Thursday, January 25, 2007

Brother Firetribe: False Metal

An old friend of mine (hello Pete), who is a big fan of 80s rock and metal and now lives in Finland, the country where hair-metal never died, sent me a CD in the post the other day.

No note of explanation, just a CD in a jewel case in a jiffy bag. The (really quite awful) cover of the CD is shown on the right. The album is 'False Metal', the band 'Brother Firetribe', released in Finland (and Japan) last year, no release date for the rest of the world as yet. No, I'd never heard of them either.

A quick text to Finland revealed that Pete considers this CD to be the 'best album of last year by miles'...

So I listened to it. Twice.

If this had been released in 1988 by Van Halen, it would have been a better follow up to their '5150' album than 'OU812' ever was. But this isn't Van Halen and it isn't 1988. It just sounds so much like it is trying to be both. Actually, if you look at the band's website, they are pretty unashamed of wearing their musical influences on their sleeves, and acknowledge that when listening to this CD 'your hair might just start curling in classic '80s style'. Eeek.

It is an entertaining listen. The guys in the band (several of whom have been in reasonably sucessful [at least in Finland] bands before) are pretty good musically and they're certainly having a good time. The lyrics are reasonably stereotypical for 80s AOR/melodic rock: mentions of angels and demons abound, most of the songs speak of things that happen in the night, which is often spelt 'nite', and so on. I would have loved this album when I was 16, but that was 20 years ago.

As well as Van Hagar, the other band which springs to mind when listening to this is Journey. In fact, if you made a band out of Michael Anthony (Van Halen keyboards) and Neal Schon (Journey guitarist) and took a good, but fairly nondescript, AOR vocallist, this is what they would sound like. In fact, this sounds very much like Journey's two most recent albums, Arrival (2001) and Generations (2005), where Journey replaced the distinctive voice of Steve Perry with the slightly less distinctive voice of Steve Augeri. (Note, Augeri has now been replaced by the more distinctive Jeff Scott Soto - could be a good move)

But the thing is, while the guitarist of Brother Firetribe is good, he's no Eddie Van Halen. And while the keyboard player is good, he's not Jonathan Cain (Journey). It feels like you're listening to an Asia-esque rock 'supergroup' made up of the second most talented instrumentalist out of each of the previous bands.

The bottom line is that this album is not an album of its time, its an album of someone else's time, and as such it can never be great. Sure, I'll listen to it occasionally, but there are far more contemporary rock CDs out there which are still great, but have moved with the times.

I place this CD in the same bracket as Bob Catley's last album ('Spirit of Man', 2006) - which will seem like praise to some folk, but will make others take a wide berth.

ps The title of this CD is a kind of homage to ManOwaR - the self-styled kings of metal who were the ultimate cliche in 80s metal - they wore leather, they signed their contract with the record company in their own blood, their songs were heavy and spoke of battles and demons... and their rally cry: 'Death to False Metal!' - So would ManOwaR consider 'False Metal' to actually be false metal? Yes, I think so.

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