|Musical Style: Classic Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: F.O.G.|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 50:34|
With its name standing as an acronym for “Five Old Guys”, Aurora, Illinois based F.O.G. returns in 2005 with its third full length releases entitled Broken. The album finds the band moving in the same 70s influenced classic hard rock and metal direction of its predecessors, creating a sound certain to appeal to fans of Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and last, but certainly not least, Resurrection Band. As a matter of fact, the following statement at the bands website sums things up best:
The classic rock band FOG is as esoteric as a runaway freight train full of wild boars barreling down a mountainside at high noon. Their guitars scream with the passion of a thousand murderous band saws and their amps crackle and smoke with the rage of ten thousand mother lions. From their mouths fly swords, fire and mercy. They are on a mission – and yes, it is a mission from God.
I could not have said it better myself…
F.O.G. can trace its beginnings back to when founding member vocalist Dave Miller combined his passion for rock and roll with his new found faith in Christ. Soon joining forces with guitarists Warren Poi and Gary Moody, bassist Rick Schaefer and drummer Jim Groleske, the new five piece unit started out as pretty much a novelty act but in time became a very active outfit, receiving invitations to play venues as diverse as bible studies, outdoor festivals and even some of the toughest biker bars in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Dave Miller brings a very fine classic rock flavored voice to the project, occasionally adding an element of grit and gravel to his delivery reminiscent to that of Glenn Kaiser (Resurrection Band). While it took a bit of time to get adjusted to his vocal style, his performance throughout the project is quite steady and brings out the best in the bands guitar driven brand of hard rock. And speaking of guitar driven, Warren Poi certainly adds the crunch to the bands sound with his mega-tight and heavy duty riffs. His lead guitar work, at times coming across fiery and at others more blues based, stands out best on tracks such as “Fire In The Storm” and “Sam”. With that in mind, the only area of improvement in the bands performance worth noting is an occasional tendency to lose confidence in its instrumental sound, reflected in several key numbers - “Skulls Hill” and “Man Of War” being two of the most noteworthy – that would have stood out further if backed by an instrumental section. Jim Groleske and Rick Schaefer form a tight as a nail rhythm section.
I might describe the albums production as both a strength and a weakness. (It all depends on how you look at things.) When playing this type of music, you do not want (or need) a great deal of polish. And with that in mind, the production to Broken succeeds laudably in that there is not an overabundance of gloss to take away from the bands natural raw energy. On the other hand, as a result of a certain element of muddiness in the mix, the lead guitar and drums do not always stand out as they should. The lead vocals, at the same time, end up being mixed a bit high in places but not to the point of being a distraction.
“Comin’ In” is a very fine instrumental moving at a bit more of an upbeat tempo when compared to much of the albums material. Guitarist Warren Poi really shines here, his crunchy riffs standing in perfect complement to the gritty guitar solo he cuts loose with a minute into the song.
Introduced to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, the albums title track marches through its verse portions strong and steady before making a smooth transition to a catchy chorus focusing on the restorative powers of Christ:
I once was broken
But now I’m whole
I once was broken
But You saved my soul
Poi once again comes through with a very fine blues flavored guitar solo.
Immediately kicking in the moment “Broken” leaves off, “Awakened” moves forward to a driving riff that brings to mind Resurrection Band, the song not culminating until it attains a chorus with a catchy hook that will pull you in and refuse to let go. The driving riff in question urges “Awakened” through an instrumental section covering its final forty-five seconds.
The album hit its stride with the cover of the Black Sabbath tune “After Forever” (from Master Of Reality). A prominently placed bass line blended with a wall of driving rhythm guitar leads the way through the songs first and second verse in aggressive fashion. Slowing for its third and fourth verse, “After Forever” picks up in pace before the amalgamation of bass and rhythm guitar return to carry things to their close. Originally recorded by Black Sabbath as its personal statement towards God, the lyrics to “After Forever” lead you to question the true “source” of their origin. For example, consider the songs first verse:
Have you ever thought about your soul can it be saved
Or perhaps you think that when you are dead you just stay in the grave
Is God just a thought within your head or is He part of you?
Is Christ just a name that you read in a book when you were in school?
Things get even more profound upon reaching its final verse:
Perhaps you’ll think before you say God is dead and gone
Open your eyes just realize that He’s the One
The only One who can save you from all this sin and hate
Or will you jeer at all you hear
Yes! I think it’s too late
The hard rock semi-ballad “88” is slowly carried through its first verse by a quietly played guitar line. Picking up in pace as the rhythm guitar enters the mix, the song attains an emotionally charged chorus drawing its lyrics from Psalm 88:
Running out of tears
Please draw near
Grief so incoherent
Let this Psalm of sadness
For once be said
Slowing again for its bridge, a combination of pounding drums and edgy rhythm guitar carries “88” through a fleeting instrumental section.
The bass guitar solo initiating “Keeper Of The Gate” is soon interlaced with a prominent mix of rhythm guitar, the two pushing the song ahead until it transitions to a chorus progressing at a heavy but driving mid-tempo pace. I really enjoy how "Keeper Of The Gate" closes out its final minute to an instrumental section highlighted by an ominous sounding rhythm guitar.
After “Red” begins to an open air rhythm guitar that starts in the left channel before moving on to the right, a heavy duty riff takes over and leads the way to an extensive chorus giving rise to an overriding melodic feel. All in all, while “Red” is by no means a bad number, it would have stood out in a more noteworthy manner if it had been backed by an instrumental section.
The nine minute anthem “Fire In The Storm” is by far the albums strongest track. A quietly played guitar line slowly carries the song through its first verse before the rhythm guitar takes over and underscores its seconds in near doom-like fashion. Duplicating the same pattern for its third and final verse, “Fire In The Storm” moves on to a catchy chorus that repeats the songs title seven straight times in an emotionally charged manner. A sweeping instrumental section is shored up by a punchy bass line as Poi cuts loose with some of the albums best lead guitar work. The lyrics to “Fire In The Storm” require no further explanation:
Once I was blind now I can see
I stand today not because of me
You’re the light that makes me see
You’re the strength that carries me
You’re the fire in the storm
You’re the truth that carries on
You’re the flame inside my soul
You’re the flame and the warmth
You’re the fire in the storm
The grit flavored “Struggle” moves ahead at a guitar driven mid-tempo pace until it culminates upon attaining a chorus fortified by a hard hitting rhythm guitar. A thirty second instrumental passage gives prominence to a near perfect blend of bluesy rhythm and lead guitar.
Opening to a brief bass guitar solo, “Man Of War” takes off to a driving riff that quickly propels it hard and heavy to a crunch flavored chorus with a good catchy hook. While “Man Of War” ranks among the albums better tracks from a musical standpoint, it is only held back by its lack of an instrumental section.
“Sam” commences to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar before the drums kick in and help bolster its verse portions with just the right amount of punch. Tapering off, “Sam” slows to a near standstill as it achieves a plodding chorus carried by Miller’s spoken word delivery. Poi graces the instrumental section that follows with several seconds of bluesy lead guitar work that bounces between the left and right channel.
“Skulls Hill” embarks to a few seconds of open air rhythm guitar only to advance through its first and second verse to a slowly moving doom-like riff, an imposing atmosphere created as the song reaches an overpowering chorus detailing the crucifixion of Christ:
Drinks taste bittersweet
Blood soaked ground
Like several tracks on the album, “Skulls Hill” proves very fine musically but would have stood out further if it had included an instrumental section. The song is aptly named:
Day of darkness
Curtain torn in two
Robe now gambled
All this done for you
Dead are rising
Temples soon to fall
Please forgive them
His response to all
The best way to sum up would be to say that Broken proves an all around consistent effort in that all twelve of its tracks hold up under repeated play. While my favorites include catchy hard rockers like “Broken” and “Awakened”, the epic “Fire In The Storm” and the Sabbath cover “After Forever” both hold up equally well. The only areas of improvement worth noting include some slight muddiness in the albums production and an occasional tendency by the band not to emphasize its instrumental sound to the best of its abilities. Irregardless, by all means pick up a copy of Broken. You will not be disappointed.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Comin’ In” (2:41), “Broken” (4:57), “Awakened” (3:14), “After Forever” (5:17), “88” (4:51), “Keeper Of The Gate” (3:55), “Red” (3:20), “Fire In The Storm” (8:53), “Struggle” (4:07), “Man Of War” (3:16), “Sam” (2:53), “Skulls Hill” (3:06)
Dave Miller – Lead Vocals
Warren Poi – Guitars
Rick Schaefer – Bass
Jim Groleske – Drums