OSI return with their fourth album entitled Fire Make Thunder, a work that is highly reminiscent of, and could clearly be a continuation of their last album, Blood. The same elements are at work here in the ongoing collaboration of vocalist/keyboardist Kevin Moore, formerly of Dream Theater, and guitarist Jim Matheos, Fates Warning and Arch/Matheos. Prog rock/metal, electronic, experimental, and sometimes straight ahead metal, Fire Make Thunder is an interesting addition to the OSI catalog.
This certainly isn’t an album that, if you aren’t familiar with OSI, can be absorbed instantly. Even as a fan of the band since their debut, I have listened to Fire Make Thunder several times to try to capture the essence of the album. Moore again uses his lightly delivered, almost speech-like vocals throughout the album. The music is constructed in some instances as a complicated, progressive jam, and in others, simplistically and straight forward, almost always conveying a sort of melancholy, psychedelic mood. Drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) delivers his second performance with OSI, similarly to that on Blood, but perhaps a bit more restrained here at times when required and typical intricate progressive drumming at others, completely in line with the musical constructions by Moore and Matheos. This is certainly a progressive work, but not in the vein of lots of odd time signatures, a million notes per minute or guitar, keyboard and drum “wankery”. It is progressive in mood, tone and song construction.
Production on the album is crisp, clear and appropriate for the musical compositions contained within, layered throughout with keyboard atmosphere and often crunchy, distorted guitars. The vocals are sometimes less in front as could be, but I suspect this is intentional with the delivery method Moore employs. It isn’t difficult to understand the lyrics themselves, but deciphering the meaning behind the lyrics may be a challenge. Moore has a way of crafting the words to allow the listener to interpret the lyrical content to his own liking, a mark of well written lyrics.
There are definitely highlights and lowlights in Fire Make Thunder and I need to be in a certain mood to listen to the album. The first couple of songs are definitely in the customary style of OSI and lead off the album perfectly. Big Chief II is also a well written and executed song, one I truly like. Enemy Prayer is an instrumental that is well executed, but I think could have been a bit more interesting with the addition of vocals, although I do still enjoy it. The song Indian Curse, though, seems to go nowhere and really doesn’t do much for me as well as For Nothing. OSI is usually adept at producing music that has tension and release, a necessary concept in music writing, but at times this album seems to be lacking that element.
Fire Make Thunder is not an easily digested album, not because it is a bad album, but because it requires concentration and understanding. If you are an OSI fan, it may disappoint in places and satisfy in others. If you haven’t heard the band, I recommend Blood or the self titled debut. If you find those two interesting, then pick up Fire Make Thunder and Free.
I hear the sound in a METAL way.