OSI has managed to crank out an album every three years since 2003, with the assistance, or at least the long-suffering patience, of a bevy of high-def musicians, most notably Mike Portnoy, former Dream Theater drummer, Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree, who drums on Fire Make Thunder, and others, including a guest spot from Opeth's mighty Mikael Akerfeldt.
Fire Make Thunder wastes no time by placing "Cold Call" at the start of the album. It's the most accessible track, and sets the tone for this progressive metal missive, by threading throughout a recording of the infamous 1971 EBS nuclear attack false alarm broadcast over WOWO-AM, which OSI then uses for lyrical editorial. The archival tape draws the listener into "Cold Call"’s cold heart of prog-vox detachment, electronic chicane and portentous stabs empowering the tension of the mistaken announcement.
"Cold Call" suddenly explodes at the right moment with layered guitar blasts and Gavin Harrison's drums. Dynamic and melodic, especially considering Kevin Moore's range-challenged vocals, "Cold Call" induces nervous chills on the first few listens. Once the chills diminish, the song can be appreciated for what it is: a fully realized 7:11 state-of-the art progressive metal opus. This is the track to play in order to vicariously enjoy a friend’s reaction to its understated creepiness. After repeated listening though, “Cold Call” loses its salt and Fire Make Thunder beckons the listener to move along to the other tracks.
"Guards" sweeps in slowly, and maintains connection with "Cold Call" by bridging back to "Cold Call"'s lyrics. Fire Make Thunder melts together from one track to the next to give it an artsy yet satisfying integrity. Like "Cold Call" and later "Big Chief II," "Guards" carries the cache of the album's hook-spiced melodies that insinuate themselves into the brain's center for unintended humming.
"Enemy Prayer" is an instrumental with surprising gnarl that teeters ever-so-closely to the precipice overlooking the freezing waters of prog-rock blandness far below, yet manages to keep its balance. It shows the pedigrees of the musicians involved, with Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree scenting the air like so much patchouli.
"Wind Won't Howl and "For Nothing" bracket "Big Chief II", which nearly construct a trilogy in timbre. The album closes with "Invisible Menn" all 9:54 of haunting atmosphere, extended vamps of textural envelopment and a plaintive melody sung by Moore in his best Dark Side Of The Moon intonation. This is the song that will spin hard drives and CD players the most, just to offer yet another shoulder rub from the dreamy melody refrain. Ultimately, it is Fire Make Thunder's finest track and the perfect finale.
OSI's Fire Make Thunder is what progress should mean to progressive metal. If terrestrial radio still played great music, Fire Make Thunder would drift through the ether on the frequency of psychedelic radiance.
(released March 27, 2012 on Metal Blade Records)