O.S.I.: Fire Make Thunder (2012)

The Black Wax Reviews team has been listening to Kevin Moore since his DT days, sitting up and paying close attention when he started the Chroma Key thing.

Moore was somehow finding his way into our minds… into our psyches… into our hearts. He must have been tapping our phones. Hiding in his ghillie suit up on the hill, watching us through his spyglass. Or rifle scope. Hunkering down behind his ham radio and listening to our transmissions. Because he was articulating exactly the kind of relationship ruin that was characterizing our lives. It was uncanny. It was a bit unsettling. But somehow, comforting.

Our relationships were crumbling. Lives falling apart. Divorce. Terminal disease. Suicide. Victimization. Death. Questions of identity. In other words, we were living life, complete with skinned knees, bruised elbows, and lacerated hearts.

We didn’t want to be comforted or soothed; we wanted to be understood. Hearing Moore echo our silent cries (see what I did there?) of anguish was so validating it almost made the suffering bearable. “So I found myself back in the bachelor scene… I feel like an astronaut in a submarine…” “I was five miles up in the atmosphere. I was half asleep when I landed here.” “Love is on the rails, but I’m still rolling; love is on the lawn, but I keep mowing…” Or one of our favorites: “Get back in the car… I’d like to get back home before I wake up.”

Yes. We listened in the car. In fact, sometimes at the end of the day, pulling into the driveway and turning off our vehicles, we sat there for awhile, as if in a daze… carried by momentum. Hiding in the refuge of a brief, stolen pause between moments. “I need a get-away map of the hallway; I need a bird’s-eye view of the Hyundai, so I can sleep, sleep, sleep; or maybe I’ll just sit in the car…” We listened at home. We listened during the day. And at night. We learned every word. And hung on it. Again. And again. Until the music was grooved into our psyches, on permanent ‘repeat’ somewhere in the layers of our subconsciouses.

And the deceptive simplicity of his melodies made them extremely catchy. Memorable. Addictive. Stepping away from the heavy distortion of DT, Chroma Key focused more on organic sounds, from Moore’s sampled beats to his sampled spoken word on the street.

Then he hooked up with Jim Matheos and started the O.S.I. thing, a long-distance collaboration. Heavier. More driving. Less trance, and more metal. Still with samples and organic-sounding beats, but bringing Mike Portnoy into it. DT drums. DT keys. Chroma Key vocals/writing. Fates Warning guitars. Very, very sweet.

Did a few O.S.I. albums as he was able; changed drummers to Gavin Harrison (PT), had the occasional guest vocalist. Free. Blood. All awesome.

And now, Fire Make Thunder.

The perfect blend of Chroma Key, DT, Fates, and Jim’s recent Arch/Matheos thing. (Which is basically Fates.)

1) Cold Call (7:10) Cool sample intro. A Peter Jennings-like news guy saying a lot of words about nothing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikL2T743w6c. Jim’s octave-based rants come in, sweet and heavy as ever. “Pray to a higher power… enemy’s gonna do the same.” Not only does Moore revisit his “it’s hopeless; we’re all fucked” theme (evident in “Please Hang Up”, from You Go Now and showing up as far back as DT’s “Space Dye Vest” off of Awake), but we also get to consider the possibility that our enemy, whoever we think it may be, is really not so different. They’re praying to an empty sky, just like us. Sweet. Mid-tempo. Heavy.

2) Guards (5:03) Freaky programmed drums and bass for the intro, in seven. “You can’t keep shooting the camera test.” Nice. Reminds us of “Colorblind”, with its reference to Pantone memory. Also reminds us of

First think of a name
Try to keep it the same
All day
Now go over your lines
And get into character
Now open an eye
Nice try
Put a foot on the floor
One more
‘Cause we’re going live in 5…
Get into character

We get references to dogs, huffing (oxygen), and a knife in the back. Are we talking about Rez dogs? The desperation of life on most reservations (or as Ronald Reagan liked to say, “PREServations”) in the U.S.? Throughout the album we get references to calls and guards, as well. Plenty of ‘call’ references in Moore’s past, but the whole ‘guards’ thing seems to be a new direction. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes it from here.

An especially cool touch is the availability (well, probably not anymore) of this release on vinyl. Three different colors, in fact; gold, marbled, and black. (Certain members of the Black Wax Reviews team, of course, own all three.)

3) Indian Curse (4:42) Laid back, from start to finish. Some people are complaining about this album, saying it’s too mellow. After extensive research, we here at BWR have concluded that these naysayers are simply incorrect. This album is NOT too mellow; it’s the perfect balance of all-out heaviness and laid-back reflection. Marty Friedman once said in a post Megadeth interview that Dave’s songs were pretty much all gun-metal gray, and he (Marty) preferred to “paint” with more than one color. We feel Moore does the same. This song has top-notch musicianship throughout (as do all OSI songs, obviously), and offers a welcome contrast that makes other songs on the album pop out in relief.

4) Enemy Prayer (4:54) Instrumental. One member of the BWR team just isn’t into instrumentals at all.

Genghis Khan? Sorry.

Coast to Coast? Nope.

Love Theme From KISS? No dice.

Not even instrumentals as amazing as this one. This is like climbing aboard a roller coaster that loops around, goes upside-down, goes underwater, takes you to the edge of a cliff, lets you dangle there for a moment, then plunges you into fire. And just when you think the ride is over and it’s safe to take off your passenger safety belt (ya like that one?), it starts to build again. Slide guitar solo escalates the tension. Outro repeats main section. Drums get even more sophisticated and then the rails end and you fly off the edge of the cliff. Or into a solid brick wall. (Open to listener interpretation, of course.)


5) Wind Won’t Howl (5:05) This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music some of us have ever heard. This is one of those that some of us catch ourselves humming or singing when we wake up. When we’re riding our bikes. Standing in front of the copier at work. Or as we climb into bed. With sweet-sounding bells and piano parts couched in beds of heavy, slow guitar, the whole is something much greater than just the sum of its parts. “We were already down on the floor...” A tip of the hat to Moore’s post-DT early demo stuff, when he said, “I boarded the windows and doors and took the clock down from the
ceiling. But I kept my head to the floor, ’cause I had a confident feeling.” Sweet, gentle ending leads into the heaviness of…

6) Big Chief II (3:04)
BWR team is divided on this one. For some of us, the rhythm of the vocal delivery is a little too… “rap-like” to be an OSI song. But the biggest complaint is repeating the words ‘knife’ (used twice) and ‘dog’ (used three times in rapid succession) so many times throughout the song. Then there’s that little drum tag at the end of the song. What’s going on there? Others of us, however, are able to look past these things and just sink into the landscape of the song, thinking about it more as one small part of the whole second side of the album. The keyboard sound and chord progression during the intro could have totally come from DT’s Awake. (This is a good thing.) Jim’s rhythms are so precise, complex and heavy… love them.

7) For Nothing (3:18)
Three words: “Graveyard Mountain Home”, from the album of the same name. Moore simply knows how to capture ‘sad’. This is brilliant. Again, that delicious sound that perfectly captures a feeling of… being lost? Resigned to one’s fate? (At Fate’s Hands?) “Hope only got us so far, and the saddest thing as the wind blows your hair are the seeds of our nothing.” Dude.

8) Invisible Men (9:54) One of the first ‘hits’ off the album (if there are ‘hits’ to be had from an album that destroys popular convention the way this album does). All kinds of self-reflexivity going on here, for those geeks of us who love to be completely overwhelmed with nothing: “Focus the wave between the cars under the sun…” and “Starlight on the railway holds you like headlights on the highway pull you...” can be (and are!) seen as nods to…

  • “Even the waves won’t carry me away…”
  • “Get back in the car…”
  • “Stopped in the shade of a road sign as the sun rose like a bomb…”

Weird, heavy part emerges and erupts; drum machine’s (intentionally) synthetic-sounding rhythm marches on for 6 measures, then we suddenly shift to a quiet, chorus-laden solo guitar that warbles beautifully for a moment. Enter super-heavy distorted octave riff, double bass drums, heavy bass…

The landscape here is best viewed from above. We recommend renting a hang glider, putting on the headphones, filling the tank, quitting your job, and driving south with the windows down and this disc on permanent repeat, turned up loud.

OR, taking a week off work, closing all the blinds, locking all doors and windows, and listening 24/7 while watching your favorite movies with the sound turned down.

Basically, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and whoever you might be, this album is for you. You may not know it yet. And you may not get it. Yet.

But you will. You will.

And when you do, your heart will explode with a sadness and joy you’ve never known.

Black Wax Reviews Rating: Eleven Stars out of Eleven. The perfect listening experience. (Plus extra bonus points for releasing perfection on vinyl. Three color options, no less.)


2 responses to “O.S.I.: Fire Make Thunder (2012)

  1. Pingback: My favorite record review site | Trip to Pine

  2. Interesting review that didn’t waste time getting to the meat of the music. I think people get too caught up in the subdued nature of this record. Like you mentioned, there are many reference points to be found.. along with subtle word play, an almost avant-garde nature (Big Chief II) and wall-to-wall instrumentation with lots of subtle noises and odd transitions. It’s the subtlety that makes this record interesting. Not to mention Moore is a good composer. Did you hear that part with the tense, warbling bit in Invisible Men? Fuck.
    Anyway, cool review. 🙂

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