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FM - Black Noise CD (album) cover




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4.11 | 158 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars 1977's `Black Noise' by Canadian trio FM is their one sole defining near-classic album! While the band seem to constantly be compared to Rush and Saga (likely simply due to the similar Canadian background), there's really not too much on this album that sounds like those two acts. Instead, despite offering a few accessible and melodic rock tracks, `Black Noise' jump backs and forth between Kansas-styled violin-driven instrumentals and deep space synth dominated atmospheres not far off the 80's Eloy albums. Violin player, the future charismatic and fascinating performance artist Nash the Slash makes such a big impression here that the follow-up albums, while some of them not being without their own strong merits, couldn't hope to make the same impact as this one does.

Sleek vocal rocker opener `Phasers on Stun' drifts the closest to Saga, but with more opportunity for plentiful swirling mini-moog spirals and gleaming synths all round. The only thing that lets it down are some cheesy laser gun sound effects throughout, but they're hardly surprising when you look at the track name! `One O'Clock Tomorrow' races through several ideas within six minutes, with low-key violin, shiny synth outbursts and foot tapping vocal passages to open and close. The first instrumental `Hours' could have appeared on any early Kansas album (if they'd been looking after an alien colony on the moon as opposed to a grounded dirt farm back on Earth!), driven by searing violin, colourful synth loopiness and breakneck drum soloing all racing together with incredible energy. `Journey' is a pleasing pop-rocker with a chorus so catchy and memorable that it could have appeared on an early Alan Parsons Project album.

The short but joyful and upbeat instrumental `Dialling for Dharma' offers groovy slinking synths bubbling under atmospheric violin and some bashing drums. The absolute highlight of the album is another instrumental `Slaughter in Robot Village', a spiky, brooding spacerocker almost in the manner of early Hawkwind, full of urgency and thrashing power. Heavy and dramatic, snaking violin slithers along the background behind heavy pounding drumming and delirious synths. If you're curious about this album, do yourself a favour and investigate clips of this piece, and it will convince you right away to hunt the album down! `Alderberan' could almost be an outtake from the first three Collins- led Genesis albums, a sweet dreamy melody with a distant `Afterglow' quality floating throughout it. The almost ten minute closing title track is most ambitious of all, a spacey epic with long ambient passages, electronic drones, hypnotic vocals and rising mantra-like violin, with a nice run of grumbling slab-thick bass near the end.

Amazingly for an album that features no electric guitars, `Black Noise' still seriously rocks with great power and finesse. It achieves a perfect balance of accessible melodic rock music with impressive progressive technicality, the two woven together to strong and exciting arrangements. That combination is really not so easy to achieve, but FM get it spot on here. Nash the Slash would depart after this album, but the band would go on to record `Headroom: Direct to Disc', well-regarded by fans of the band. But the career highlight will always `Black Noise', a truly essential classic Seventies prog work.

Five stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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