Released: 2012, Metal Blade Records
OSI, the collaborative partnership between Fates Warning’s Jim Matheos and Chroma Key’s Kevin Moore is a well-known project among progressive metal fans. FIRE MAKE THUNDER is the duo’s fourth release, a general consensus being that the first three albums had moments of brilliance, but lacked a cohesive and unifying sound or were just too damn mellow. The construction of this album is once again done long distance, both members composing their pieces and sending them back and forth to each other. However, the band has made what appears to be a conscious effort to integrate more balance between the mellow and the heavy, Matheos penning riffs quite similar to the ones he employed in the recently successful Arch/Matheos collaboration.
Moore handles all the vocal duties, and he and Matheos combine to play all the instruments save for drums, which is covered by Porcupine Tree skin man Gavin Harrison. “Cold Call” is representative of past OSI, with a voice-over accompanied by a slow building layer of music before one of those down tuned open spaced riffs Matheos has been employing of late. “Indian Curse” is a sophisticated acoustic ballad that manages to challenge conventions and offer a change of pace after the first two up-tempo tracks on the album. Naturally, no progressive metal album would be complete without an instrumental, and “Enemy Prayer” fills that void aggressively, certainly one of the heavier tracks on the album. Musically, FIRE MAKE THUNDER is a fine album, but there are a couple of annoying traits. One is Kevin Moore’s vocals, which are too subdued and steeped in Pink Floyd worship, while being far too limited in range to push some of these tunes past the snooze button. The best example of where this style works is on album closer “Invisible Men”, a combination of Zep’s “No Quarter” and any of a number of Pink Floyd songs. I consider it the albums finest moment. On the other hand, “Guard” reveals how a heavier up tempo song suffers from Moore’s stoned, lackadaisical vocal style. The other issue that I have is that in the quest to be progressive and unconventional, some passages sound just plain weird, really struggling to yield a hook or a repeat listen.
The guys must have figured this Moore’s vocals to be a weak point as well, because Kevin does not do much singing! The production is expectedly smooth and clear, Matheos really finding a huge guitar sound when he decides to throw the weight of his axe around, which is all too infrequently. Add it all up though, and this is still a fantastic album, arguably the band’s best and certainly some of its most varied material. Matheos and Moore continue to push the boundaries of the genre, and so this truly deserves the progressive moniker. Coming so closely on the heels of Arch/Matheos, fans of this style have been treated to a banner 6 months or so of quality progressive metal from some of its lead practitioners. For progressive metal fans, FIRE MAKE THUNDER is an ideal stopping point on the road from SYMPATHETIC RESONANCE to the new Fates Warning album slated for the end of 2012.