Fire Make Thunder

01. Cold Call
02. Guards
03. Indian Curse
04. Enemy Prayer
05. Wind Won’t Howl
06. Big Chief II
07. For Nothing
08. Invisible Men

[Metal Blade Records]

I have always appreciated OSI’s muscular approach to progressive metal. They’re not turning inside out and being incestuous with other genres, nor does Jim Matheos, founder and guitarist, litter his song writing with gratuitous soloing or superfluous song length. OSI is more of an observation of minimalism. There is an athletic leanness within their approach that reached a pinnacle in the form of 2009’s Blood which displayed rigorous dynamics. However, this year’s Fire Make Thunder feels like OSI are breathing a little bit harder and are starting to hit the wall.

The tone is still there. In fact it’s weightier; like a weightlifter, OSI have added a further 10kg and while it feels good, their handling is still deft, if a little slower. On Blood, the tone was probably thinner but mixed amongst the broad dynamics between the riffs and the subtle and gentle atmosphere of the stopwatch programmed drums and cute syncopated electronic noises and such — it all worked.

Now, with this bulked up tone on Fire Make Thunder, it encumbers the dynamical range and in places, is dropped altogether. This effect does streamline the songwriting no doubt, the early cuts of ‘Cold Call’ and ‘Guards’ are fast and heavy and ‘Indian Curse’ provides the cool down reflection but each really are slabs of meat. They are what they are. Those two are the fast cuts. The other is the slow one. What made Blood so good was that it wasn’t so definite, it was, well, bloody, thick with texture and fluid consistency. It kept it interesting. Unfortunately, Fire Make Thunder is lacking that greater variety and although I am all for a great tone, losing the whirring and jigging and hand-springing upsets the balance and can be a laborious exercise to get through certain songs.

This is not say OSI have forgotten how to write, because there are some definite highlights, all appearing on what would be Side B of the record. The slowly building ‘Wind Won’t Howl’ exhibits the stopwatch drums and guest Gavin Harrison’s great dexterous drums and the trademark stop/start riffage and flourishes into a rather beautiful melancholy. Album closer ‘Invisible Men’ shows off an excellent mix and is most affecting with thinking electronics and the ever doughty vocals of Kevin Moore, he isn’t the most diverse but fits great in the sound. And the riffs are pretty sweet too.

A big part of the appeal of an OSI record for me has always been studying the production of their records. Even back to their self-titled debut record they have always been perfect. Especially the mix. I will always stress, if you are ever interested in listening to music properly, get some fucking good headphones because they will make the world of difference. I remember when I first got mine and I put on OSI and it was like a master class of what is good and suitable production for the kind of music you‘re listening to. It’s crisp and shiny and the mix is always incredible; same on the self-titled, same on 2006’s Free, and on Blood. Happily I can say Fire Make Thunder continues the celebration of great production. Always classy.

OSI – Fire Make Thunder gets…

– ST

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