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FM

Prog Related • Canada


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FM biography
Founded in Toronto, Canada in 1976 - Disbanded in 1989 - Reformed in 1994-1996, 2006 and again since 2011

This trio came from Toronto around the end of the 70's but got slightly over-shadowed by the profusion of bands exploding all over the album charts. I mean with RUSH, TRIUMPH, SAGA, MAX WEBSTER etc.. It is no wonder some could not get their share of sunlight, among which GODDO, MOXY, ZON, SANTERS and most certainly FM. Their first Lp full of a weird sort of hard rock with strange studio tampering alerted most potential fans that this was a very particular band with their lead violinist Nash The Slash playing as a mummy and Martin Deller at the drum seat as well as Cameron Hawkins on bass. Unfortunately, their crazy frontman opted for a fairly successful solo career (crazy videos on MuchMusic - the equivalent of MTV in the early 80's) and the remaining duo had to find Ben Mink as a replacement but they never managed to regain the magic of their first album. They will still manage another three albums.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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FM discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

FM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.11 | 139 ratings
Black Noise
1977
3.68 | 85 ratings
Direct To Disc [Aka: Head Room]
1978
3.33 | 62 ratings
Surveillance
1979
2.97 | 47 ratings
City Of Fear
1980
2.34 | 21 ratings
Con-Test
1985
1.76 | 19 ratings
Tonight
1987
3.91 | 35 ratings
Transformation
2015

FM Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.30 | 8 ratings
Retroactive: FM Archives Volume 1
1995
4.15 | 8 ratings
Nearfest 2006
2014

FM Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

FM Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

FM Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

FM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Transformation by FM album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.91 | 35 ratings

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Transformation
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars After a few live reunions over the 1990s and 2000s, FM began making noises about new material. The sudden passing of Nash the Slash IN 2014 meant that any further reunion would fall short of the "original" billing, and, as "Transformation" took shape, Ben Mink and Martin Deller were missing as well. Hence only Cameron Hawkins remains from the old days, accompanied by acclaimed drummer Paul DeLong and not one but two string players.

Even in their heyday FM skirted the fringes of progressive rock, melding it with pop and conventional rock of the day with middling to superb results. Given that 2015 was 35 years distant from even the small p prog efforts of this band, what hope did we have? Luckily it appears that Cameron Hawkins was buoyed by the band's reception at NEARFest 2006 and the prospect of crafting a meaningful gift for those fans and perhaps for his more deeply felt convictions. With "Transformation", he has achieved both without retreating into the band's former glories.

While references to the long gone days are apparent in his still youthful voice, the optimistic tones, and the ubiquitous strings, this effort is also more reliant on acoustic violin, viola and mandolin than before, and its spirit is more adventurous while respecting the tenets of modern vocal oriented rock in the best way imaginable. I normally don't play this trump card let alone care about it, but I hear the time signatures are all over the map here, which makes the accessibility of the tunes all the more praiseworthy. I can only think of one other relatively recent reunion that succeeds in eclipsing most of the artists' original classics, that being the second album by the even more obscure "Fuchsia". It is noteworthy that both albums are characterized by prominent strings, but otherwise have little in common.

Really, "Transformation" is that good. From the opening notes of "Brave New Worlds", I am absorbed into its idealistic grooves, luminous auras, and radiant melodies. "Cosmic Blue" is not as catchy but with some expressive violin excursions, including a spacey interlude, and dissonant harmonies, "Reboot Reawaken" is slightly more poppy and actually reminds me of a fine 1990s group called "Ocean Blue". The ending part assumes the prog mantle again. "Safe and Sound" is the most chamber like of all the tracks, all the strings playing the lead role, in a manner of ALAN PARSONS at his best. I admit part of me is wary that Mr Hawkins has found Jesus, but "The Love Bomb's slightly cheesy lyrics are devoid of that form of devotion, although I am not a fan of its plodding pace and Yes-like falsettos. The closing piece "Heaven on Earth" marks a more authentic homage to that band, with pleasantries plucked by mandolin, and what sounds like incognito flute but is probably keys from Hawkins.

I'm not as taken with "Children of Eve" and "Soldiers of Life" but they are among the more audacious pieces here and are sure to find some fans among us; I just think FM works best in the more accessible realms and always has. Cameron Hawkins should be very proud of this achievement which has been quietly collecting kudos all over the web. "Transformation" reflects a bold resolution to flourish and freshen with age, while never forgetting one's roots. 3.5 stars rounded up.

 Tonight by FM album cover Studio Album, 1987
1.76 | 19 ratings

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Tonight
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Only two years passed between "Con-test" and the 1987 release "Tonight", but FM had nonetheless withstood another lineup change, adding several well known names of the Canadian scene and a full time electric guitarist for the first time. Most of the better cuts here are offered in the first half, including the catchy "Magic in Your Eyes" and "Dream Girl", and the ambiently textured "Alone Together" that includes a fine power ballad lead guitar solo. The album might be a bit lighter in feel than "Con-test" but that's not necessarily a positive. The nadir is struck with a poor adaptation of a song that I doubt many of us pine for, "Good Vibrations", but that's only the most egregious misstep. "I'm not bad" and "Lost in Thought" are not even up to the modest standards being set by the FM of the mid 1980s.

"Tonight" is essentially another undistinguished album of 1980s rock from FM, aimed at keeping the band viable through difficult times. If it did succeed, apparently it wasn't enough, for this would be the last major release by FM until 2015. Avoid.

 Con-Test by FM album cover Studio Album, 1985
2.34 | 21 ratings

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Con-Test
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars FM was a band dogged by misfortune during their critical early years, not the least of which was their propensity to sign with previously reliable record labels just before they went belly up, sort of like the hapless investor who always buys high and sells low. These of course severely curtailed whatever promotional boost might have been granted, and then came the 'dead prog' era of the mid 1980s, and the departure of Ben Mink. FM appeared left for dead, when their fortunes were resurrected by none other than original member Nash the Slash, who rejoined and signed them to Quality Records just before it too dropped the oar.

The recorded result of this chaotic time was 'Con-test', which did mark a modest return to the Canadian airwaves, in a far more streamlined and compressed form than hitherto imaginable. Through their 4 prior releases FM always retained sufficient prog quotient to avoid the sell-out label, but here they are in survival mode, which is pretty much as kind as I can be. This is moderately catchy 1980s rock with a steady electronic beat, distorted keys and guitars, the latter courtesy of Mink himself as a guest member, and repetitive vocal hooks.

Several of the best tunes here like 'Just Like You', 'We Hold on' and 'Distant Early Warning' ' approach the style and substance of the ROCKWELL hit 'Somebody's Watching me', or GOLDEN EARRING's 'Twilight Zone' from the same era, that is, catchy, slightly paranoid songs that rely on repetition and a hook or two, blended with some old school 1960s pop typical of that era. Even at that level, 'Con-test' is kind of a flop because FM never really had the tools to write a bona fide hit. Not much space is given for solos or instrumental fireworks, but 'The Only way to win' has a pretty intro on electric mandolin and some appealing keyboard touches. In fact, half the songs here are somewhat enjoyable to listen to, but the closing two numbers are excruciatingly difficult, indicating that even highly compromised inspiration had its limits.

As a prog album, 'Con-test' is a scam; as a rock album of its time, it's actually more than competent. For you to decide.

 Surveillance by FM album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.33 | 62 ratings

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Surveillance
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars In the contrivance of memories, accuracy be damned, "Surveillance" was FM's follow up to the classic "Black Noise" release. For almost 40 years I paid it no mind, for I had seen the band around the time of its release and was appalled by the foul sci fi pop of "Rocket Roll" as well as the cover of "Things to Come", while probably not being quite ready for the esoteric pieces they may have performed from this album. The gulf between the exhilarating "Phasors on Stun" and "Rocket Roll" is as wide as any I can think of between opening numbers of "successive" releases.

That major misstep aside, this is actually far superior than I could have imagined. The vibe is pretty consistently upbeat, and cool enough to compensate for the seriousness of the lyrics. On the basis of the lightheartedness of this fare, it's hard to believe it's the same group that produced the foreboding epic "Black Noise" but, even more so, the relentlessly dark album "City of Fear" that followed. The best two tracks here occur back to back. "Seventh Heaven" is a thoroughly enjoyable self referential goodbye to the 1970s and look ahead to the 1980s. It also seems to have inspirited the entire early catalogue of Bahraini prog band OSIRIS who, if anything, improved on the blueprint. "Father Time" is a vivacious slightly jazzy number that is enriched by Hawkins' vocalizations in the break.

Several instrumentals amply manifest that the proggy FM is still around if truncated. "Horizons" and "Random Harvest" are a bit too similar but with plenty of oblique angles demarcated throughout to keep them fresh. "Destruction" is more complex, robust on the outside and tender within. Even "Shapes of things" is not as dire as my younger petulant self might have hastily decreed.

The main weaknesses of the album are that it lacks absolutely brilliant tracks that both "Black Noise" and "City of Fear" possessed in the plural, and that it might be a tad more keyboard dominated than an album by a band with an electric mandolinist has any right to be. It makes up for these by perhaps being the most consistent FM album of the early years, and, as such, "Surveillance" merits your scrutiny.

 Direct To Disc [Aka: Head Room] by FM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.68 | 85 ratings

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Direct To Disc [Aka: Head Room]
FM Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars While one can spot references to the prior "Black Noise" as well as hints later incorporated in "Surveillance", "Direct to Disk" or "Headroom" is largely a one-off in the FM discography. My recollection is that "Black Noise" didn't really get much attention until a couple of years after release, so this recording was made in a vacuum of sorts, and perhaps as a way to bond with the new violinist/mandolinist Ben Mink who had already replaced Nash the Slash..

Vocals are sparse and buried in the mix when present, and the styles range from flourishing PONTY like jazz to MAHIVISHNU like spaciness and back again, the rhythm section amply propping up the electric strings and keyboards. Each of the two long pieces are subdivided but it's a challenge to discern where one movement ends and the next begins. Ultimately, while the band playing is rather tight given the improvised nature of the material, and highly skilled bordering on virtuous at times, this is only fleetingly engaging music, which is ultimately how I judge material, prog or not. Direct to Disk is as good an argument for FM as a full fledged prog rock band as any release, but it's not even close to their finest moment. 2.5 stars rounded down.

 Black Noise by FM album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.11 | 139 ratings

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Black Noise
FM Prog Related

Review by Walkscore

3 stars The Quintessential FM album.

The first album by FM was only released for a short run on a special CBC record label, and only after the song "Phasers on Stun" became played frequently on some radio stations (after they had already released their second album) did this album get a proper release (on Passport records, which eventually went under). This is the quintessential FM album, and despite the difficult start, the best known, largely due to "Phasers on Stun". That song is really great, containing a progressive ethos but with some new wave electronica mixed in, it is understandable why it was played so often. The rest of the album is largely in the same vein, although with nothing quite so catchy as Phasers. The second side (of the vinyl) is the better one. "Dialing for Dharma", "Slaughter in Robot Village" and particularly the closing title track, "Black Noise", are great (indeed the title track is awesome). The other tracks are, well, middling, and were it not for being on this album would not likely garner much attention, although they are all pleasant enough. While this band only made a small mark on the history of music, even in Canada, this album stands as their most important testament to that mark. I give this album 7.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Black Noise by FM album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.11 | 139 ratings

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Black Noise
FM Prog Related

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars The 70's, as seen by the 80's: 9/10

Insane guitar reverb, powerful synth, eclectic electronic apparatus, an accomplished drummer... BLACK NOISE is hardly what one would suspect to be a masterpiece within the progressive genre.

Putting into perspective a progressive fan enjoys synthesisers - after all, symphonic prog is the strongest subgenre here - and there are very few "pop" characteristics here, aside from the exaggerated focus on melody (isn't this what makes one album mainstream, anyway?), I don't feel it's a stretch to call this progressive.

The Canadian trio FM brought during the apex of progressive weakening and synthpop/new-wave's awakening an album that merges both genres into a hybrid creation. It features a masterful blending of the old and new in the late 70's. The plethora of electronic paraphernalia fielded here (Arp 2500 synth, electric mandolin/violin) goes in harmony with the conventional instruments (drums, electric guitar, bass, piano, ...voice). The very idea of using the common music of the time - that is, classic rock - and infusing in it a rather unexplored field - the electronic-focused music - is by itself the most progressive thing those guys did.

When you give this a listen, I can guarantee you right away on Phasors on Stun you'll feel as if Martin, Cameron and Nash are toying with you, for the powerful emotional grasp the very first resonating guitar strings picked and Cameron's hopeful voice are adhesive. As aforementioned, the trio has given focus to melody, which indirectly implies emotionally evocative tracks. After this, another characteristic you can tell right away by looking at the cover is that, well, this is a very spacey album. To be honest, I'm surprised this is on the "prog-related" category and not psychedelic/space rock.

The lyrics have science fiction theme. For instance, Phasors on Stun is about the weapon Phasors from Star Trek being on stun mode, Journey and Aldebaran are about a mass escapade to intergalactic planets, and Slaughter on Robot Village is pretty self-explanatory.

Now to each track:

Phasors on Stun is very emotional, there is a potent presence of guitar as well vocals in here. Although it has no correlation with the track itself, the overall feeling here is positive, which is delightful. The second best on the album.

One O'Clock Tomorrow is even more cheerful than the earlier track and much more synth-focused. It's also slightly slower and feels lighter.

Hours reminds me so damn much of Camel. The main line features the electric violin & the piano and an amazing Mirage-like synth solo, followed by a drums solo. It's perhaps the most unique of all the tracks.

Journey is highly energetic and more technical than all previous tracks, MARTIN really does a superb job on the drumming. The chorus feels absolute 80's - synthpop at its finest. The third best on the album.

Dialling for Dharma is the next instrumental track with various appearances of different synth techniques. The percussion is very important to settle the atmosphere on this one.

Slaughter in Robot Village evokes me images of nighttime in urban metropolises, it is more aggressive and darker than any other track on the album; not to mention it is the most psychedelic.

Aldebaran is my little sweetheart, being the most emotion-fueled track of them album. It's like PHASORS ON STUN on steroids, except it's much slower, mellower, melodic and hopeful (regarding CAMERON's vocals). Even the solo, which speeds up the tempo feels highly soulful. The best track the album.

Black Noise is the song I have least listened to, but it feels like those gritty 70's metal tracks (you know, like a sad Scorpions song), with almost ten minutes of duration, a tempo slower than Aldebaran, long ambience sound and a bass so potent METALLICA's PULLING TEETH seems toe-to-toe in comparison.

He who judges a book by its cover can lose the opportunity to listen what the 80's discotheques would play should prog never faltered. This is pretty much what one could consider "progressive new-wave", or perhaps "mainstream space rock" if you're more like it. I guess that's gonna sell this better here, yeah? By the way, I recommend reading Aussie-Byrd-Brother's detailed and adjective spoonful review on the same album.

For anyone out here who constantly delve into Symphonic Prog, Krautrock, Prog Electronic, Space Rock or Neo- Prog, give this a shot. You'll be taken to a trip to the 80's with the perspective of 70's musicians. And it's a hell of a trip.

 Direct To Disc [Aka: Head Room] by FM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.68 | 85 ratings

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Direct To Disc [Aka: Head Room]
FM Prog Related

Review by Walkscore

3 stars This is the second album from this Toronto-based band, and one with a very interesting history. The album was originally called "Direct to Disc", and this is because it was recorded in one go, very literally direct to disc (or rather direct to special vinyl cutting machinery, producing the vinyl lacquer used to produce the metal stamps for stamping new vinyl albums. This limited the length to about 16 minutes per side, as that is the limit to how much room the lacquer had). The title "Headroom" was added later after MCA records threatened to sue their label because MCA had released the soundtrack to the film 'FM' and did not want this band's record to conflict with their sales strategy. So, 'Headroom: Direct to Disc' it became for later pressings and the international releases of this album. Even more interesting is that only 20,000-30,000 copies of the album could be made from each lacquer, because each lacquer could only make one metal stamp, and that wore out after printing/stamping that many copies. For this album, the limit came at 26,000 copies. After the record sold this many, the record company had to find another lacquer to print the albums. FM recorded their songs four times, creating four lacquers. The last one was consider the best take, and so the first 26,000 albums printed used that lacquer. However, once that limit had been reached, the record company had to use a different lacquer, and so went with the second-best takes. So, anyone who bought later pressings of the album was buying different versions of the songs than those who bought the first 26,000 copies!

The version I am reviewing is the remaster CD re-release on Esoteric Recordings. The sound quality is excellent, and this uses the original versions of the songs (from the first 26,000 pressings). The music is relatively sparse - because it was recorded in one go direct to disc, there are no overdubs, and no opportunities to tweak any errors. With only three musicians, the recording has a very airy and sparse feel to it. It also have a very 'live in your basement' feel (augmented, I think, from the excellent remastered sound quality). This is both the album's strength, and its weakness. Strength - it feels very present, sincere and authentic, the direct opposite to typical over-produced rock music. The music combines classic 1970s progressive rock feel with early electronica and is one of the few bands with an electric violin player. Furthermore, there are solos on this, and the band stretches out in places, which is quite nice. Weakness - in order to get the best out of the compositions, the music here I think could actually benefit from more intricate arrangements, and from more instrumentation (ie overdubs). On the second side there is a drum solo, which is very nice (and I wish there were more drum solos recorded on contemporary albums), but on this track makes it drag out a bit. Compositionally, the music seems a bit rushed, like they had to finish the compositions shortly before recording them, instead of taking them out on the road and refining them based on how they sound played live.

On the whole, this experimental album has an important and unique, if somewhat minor, place in progressive rock history. It is good, but not brilliant. It makes very interesting first, and maybe second, listens, but I doubt one will want to put it on after that. I always listen to an album multiple times before I review it, as albums usually reveal their musicality over subsequent listens, and the best ones get better with each additional listen. This one started becoming boring after the third listen for me. I give this 6.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Tonight by FM album cover Studio Album, 1987
1.76 | 19 ratings

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Tonight
FM Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars One of the Beach Boys strapped to the snowy Canadian landscape?

One decade after FM's debut album they put out Tonight, which was to be their last album (until 2015's Transformation). Together with the previous Con-Test from 1985, Tonight is FM at their worst. This album is very much of its time and that is not a good thing when the time in question is the mid-1980's! All traces of progressive Rock are eradicated and the band's trademarks are pretty much completely gone. FM are close to New Wave territory here with the music found on Tonight often reminding me of The Cars. The melodies are slightly more catchy than on the dull Con-Test, but in the end these albums are no more than barely listenable.

They pull off a lame cover of The Beach Boys Good Vibrations which is as cold as the snowy landscape on the cover image. At first I didn't notice the snow covered human body in the middle of the picture, oddly strapped to the ground preventing it from floating off! Actually, the cover art is the best thing about this album.

Not recommended unless you are a FM completionist.

 Retroactive: FM Archives Volume 1 by FM album cover Live, 1995
3.30 | 8 ratings

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Retroactive: FM Archives Volume 1
FM Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Hideaway

Retroactive is a live album from the mid 1990's capturing FM in concert in their native Canada. The set list includes two originals from each of the band's albums Black Noise (1977), Surveillance (1979), and City Of Fear (1980), plus two covers in The Who's Baba O'Riley and Yardbirds' Shapes Of Things (FM's version of the latter was also included on their Surveillance album). The remaining two songs of Retroactive - Hideaway and This Lonely World - I'm not sure from where they originate, and given that I hadn't heard these before in any form they are among the most interesting tracks here. Overall, the set list offers a very nice cross- section of songs from the band's early career as well as a nod to their influences.

The quality of the performance as well as the recording is very high, and this is a thoroughly enjoyable live record. Comparing to the more recent NEARFest 2006 live album and video, Retroactive falls somewhat behind, but it is still a good album in its own right and a valuable companion. Some of the tracks appear on both of these live releases, and having heard NEARFest 2006 before the present album, it is those tracks that were not included on the NEARFest album that are for me the most interesting ones. This includes the aforementioned Hideaway and This Lonely World, but also Horizons from Surveillance and the title track from City Of Fear.

A strong live release, outshining most of the band's studio albums!

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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