Monday, January 2, 2017


(c) 1984 Mausoleum Records

  1. Tracker
  2. Danger
  3. Running With The Devil
  4. Don't Dream Too Much
  5. Sad Girl
  6. Midnight Killer
  7. Hungry For Blood
  8. Rock N Roll
  9. Teaser Woman
Pierre Bechet--Vocals, Bass
Jean-Michael Mauffray--Guitars
Alain Amie--guitars
Dominique Henry--Drums

FISC.  Never heard of 'em?  Not surprised, unless you happened to grow up in Europe...specifically the 80s and early 90s.  And, if you haven't heard of them, its not really your fault, because despite the fact that metal was blowing up by this time, France didn't have anywhere near the success in spawning bands that crossed the ocean and achieved success that England, Germany, Norway, or Japan (different ocean, I know), did.  Were it not for some European metal friends of mine, I would likely not have heard of this band, either.

FISC is fairly representative of what was going on in Europe at the time.  In other words, the NWoBHM movement was in full swing, but the Germans...specifically Accept and the Scorpions...were still doing their thing, as well.  So...being stuck geographically in the middle, perhaps it should come as no surprise that FISC sounds suspiciously like a combination of the two styles, and their sound is not that dissimilar to those Euro bands that eventually morphed into a more trendy, pop metal (hair metal) direction. 

Tracker was, I am told, originally the second demo the band put out, but it was pressed as an actual album once the band signed with Mausoleum Records in 1983, which was not overly uncommon as labels looked to make quick and easy money by repackaging a product that was already recorded and ready to press.  Not judging at all, as that was the way the music business worked back then, and I'm sure bands made up of teens and early-twenties kids were more than willing to do what was needed to get themselves an actual record deal.  

Tracker starts off well with the full throttle rocker that is the title track, as well.  Featuring a gritty rhythm guitar and typically early 80s-sounding drums with lots of emphasis on the snare and far less concern with the big bombastic bass drums and cymbal crashes that would become so big in the late 80s arena scene, "Tracker" is a fast, aggressive rocker that many will find to be in that early Accept vein, albeit with lower register vocals.  Bechet, who also serves as the bassist for the band, actually proves to have a fairly large range later on on the album, but here he stays fairly controlled in the lower end of his voice, sounding a bit like Udo Dirkschneider...but far less German.  Guitar slinger, Alain Amie flashes a pretty cool solo here that really only hints at his considerable talent, and the album is off and running in nice form.

The best track on the record is up next, as I think "Danger" is a great NWoBHM sounding track, with aggressive rhythm guitars and some pretty rapid fire drumming, big, gang-shouted backing vocals, and some ripping lead guitar work from Amie.  Fans of bands like Diamond Head, Angel Witch, or even early Judas Priest, are going to find this track right up their musical alley.  The same can be said for the next track, the nearly as good, "Running With The Devil".  Not to be confused with Van Halen's song, FISC turns in another high speed rocker for most of the track, although there is a pretty cool section in the middle where the band slams on the breaks, the drums pull way back to just a simplistic rhythm, and Amie goes to town on a string-bender that shows a good deal of emotion, all before the band kicks back in at a nearly-thrash tempo, again reminiscent of those early Accept records that showcase so much speed at times.  Good stuff!

"Don't Dream Too Much" is FAR more laid back than the first three scorchers, although it is definitely not a ballad.  Think more of a mid-tempo Accept riff-rocker like "Head Over Heels".  The lead guitar work is again solid, with Amie even doing his best Eddie Van Halen impersonation with hammer-ons and some finger-tapping, and the gang vocals really work here (again, think of how Accept liked to use those gang shouts, such as in "London Leatherboys", for example).  I get the feeling FISC felt the need for more of a radio-stab after blazing through the first three cuts here, and "Don't Dream Too Much" is certainly that.

I was expecting "Sad Girl" to be a ballad, but it is actually anything but a ballad.  The band returns to a more speed-based sound here, although the lyrics to this track are rather simplistic and the chorus is out-and-out lame, which perhaps are the result of a French band performing entirely in English.  Bechet does unleash an eardrum-piercing scream in this track, and Amie again runs the frets on a pretty catchy solo, but the song, in general, is not overly memorable.

Following a woman's scream, "Midnight Killer" has a catchy rhythm guitar to start things off, and there is some twin guitar harmonizing going on that hints at Iron Maiden, but this is another relatively unremarkable track, falling into the filler category, but not something that makes the listener jump for the skip button.

"Hungry For Blood" has some more cool twin guitar riffing, and Bechet's bass is given more of a voice on this track.  Judas Priest is an obvious influence here, but I can also hear shades of early Krokus, as well.  There are some interesting effects used during a brief spoken voice section before Amie goes off on a fairly extended solo run that is backed by a galloping drum cadence.  Bechet's vocals threaten to get a bit out of control on the top end, but he manages to stay largely in tune, or at least close enough for metal.  "Hungry For Blood" is probably the best song on the second half of the album.

"Rock N Roll" starts off in rather plodding fashion before settling in as a rather mid-tempo rocker with one basic guitar riff, a couple of lead runs, and another bland chorus that is delivered with relatively little energy.  Its odd because lack of energy is not a problem on the rest of this record, so I don't know if the band was going for a "cool" sound here, or if this was a late addition in the recording session.  There is a nice Maiden-esque lead guitar section at about the 2:45 mark of the song, which then morphs into more of a Priest-like solo some 20 seconds into it.  There is also one of his faster solos to outro the song, which is really cool, as well.  Amie was obviously a rather talented guitar player, and even on a lesser track like this one, he shows some flair and style to his playing.  

The album closes with another lyrically-lacking song, "Teaser Woman", which I was concerned may end up coming closer to Spinal Tap as far as the lyrics go, than it actually does.  Musically, the band plays it pretty straight-forward here, again settling into a pretty typical Accept-meets-Maiden approach, with some more high-speed soloing from Amie and some pretty nifty bass work from Bechet, as well.  As was often the case with songs in the early 80s, when the band decided they were done, the song just ENDS, like it hits a brick wall, or something, which I was never a fan of.  All in all, not a horrible song, but again, just not that memorable.

FISC went on to release at least 4 more albums after this one between 1985 and 1989, and their later material, I am told, went in a more radio-friendly direction, although I have never heard any of them.  I just wasn't able to get copies of them back in the day, and prices for their releases now are a bit too high for me to just go on a nostalgia trip that basically no one else I know could go on with me.  I just didn't have many friends who were into the Euro metal bands like I was, with many only being exposed to NWoBHM through Metallica covers, early Accept, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest records, or Def Leppard's first efforts.  

If you can find them, FISC is a fun listen if you are fans of this style, but they are not a band that was going to alter the musical landscape.  Easier to find on vinyl than on CD (beware of bootlegs, although I believe Axe Killer did reissue 1985s Breakout album), plan to pay between $25 and $45 for used copies.

By the way, I have heard that the track listing for this album on vinyl is different than it is on CD, which may be an indication of a bootlegger thinking the album flowed better by moving a track or two without having to worry about the time constraints of a two-sided vinyl record.  I have never personally had a vinyl copy of Tracker, so I can't confirm this...nor does it really matter to me.

Rating:  Not the best record out there, but certainly a nice time capsule of the metal scene of an under-represented country.  Rock Tracker at a  6.

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