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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars FM is fundamentally a Canadian progressive rock band. But here, we have a rather sophisticated New Wave/rock album full of excellent synthesizers. Most of the songs are at least good. It is very pleasant to listen to those catchy and addictive melodies. The lead vocals are excellent, the lightly distorted guitars (or keyboards?) sounds too and the keyboards ensemble contributes to color the sustained rythm. The electric violin merges subtly with the other instruments.
Report this review (#31175)
Posted Monday, July 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars 2.5 stars really. For me the string of good or better albums for FM ends at 'City of Fear'. This album, like a lot of other prog bands in this time period, moves into the AOR pop realm. There are still electric violins and mandolins here so it is a little different than your average 80's music, but it still fits into the general 80's feel. This is lighter, fluffier, than the all of the previous albums. This is not necessarily horrible. But it's not very good either. If you really liked poppier sections of the previous albums, you may like this a lot as well.
Report this review (#175703)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars Stop!

Five years after the previous City Of Fear, FM gave us Con-Test. Nash the Slash returns to the band here but don't let that fool you into believing that Con-Test is a return to the progressive Rock of the Black Noise. To the contrary, Con-Test continues to push FM ever closer to New Wave territory. This album often reminds me of The Cars. The traces of progressive Rock that could still be found on City Of Fear are eradicated here on this streamlined effort. It should be remembered that we are deep into the 80's here and, like so many of their peers, FM were moving with the times. The mid 80's was the worst period ever for progressive Rock.

All of the nine tracks on Con-Test are around four to five minutes in length and not one of them stands out which makes Con-Test a weak and forgettable album.

Not recommended!

Report this review (#1464244)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2015 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1703857)
Posted Monday, March 20, 2017 | Review Permalink

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