
FM released “Synchronized” a couple of years ago so they were due for another record. “Thirteen” marks their thirteenth studio release and it is everything we have come to expect from the band. Just like their previous effort, this one is one of their stronger albums and while the whole catalogue is great, there are certain disks that stand out. I would place “Thirteen” in that category. Every song is a well-crafted melodic rock piece played exceptionally well by musicians who know their way around their instruments. The whole affair starts off perfectly with an 80s styled rocker with a heavy dose of swagger. That infectious chorus of “Shaking the Tree” will have you humming it for day (and it’s so good that you won’t mind). Things continue in that same trajectory with “Waiting on Love” and “Talk is Cheap” with the latter reminding me of GIANT. Next up we get the JOURNEY-ish “Turn This Car Around” which is followed by the strutting rocker “Love and War”. “Long Road Home” is a slower ballad and even though it is my least favorite on “Thirteen”, it is still a good tune (but just good, not great).
Things revert back to more upbeat material with the bouncy “Be Lucky” and heavier “Every Man Needs a Woman”. Following those two tunes, we get the 80s sounding “Just Got Started” where Steve Overland channels his inner Paul Rogers and gives the track a latter day BAD COMPANY vibe. Finishing off this great record is "Fight Fire with Fire" and “Be True to Yourself”. The former contains a very infectious hook in the chorus and should not be confused with the METALICA tune of the same name while the latter sounds like something that would have fit in nicely on “Toto IV”.
This lineup has been consistent for more than a dozen years with Steve Overland (vocals and rhythm guitar), Merv Goldsworthy (bass), and Pete Jupp (drums) being the anchors who have been there since their first release. Jem Davis (keyboards) has been around since before the hiatus and Jim Kirkpatrick (lead guitar) has been an integral part of their albums in the 2000s. When I was asked to do a review of “Thirteen”, a non-fan asked me to describe to them the band and album. Since this person didn’t have a vast musical knowledge, I summarized their sound as the best parts of FOREIGNER, JOURNEY, and TOTO rolled into one. I know timing and location plays a part in making a band successful and that may be the reason FM is not a household name here in the United States. This is a band that has not released a sub-par album in their entire career and it boggles my mind why they were not a hit here back in the 80s. This type of melodic rock is gaining momentum and my hope would be that FM finally get the attention they deserve. “Thirteen” is another great record in a line of great record and even the folks at FM’s label Frontiers Music must realize they did great by bring them onto their roster.