'Fire Make Thunder' - OSI (8/10)
Although OSI began as a supergroup pairing between Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos and former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore, a string of critically successful records has gone to establish the band with a sound that is all its own. Although it's undeniable that a great deal of OSI's initial recognition and exposure was due to Matheos and Moore's history with two of prog metal's titans, they have since developed a fairly signature sound for this project. 'Fire Make Thunder' is the fourth journey from this collaboration, and while a similar sound to those of past OSI material is still strongly evident here, the album feels no less relevant to progressive rock in 2012. Even for listeners who are not already a fan of either musician, 'Fire Make Thunder' should make for an impressive listen.
Although OSI is typically labelled as 'progressive metal', the sound is far-flung from Fates Warning's calculating fury, or the early Dream Theater's technical showmanship. The music on 'Fire Make Thunder' has some of the qualities of metal, but there is a decidedly ambient approach to the way these songs are produced and arranged. As has been the case for OSI since their debut however, the most distinctive aspect of what the band does is the unique combination of Matheos' proggy songwriting, and Moore's more laid-back sensibility. Musically, OSI here feels like a continuation of what Moore once did with his solo project Chroma Key. The sound is warm and vibrant, but the mood, more often than not, is one of melancholy and reflection. Matheos' dark instrumental ideas compliment Moore's dynamic very nicely. To top things off, virtuoso drummer Gavin Harrison (of Porcupine Tree) offers his talents as well, making for the best drumwork yet heard in an OSI record.
'Fire Make Thunder' is not much different stylistically from the ambient metal direction of what has come before for OSI, but there is a greater emphasis on the guitars than before, solving an issue I had when first listening to the band (with the album 'Free') where it felt like Matheos was not being represented as much as he should be. That being said, Kevin Moore's contributions still feel the most distinctive and indicative of OSI's overall style. Although Matheos does the songwriting, Moore's melancholic quirk weaves its way through everything he does, particularly the lyrics. Poetic and mysterious are two terms that might best describe the lyrical impact on 'Fire Make Thunder'. Kevin Moore's voice is a love-it-or-hate-it thing for metalheads, and while his delivery sometimes feels the constraints of his limited range, the warmth of his voice compliments his style very well.
OSI certainly isn't a typical progressive metal band, but fans of Fates Warning and Dream Theater likely won't be disappointed when they hear this. Even outside of that fanbase, OSI has created something that feels fresh, modern and relevant. Although the sound runs the risk of sounding a little too similar to what the band has done in the past, 'Fire Make Thunder' is an impressive, lasting, and deceptively laid-back record that should make some waves in the prog community.