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Born in the late 60's, Chesy hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Chesy often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Tuesday 30 April 2024

FM - 'Old Habits Die Hard' Album Review


Old Habits Die Hard

In an uncertain world where we are seeing wars being fought, economies crashing and Trump still being a massive bell, its good to know that some things never change - such as an album dropping every other year from AOR and British rock stalwarts, the mighty FM.

The album has been released to coincide with their 40th anniversary (1984-2024), which is a huge milestone because there are not that many AOR/melodic rock bands around, let alone producing new music especially with any consistency. In FM’s case prolific doesn’t describe them enough. Its no good being prolific if the quality isn’t there. Thankfully FM rip up the rulebook and in ‘Old Habits Die Hard’ they have produced some of their finest work since 2010s Metropolis.

Following 2022’s ‘Thirteen’ album, ‘Old Habits Die Hard’ was delayed slightly by keyboard player Jem Davis’ cancer diagnosis (thankfully he’s now received the all-clear) and then by the sudden passing of FM’s founding guitarist Chris Overland (Steve’s brother), which hit the band hard.

“Chris’s passing came out of the blue and it was devastating,” says Steve. To add insult to injury, close friend of the band and longtime collaborator of Jim Kirkpatrick, guitarist Bernie Marsden passed away just two days after Chris.”

The tragedies that plagued the band through the recording process only reinforced FM’s resolve and desire to make the best album that they could to represent their 40 years in the business. The new album is also a fitting tribute to Chris Overland.

On a first listen, it feels like Steve et al (sorry I went all David Coverdale for a moment there) have been Digging Up The Dirt on what used to be the standard offering back in the 80s where you could hear  more than a passing influence from the likes of Toto and Bad Company in particular.

Opening song ‘Out Of The Blue’ takes the Toto AOR/West Coast vibe and its a very smooth sounding track that bands like Toto and Chicago would kill for today. I hate the term Yacht Rock, but in Overlands case its more like Train Rock, as he is the Biff Byford of AOR who share a passion for trains (Crosstown, Runaway, and now, Midnight) which leads us to ‘Don’t Need Another Heartache’. The riff is in ACDC territory, but this song is so Bad Company, and Foreigner sounding, I had to check that they hadn’t got their mate Mick Ralphs in on the guitar solo. ‘No Easy Way Out’ digs deep into his bag of lyrics and comes up with lines that only SO can deliver without being sugar coated. It also has the FM huge hook (pat.pending). I still don’t know how FM aren’t filling stadiums with songs like these, especially with the trademarked 5 part harmonies they offer. 

I've seen a comment that FM are playing it safe with ‘Old Habits…’. No, they are not. I think its more early FM than reformed FM, but that doesn’t mean it been played safe. 

‘Lost’ is one of the smoothest songs they have ever done. If it was any smoother it would be a deluge of dewdrops (look it up). ‘Black Water’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s the kind of slow burn that gets under the skin after repeated listens and makes FM stand out from the rest of the bunch, and it gives Jim Kirpatrick the reins to play his heart out. Its a fire-cracker of a song.

Leap Of Faith comes out of the traps like a stabbed rat. It's the heaviest song on the album, and proves that FM can rock as much an anyone else, only with infinitely better vocals and harmonies, with Overland singing his arse off. Plus I’m a sucker for a bit of Hammond (B-3, not Alison). Once you see a song called ‘California’ you know what is to come. It is also the perfect companion piece to 2015’s ‘Life Is A Highway’. We are very quickly at the sharp end and ‘Blue Sky Mind’ comes from the pen of Jem Davis who wrote about his cancer diagnosis. The a cappella beginning gives me goosebumps. 

Many, many bands have reformed from the 80s, but none of them are doing it better or more consistently than FM. ‘Old Habits..’ was self produced, and it’s one of the best sounding albums of their career.

Without a shadow of a doubt, it is the best album since Metropolis. Old Habits certainly do Die Hard (with a vengeance)

Score 9/10

Paul Chesworth

Tracklisting - 

Out Of The Blue

Don’t Need Another Heartache

No Easy Way Out


Whatever It Takes

Black Water

Cut Me Loose

Leap Of Faith


Another Day In My World

Blue Sly Mind