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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars In this album , now , as most fans had come to digest Nash 's departure and allowed Mink to make his hole into the band , this album is the other peak for this Torontonian trio . Although , not quite as good as Black Noise, and with a different musical era in the coming , most numbers do not have that adventurous feeling of their debut. Still correct , but start with their debut.
Report this review (#31173)
Posted Thursday, June 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Influenced me big time,

Progressive was fringe music in my mind until I sat down and listened to this for the first time. Managed to tread that fine line between between prog. and pop. If more bands had followed FM's lead with this one I think Progressive would be a dominant genre to this day.

Report this review (#40372)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars After digesting the great 'Black Noise' and 'Direct To Disc', this album sounds entirely feeble in comparison. But it's not fair to hold one album up to the standards of another; any album should be judged on its own merit. Even then, though, I find 'City Of Fear' to be largely devoid of excitement or challenge. It is entirely indicative of where '70s prog went in the '80s: downhill. Short songs (all 3 to 5 minutes) in simple arrangements and a heavy leaning toward '80s new wave/pop acts like The Fixx or Big just ain't my cup of tea at all.

Now and again, Ben Mink reels off a sophisticated bit of electric violin, and there are certainly some good songs to unearth here: "Lost And Found" plays on their more alien approach, something both spacey and laced with paranoia. But I can't sit through the likes of "Power", "Truth Or Consequences" or the truly dreadful "Up To You" without twisting my face in disgust. If you get through 75% of the album, most of which is thin, compressed, cold neo-prog/new-wave, you'll come up against the curious 12 final minutes of the album: "Silence", a dramatic, loping near-ballad, with synth/violin/mandolin work uncannily reminiscent of '80s-era Alex Lifeson; "Riding The Thunder", akin to Blue Oyster Cult's more esoteric hard-rock than anything else FM ever did (and aggressive vocals that cannot possibly be Cameron Hawkins) doesn't fit on the album, but momentarily moves away from the too-plastic sounds elsewhere; "Nobody At All", made of warmer textures, in part thanks to acoustic piano, offers a sleepy atmosphere, a nice drift away from a largely unappealing, unsatisfying album.

If you like the sterile recordings and performances of Rush's 'Power Windows' and 'Hold Your Fire', you'll like this too. If you hate those albums, stay well away. Simple as that, really.

Report this review (#46404)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's really hard to believe that this is a three man band, but being from Canada they followed suit with the likes of Rush and Triumph. City of Fear is full of delights even by today's standards. From the hard driven "Power", to the smooth and refreshing "Surface to Air", there is something for every prog enthusiast. It is quite surprising that this album never made it to cd form. I am very sure that if City of Fear was ever put out on cd it would sell pretty well. I have also heard Black Noise which was released in 1977, and I like it but this band seemed to gel in the three years between "Black Noise" and "City of Fear." "City of Fear" is also very well produced with great sound quality for 1980. The band is sharper and more concise. Their instrumentation is more sophisticated with more depth. I like to think of FM in the same lines as UK without the long instrumental movements. This by no means is taking anything away from FM.
Report this review (#60284)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was SO excited to read that FM (Cameron Hawkins and Martin Deller) is planning to FINALLY release this album (along with Surveillance and Direct To Disc) onto CD!!! (I read this on a website for NEARFest- a yearly prog concert that takes place in PE, I believe). This is long overdue! I remember purchasing this album from a Woolworth's department store for maybe .99 cents in CT (shortly after seeing them open up for RUSH on their Moving Pictures and/or Exit Stage Left tour) and thinking I had hit the JACKPOT!!! I couldn't wait to rush home and play it. I Instantly loved the poppier stuff on the album like "Up To You" (which I'd remembered them performing live- with Ben Mink playing GUITAR- maybe a white/cream hollow body Gibson 335? Not sure- just know it wasn't a mandolin or violin- in fact, he only played violin on a few songs and electric guitar for all the rest-while Cameron was 'stuck' behind his MANY keyboards with his bass on as well. Anyways...), "Noboby At All" and ESPECIALLY "City Of Fear." The one song I remember NOT liking (and was the only bummer for me) was "Riding The Thunder." Never liked that song. Reminds me today of the horrible stuff the band ventured into that came after this very fine FM album (Con-Test? Tonight??? YUCK!!!). I love the first four FM albums- Black Noise, Direct To Disc, Surveillance and COF. But I think this will always be my favorite. I'd heard that right after this album was released, Passport records went bust (?) and that's why there really wasn't any push for it? Too bad. I think on this album they finally got things right. This album really could've broken them big time in the U.S. Can't WAIT to hear them on CD officially. I also really liked that live reunion album they did a few years back! Wish they would tour and get Ben back in on it! I LOVED his work with k.d. lang (esp. the album Constant Craving). I also enjoyed his solo album. Not too crazy about Nash The Slash's stuff, although I like his work on BN. I picked up a couple of his solo albums (on casette) a few years back and was really disappointed. I love the conciseness of this album. I love BN, too, but I think that that album had spots that needed a little 'tidying up.' (I can just hear my brother and others who LOVE that album screaming in disagreement!) And Surveillance came close- love the songs but the sound of the album bothered me- some thinness in places. But COF was where they really pulled it all together. Fine tuned it. I really don't think they 'sold-out' (I don't think RUSH sold out with Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures, arguably their two BEST albums, just because their songs were shorter!) Anyways...

Can't wait to add these CDs to my collection! LONG OVERDUE!!!

Report this review (#68392)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars This is half a great album, but that half is so enjoyable that I play this even more than the much more highly regarded "Black Noise". It seems much darker and more sinister, much in the way of the title track of the Black Noise album, although with nothing of such epic proportions.

The shortness of the tracks means we get a condensed rarefied FM on the best material, especially in the brilliant opener "Krakow" with its ominous synths, infectious beat and desperate emotive singing. This song gives me chills in a good way, like in a film filled with suspense rather than gore. Definitely a 5 star song!

The other highlights often straddle the line between the yet unborn neo genre and space rock, particularly "Silence" and the ultra catchy title cut, where "Truth or Consequences" and the gentle closing ballad "Nothing at All" push the envelope in terms of arrangement, harmonies, production values and melodic textures. The latter track turns the theme of "truth or Consequences" on its ear in a brilliant thematic twist.

Unfortunately, the disc is just too uneven to get an excellent rating, with especially weak songs like the unlistenable "Riding the Thunder" really cheapening the overall effect. Nonetheless, for its time, "City of Fear" is a pretty good proggy album that is worth seeking out.

Report this review (#126727)
Posted Sunday, June 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really. This one has a different feel than 'Black Noise' and 'Surveillance'. It is edgier and darker. I still enjoy it a fair bit. But, as others have mentioned, all of the songs are pretty short and relatively simple. The title track is one of my favourites, but somehow I am always wishing the leyboards were a little louder! The mixing seems to be a little off. But overall, If you like the earlier FM albums this is definitely a worthy addition to your collection.
Report this review (#175679)
Posted Saturday, June 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars By this time in their career, FM had shaken away all of the Rush sounds that seemed to inhabit their first album. That wasn't necessarily a good thing. While there is still a hint of prog throughout the album, this is more power pop than prog, similar to Utopia in their middle years.

There are some fairly good songs on the album. The title track, City Of Fear has some nice changes and keyboard work, as does Surface To Air, with it's Bach quotations. Riding The Thunder almost makes it as a heavy song, but misses a bit in the production. Ans Nobody At All sounds like an early Kansas ballad (Ben Mink's viola helps with this).

This album is pleasant, but has nothing to blow the listener away.

Report this review (#416088)
Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars "Now the seventh decade is behind us"

It could be said that FM arrived to late to the party to produce much in terms of progressive Rock. Their 1977 debut Black Noise was undeniably a Prog album and so was the experimental Headroom from 1978, but already with 1979's Surveillance they were moving with the times towards more commercial territory as so many other progressive Rock bands from both sides of the Atlantic were doing at the turn of the 1970's and in the early 80's. The trend continued with 1980's City Of Fear and subsequently with 1985's Con-Test and 1987's Tonight. This is a particularly sad affair with FM as they didn't get much of of chance to develop further as a Prog group before the genre's downfall.

Like of the previous Surveillance, City Of Fear is a mixed bag and the ten songs vary in quality and style. A few songs retain a progressive touch, but New Wave influences abound and I'm occasionally reminded of The Cars. The best songs include the album opener Krakow, the title track, and Surface To Air. The latter two songs were included on the band's live album Retroactive on which they sound better than on this studio album. Surface To Air, which is probably the track most resembling early FM, was also included on the more recent live release NEARFest 2006 on which it is extended to nearly twice its original album length.

Overall, a half-decent album with a few good songs and several less than memorable ones.

Report this review (#1464243)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2015 | Review Permalink

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