Were you one of those kids raised on Rocky movies? If you were, you soaked up those bombastic training montage scenes that were so essential to the Stallone flicks. You cheered as he ran along the beach, screamed as he climbed snowy mountains, shouted when he lifted 2 ton heavy things and whistled as he chased poultry around sketchy back alleys. Part of the thrill of those scenes was the relentlessly upbeat, hilarious cheesy soundtrack populated by the likes of 80s radio icons, Survivor1. Now, don’t feign ignorance as to who they are. You felt their Burning Heart and you, like me, had the Eye of the Tiger and wore it with pride. Now imagine Survivor kept turning out those “me against the world” motivational rockers just for you. Meet Brother Firetribe, because that’s exactly what this wacky super group of Finns have been doing for some unknown reason. Composed of members of Leverage and Nightwish, they’ve found themselves quite a strange hobby, with Sunbound being their fourth oddball throwback to the 80s and just as intentionally silly and dated as the others. They refer to their music as “tennis heavy,” and I suppose that’s as valid as Survivor-core. By any name it’s just as much a parody aimed at the ultimate in niche markets2.

The funniest part is, they write some really fun songs that are more Survivor than the actual Survivor ever was. I’m not sure what kind of dubious achievement that is, but there ya go. On every album they’ve had a handful of righteous rockers that I liked despite my ardent desire not to. I’ve played their stuff for friends and always got an immediate “Why are you listening to Survivor, and hey, I don’t know this one but I like it!” Get ready folks, because the kings of 80s fromage are back for more homage.

The freakshow kicks off well with the catchy synth rock of “Help is On the Way.” Early on the average listener will go through several stages including; disbelief, grudging acceptance, grudging liking, fear of exposure, and finally, ridicule from friends, family and well wishers. You can tell yourself they’re no different than Night Flight Orchestra or Audrey Horne, but deep down, you know you’re lying. The love peppered with self loathing will continue with the nigh irresistible “Indelible Heroes” where the band gives thanks to metal bands like Motorhead, while sounding like a band Lemmy would kick the living shit out before stealing their groupies. Irony is a wicked biscuit sometimes.

“Taste of the Champion” is both another guilty pleasure and one of the worst ESL misfires of all time, and if you can make it all the way through without picturing beloved Rocky characters in compromising situations, more power to you. The stickiest flypaper is “Last Forever,” which will absolutely infuriate you with how catchy and completely stupid the chorus is. “Give Me Tonight” is their answer to Night Flight Orchestra‘s “Living for the Nighttime” and roughly as insipid, but fun as fook. “Shock” injects a bit of Peter Gabriel into the arena pop for an intriguing edge, and “Heart of the Matter” could almost be a Richard Marx hit (Hazard this, Marx!).

Not every song would have a sleazy 80s AOR executive hearing singles and seeing dollars, as “Restless Heart” promises a huge chorus that never arrives, and closer “Phantasmagoria” isn’t as catchy as should be. Still, most of this stuff does exactly what it’s intended to do and several cuts would have been minor hits back in the day.

A band can sound as much like Survivor as they want, but without a big set of pipes on the mic, the 80s aren’t coming back. Pekka Heino (Leverage) is that set of pipes. He sounds uncannily like Jimi Jamison (Survivor, duh), and has that overwrought, over-dramatic style of radio rock singing down a little too well for comfort. He delivers the choruses with panache, aplomb and a cosmic butt-ton of cheese, and that’s why these stupid songs work, damn them! Pekka is supported by the minimalist riffs of Emppu Vuorinen (Nightwish, Altaria) and the overweening, suffocating keyboards of Tomppa Nikulainen. If you came here from throat cutting riffs, you made a wrong turn somewhere, as both the guitar and keys are steeped in cotton candy and sugar plumage. It’s radio rock from a bygone era and they nail it, but at what cost, man?!

Four albums of this stuff and what a long strange Journey its been. Why do they do it? I don’t know. I do know they have a very particular set of skills. Skills they’ve acquired over a long career of Survivor worship. Skills that make them a nightmare for people like us. If you buy the album, that will be the end of it. They will not look for you, they will not tell Paul Baloff you’re a poser. If you don’t, they will look for you, they will find you, and they will rock you (gently).


Rating: 3.0 (I’m sorry!)/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Spinefarm Records
Websites: brotherfiretribe.comfacebook.com/brotherfiretribeofficial
Releases Worldwide: March 24th, 2017

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Who were themselves but a pale imitation of super pop rockers, Journey.
  2. i.e. People who need to hear more gym-friendly Rocky music as they Jazzercise®.

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  • herrschobel

    what a sweet review !

  • Grymm

    This is so 80s-cheeseball, Stallone-arm-wrestling, Daniel-san-crane-kicking, John-Cusack-holding-up-a-boomboxing goofery and I can’t stop listening to this without a shit-eating grin on my face and hitting the replay option.

    I hate you I hate you I hate you etc.

    • Welcome to the tribe. The Zima is in the fridge.

      • Grymm

        Thanks! Lemme grab my headband and leg warmers.

        • Matt slatz

          I can’t wait to throw this cassette in my fanny pack, then pop it in my Walkman while rollerblading

          • [not a Dr]

            You must mean rollerskating.

          • Matt slatz

            Hey I’m 40 not 50

          • [not a Dr]

            I’m 41. A lot can (and did) happen in a year.

          • Matt slatz

            Hey we both survived the nu-metal scene

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      This thing is more infectious than the flu. I got it stuck on repeat and I’m hoping to find the lyrics. Seems like they are an eulogy for the many music heroes fallen in 2016.

  • tomasjacobi

    You forgot to mention the blatant Survivor worship going on here. Pretty embarrassing for a seasoned reviewer to miss that :-/

    • It was implied.

    • ‘Embarrassing’ was actually the first word that struck my mind when pressing play. The word repeated itself like a broken record throughout the song. In the end I was left with one question only: Why the hell didn’t I just stop the song? It’s embarrassing, I know.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Come on, tell the truth: it’s not only that you didn’t stop the song, you listened to it more than once.

        • It’s snowing outside my window, but as far as I know, Hell hasn’t frozen over yet.

  • Reese Burns

    Say what you will about the music, but that’s another really shit album cover.
    But speaking of rocking 80s music, have you guys heard about the upcoming Night Flight Orchestra album??

    • Chris Timbó

      The new song – Midnight Flyer – has an intro of a woman speaking in Portuguese. A cool nod for brazilians? :-)

  • Dethjesta

    I really want to watch all the Rocky films back to back in a 11 hour marathon, for some reason. I don’t even like the Rocky films (except the first, that one’s great).

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I’m pretty sure that would be more than 11 hours.

  • eloli

    Whatever you do, don’t listen to the embedded track.
    I mean, I did, and for 4′ it was transported back to 1984, my scrawny 12 year old self getting ready for a Friday night middle school dance while pondering who should I ask for a dance when Jessie’s Girl came up.

    • Keep your head on a swivel and avoid wedgies. You’ll be fine.

  • Excentric_13073

    I knew what I was in for as soon as the guy started clapping in the embedded video.

  • aaron bergman

    What a Rocky Horror. I was too cool for this in the 80s. I’m not anymore.

  • Wilhelm

    Without the 80’s bravado and with soulless modern production, Survivor wouldn’t have stood a chance in 2017. There’s a good song buried here, but it’s missing its time.

  • Now I need some action pants that don’t bind my legs and I’ll be all set! http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0461bdeb835992491b78f7100b833d2b2b314b5a60dcbd67e3ec76b8b56e50a5.png

    • Grymm

      Get you some Zubaz, STAT!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I own those exact same boots!!!!! But I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing those action pants.

  • Nice review. Well written my man, as usual.

  • Huck N’ Roll

    I can’t believe you reviewed this. I also can’t believe I don’t already own it. I’m off to do so immediately. Don’t tell anyone.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Survivor… soft rock that makes you want to punch people!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I read somewhere Finland has the most per capita Metal bands in the world. It seems somehow along the way they lost the ability to make ANY music WITHOUT distorted guitars.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This is not music, this is a time machine stuck in 1984.

    • sir_c

      just don’t you love it?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I stand corrected… This is not music, this is a time machine stuck in 1984 and I love it!

  • Danny

    Emppu is one of my favorite guitar players, and this is literally the cheesiest thing I’ve heard all year. I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. Its disgusting yet beautiful.

  • Thatguy

    SD is trolling me.

    • What?? There’s nary a cello to be found!

      • Thatguy

        There’s worse things in life than cellos, and this is an example. I still think you are trolling all of us with your rating.

        • Spend a week spinning it and get back to me once your Eye of the Tiger grows in.

          • Thatguy

            Ha!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I bet your band photometer is telling you: these guys are sure having fun!

      • Thatguy

        Well…I guess so, but the dog that crapped in my garden was having fun too, and I didn’t approve of that either.

        • That dog’s name is Karma.

          • Thatguy

            Again, ha!

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I’m sure you yelled at the dog: “GET OFF MY LAWN!” ;)

          • Thatguy

            I didn’t see it happen, but if I had I would have yelled ‘DIE SPAWN OF SATAN!’

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I didn’t know you were Glen Benton’s neighbor. Who else would name their dog “Spawn Of Satan”?

  • FelixtheMetalcat

    Well, I gotta say the review is fair…..either you like or loathe this stuff. I happen to fall into the latter camp, it didn’t work for me in the 80’s and sure doesn’t now. I kinda use this analogy sometimes…….if my windows are open in my car & I’m embarrassed to be heard blasting this stuff or god worse, singing it, then it shouldn’t be playing on my stereo.

  • Max Williams

    I DID grow up watching the Rocky movies and those songs, cheesy as they were, always got me motivated. I can remember making a mix tape of all the best songs, popping it in my walkman and going for a run feeling like I could accomplish anything, then running to the top of the hill by my house at the end and throwing my arms up in the air in triumph! This band captures that feeling perfectly and completely takes me back. Been listening all afternoon. Might have to get out that walkman after work…

  • Tofu muncher

    aahh…male vocal harmony how I miss thee.

  • Johan

    Everything in popular culture is cyclical and what was once lame will soon be popular again.
    I just wish it wasn’t so.

  • sir_c

    I thought I had my share of 80’s cheese today after finding out Night Flight Orchestra are working on some new stuff, but this polished tune sticks like shit to a wet blanket. Oh well, bring it on then!

  • h_f_m

    WAT

  • Tofu muncher

    so when are you guys going to review another Finland’s gold revival hard rocker I’m currently so in love with One Dir–One Desire?

  • Well, I actually LOVE this kind of music. I’m also a martial arts champion, and body builder, motherfucker, so PLEASE make my day. PUNCH ME – and see what happens!