Album Review: OSI – Fire Make Thunder

Something about concept albums make them seem very hit or miss. And while OSI’s latest isn’t really a concept album, every song they write is tied in with the American government agency (Office of Strategic Influence, for the uninitiated) they take their name from. On the opening track ‘Cold Call’, you can hear all that, with ample use of voice samples and a pretty catchy refrain: “Cold call, cold call/Enemy gonna do the same/Cold call, cold call/The universe never heard of us.”

Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, formerly of Dream Theater) handles the vocal and keyboard duties while Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos churns the riffs. OSI have been known to enlist a lot of prog rock’s lead men for collaborators (Mikael Akerfeldt, Steven Wilson, Sean Malone) and this time they have brought in Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) to man the drum kit in the studio. You can hear a lot of that typical progressive rock, but there’s something too mellow to make this lean towards progressive more than rock. The fans seem to be surprised, pleasantly and unpleasantly. After all, a dive into calmer tones will always make you lose the headbangers.

Certainly, there’s more credit due to Harrison for making songs such as ‘Indian Curse’ bear an enormous Porcupine Tree influence. Since this was one of those “long-distance” records, with Matheos and Moore recording and writing in their respective home studios, it makes song-writing look easy. I’m sure it’s quite the opposite, but that’s another debate.

OSI peak with the opener ‘Cold Call’, and find it difficult to keep it fresh. ‘Wind Won’t Howl’ is repetitive to the extent that it sounds like a five-minute filler. Meanwhile, ‘Big Chief II’ is about three minutes long, but does so much more – stomping beats and angry riffs. Again, it’s probably something you would hear on a Porcupine Tree album. I’ll concede that they do win it back with that track but they go on to perplex with a song like ‘For Nothing’ – probably the most pop/romantic/dreamy any prog rock band can ever get. The dreamy tones get carried forward to album closer ‘Invisible Men’, half-industrial and definitely prog rock.

Fire Make Thunder’ is a confusing album, but the production and writing see it through. This is progressive rock trying to be as diverse and organic as possible, and mostly succeeding at it.

Rating – 7


No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!