Although originally founded in 2009 by Belgium duo Frank Van Bogaert (keyboards and vocals) and Marcus Weymaere (drums) Fish On Friday have over the years become a truly international group. Recruiting American guitarist Marty Townsend for 2012’s Airborne album and Britain’s go to bass maestro Nick Beggs (Mute Gods/Lifesigns/Steven Wilson/Steve Hackett/Howard Jones etc.) for 2014’s Godspeed (Beggs also took a guest spot on Airborne). Their first studio album since Black Rain three years ago will be arriving imminently and once again finds Van Bogaert taking the production chair a place where he is more than comfortable but on 8mm he is for the first time ably assisted by Mr. Beggs as a co-producer, a collaboration which Van Bogaert has more than welcomed.
This, their sixth album, deals with the concept of nostalgia and continues the familiar Fish On Friday sound which combines the classic Camel, Alan Parson Project influences with the more modern, mainstream prog sounds (if there is such a thing) generated by Steven Wilson, Marillion etc. The nostalgic concept is hammered home initially by the lyrical themes of the title-track (home movies) and ‘Collateral Damage’ (looking back on past relationships) before taking an alternative more direct angle on the nostalgia trip on the ‘Overture to Flame/Flame’ duo which takes a pretty carbon copy cover version of the art rockers Metro’s track from 1976 with its Spanish guitar and soft breathy vocals fitting very well alongside the Pink Floyd style opening pair. ‘Jump This Wall’ carries things in the kind of progressive, pop, electronica direction made popular on recent releases by the like of Mr. Wilson, RPWL and ESP throwing saxophone and flute into the mix to add to the pleasingly lush arrangement. As the lyrics proclaim, it sounds like they’re “having a ball”. The pace stays high as Knopfler style guitar introduces ‘Don’t Lose Your Spirit’, a real show piece for Townsend’s versatile playing before everything takes a bleak turn with the elegiac quality of ‘Funerals’. Having said that despite its moribund outlook for me this is an absolute highlight with it’s sombre words and soaring guitar. Seven minutes of exquisite storytelling and ever changing mood swings. Another standout is the uplifting ‘Silently Raging’ which with the addition of female vocals is given a huge lift. The same has to be said for the effect of the broken vocal chorus during ‘Instillers’ where Begg’s distinctive bass is mesmerising. Beggs somehow always manages to shine without dominating and that is precisely where his impact lies for the entirety of his performance throughout 8mm. It is no wonder that he has become such a sought after player. The acoustically driven ‘A New Home’ transports us back to a circa A Momentary Lapse Of Reason Floydian world before Fish On Friday bow out in a more pastoral mood with the concluding track ‘Life is Like the Weather’.
I have to hold my hands up and state that on my first listen to 8mm I found it a little bit underwhelming however as you will see from my comments after repeated spins it totally comes alive taking on a character of its own and leaving behind the obvious influences enclosed. Give this release a little extra time and space and you will be rewarded. Intelligent, atmospheric and thought provoking, if not instant. Fish On Friday are one of those bands who seem to create a great deal of interest when new product is release but then fade away into the background due to the lack of live exposure and continued promotion. Hopefully 8mm will see a different approach and find FOF maintaining their profile to generate the exposure that they deserve.
- Reviewed By Peter Brockwell.
- 8mm is released via Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red Records on 27th October 2023.
- Official Website / Facebook / YouTube Channel
2. Collateral Damage
3. Overture to Flame
5. Jump This Wall
6. Don’t Lose Your Spirit
8. Silently Raging
10. A New Home
11. Life is Like the Weather