This is the first album of this US band that aims to walk the downtrodden path of progressive rock. F.O.T. is a quintet with Joe Daub (drums), Erik Ney (bass), Mike DiDonato (guitars), Jeff King (keyboards) and the pretty and nice Anna DeRose (vocals). Their first album contains 60 minutes of music, although in practice it is just a half of that. Where is the riddle? The last 5 songs are just the same previous ones in instrumental versions. Before speaking about the technical and compositional quality of F.O.T. I believe that this experiment with the instrumental pieces is a mistake as they have lost the chance to use the impressive artwork for a future CD. I would have waited and composed more songs for the CD. I do not mean to say that the instrumental tracks are worthless, since, as I will detail later, they are excellent.
What style of music do F.O.T. play? A wise mixture of North American progressive with certain sketches of what is now called "pagan music" (funny, as F.O.T. are convinced Christians) played by European bands such as Theatre Of Tragedy or Anathema. The result being songs based on Jeff Kings exquisite melodic keyboards and the vocals of DeRose (quite linear by the way), integrating with a fine rhythm section and a guitar player that speeds up the tracks, even sometimes becoming too fast in sections which do not require it. If I had to classify them, they would be a mixture between the least flashing Dream Theater and Shadow Gallery and those already mentioned European bands. Anyway, their music is definitively American progressive.
The tracks do not maintain a similar quality level; from the beautiful word-spoken "The sleeper" with plenty of musical changes following the vocals, we move to the epic and simple "Survive", the heavy-Theaterish "She wants to be" and "Carousel", or the nicely composed "Real" (excellent riffs, Mike). Maybe the main concern, given that their technique is of high quality, is that the composition of vocal melodies is weak and ends usually in being linear, but surely this can be improved on time. Anyway, those that do not like the vocals can enjoy the instrumental versions in which the musical developments can be better understood. Of course, being instrumental versions of vocal tracks, they end up being somewhat repetitive. At least if they had included the letters in the CD booklet, we could play a karaoke party with this CD.
In definitive, a new American band that wants to carve its niche in the music field, and that has the necessary ingredients to become a well-known group, although not probably in the progressive rock arena, since their music may be of more interest to lovers of other styles (I think of the misnamed heavy progressive a la Rhapsody). This would be a pity, as if King and company could progress and innovate a little, they could become much more original that many of their countrymen. Certainly they are young and they appear to be clever (there are computer wizards and philosophers inside the band, and Jeff King must be, with Jon Lord, the only prog keyboardist with glasses). Lets hope they are lucky and that they remember us. They pass our exam with a good grade, although they should aim for flying colors.