A long-distance partnership can be a difficult thing to maintain, and it’s not something one would associate necessarily with a piece of work like Fire Make Thunder. Considering the musical backgrounds of the duo behind OSI (Jim Matheos: Fates Warning, Kevin Moore: ex-Dream Theater) and the cohesive nature of the final product, you would expect the pair to have locked themselves away in a basement somewhere with only each other and a couple of UFO and Jethro Tull records for company. However, the process behind the creation of Fire Make Thunder was very different; each man worked on large parts of this album independently in their respective home studios. It makes sense in this day and age to create an album this way; it saves time and money, and is a good way to move with digital evolution of the music industry. Luckily, with two brilliant minds such as these, the final results show their ability to synch up without even being in the same room as each other.
Their fourth album is certainly not as heavy as previous releases, and is a lot more complex, resulting in an album that takes a few listens to really appreciate. One particular highlight is the almost spoken-word vocals that wash over the album, and while they may not be immediate, they capture the haunting atmosphere that weaves throughout the record. The opener ‘Cold Call’ has a nervous chill (no pun intended) to it that sets the tone for the next 45 minutes. It’s not the type of record you’ll feel like listening to all the time, I will admit, but each song flows so seamlessly into the next that you will pick up new things to love about it with each listen – whether it be the grooving main riff of ‘Invisible Man’ or the pure beauty of the piano from the instrumental ‘Enemy Prayer’. Each song creates a great tension, and you genuinely don’t know what to expect next. The instrumental is immediately followed by ‘Wind Won’t Howl’ which sweeps you off your feet with this wistful riff that takes you by surprise – and when paired with one of the most dynamic vocal performances ever from OSI, it shows just how well these two can thread emotion and music together.
It’s not progressive in its attitude to odd time signatures or noodling guitars, but its tone, emotion and song structure certainly evoke everything that is great about progressive rock. OSI have delivered a brilliant record which sways up and down from being hauntingly melancholic to beautifully psychedelic.. If you are keen on your prog, it is an essential release for 2012. If you’re not so keen, it probably won’t grab you right away, but stick with it because it definitely deserves your attention.