When FM appeared at the first Ramblin’ Man Fair in 2015, they played an excellent set. Despite a low down billing on the main stage, they played with the professionalism and intensity of a headline act. Apparently, their London show on the 2022 ‘Thirteen’ tour – featuring Grand Slam in support – was similarly strong, so it was always likely fans on the Kent coast could surely rely on a typically enthusiastic set at the tour’s end.
This thirteenth studio release from FM, one of the UK’s best loved AOR bands, presents eleven tracks where Steve Overland and the lads barely deviate from their usual blueprint, barely break a sweat during their performances, or really offer their fans any material that would challenge them in any way. Such a massively predictable approach might seem half arsed coming from a lesser act, but with FM, such familiar territory is bound to bring a treat or six, especially since Overland still possesses one of the greatest voices in rock. At the point in his career where most of his peers are turning in deeper performances or even assaulting their fans with voices that should have long retired, Steve still sounds like a master performer; a gifted talent able to anything within a broad range; a man more than capable of delivering anything any of his various bands requires. Along with Jeff Scott Soto, he appears to be among a dying breed. In the rest of FM, there remains a truly solid band that conveys a classic sound. By 2022, their work is certainly formulaic, but few would deny that it often results in a winning combination of power and melody.
FM frontman Steve Overland has always seemed to keep himself busy, but the release of the Overland album ‘Epic’ in 2014 kicked off an especially prolific period for the British rock vocalist. The new, eponymously named band didn’t necessarily offer anything radically different from his “day job”, but in guitarist Christian Wolff and drummer Jay Schellen, he found new collaborators that worked very well with his still great voice. Between making three excellent studio albums with FM between 2015 and 2018, Steve also found time to record a fifth album with Shadowman (his on/off project with Thunder members Chris Childs and Harry James), a second Overland album, and even join a new band, Groundbreaker.
The new band mined a further seam of classic AOR sounds, and their debut album – as with so many Overland related projects – was a great vehicle for his voice. In addition, it allowed Work of Art’s Robert Sall to work with some slightly tougher sounds on occasion, and it was clear from the start that this new musical union had a strong heart. Unafraid to recycle a lot of genre tropes and lyrical clichés in songs like ‘The Days of Our Life’, ‘Eighteen Till I Die’ (nowhere near as embarrassing as the Bryan Adams tune of the same name), and ‘Standing Up For Love’, the band’s moniker was certainly chosen for its tongue in cheek qualities, but the album gave genre fans a great deal to enjoy.
As one of Britain’s best loved AOR bands, FM have always had a strong live presence. Whether headlining their own show, or playing halfway down the bill at a classic rock festival, fans are almost guaranteed a great performance. Part of the greatness comes from Steve Overland still being in possession of a great voice, but their back catalogue is also incredibly strong. Unlike some classic rock acts who clearly go through the motions on record and have their best days behind them, FM’s 2020 release ‘Synchronized’ was one of their best to date. Almost thirty five years after the release of their debut, they still sounded like a band with lots to give.
When FM released their ninth studio album ‘Heroes & Villains’ in 2015, it kicked off a second golden age for the band. An album loaded with great songs, it showed Steve Overland and friends in their best shape since the late 80s. A re-recorded version of their classic ‘Indiscreet’ released the following year presented a really muscular sound and proved that re-recording old work does occasionally work out for the best and 2018’s ‘Atomic Generation’ – although sticking somewhat to a well-established formula – suggested their knack for a catchy chorus was as sharp as ever. In addition, vocalist Steve Overland found time to record an enjoyable solo album in 2016 and an absolute cracker of a disc with his side project Lonerider in 2019. At a time when so many of the older “legacy” AOR acts either sounded long past their best or were going through the motions, FM seemed to spend a half-decade going from strength to strength.