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Office of Strategic Influence - "Fire Make Thunder" (CD)

Office of Strategic Influence - "Fire Make Thunder" CD cover image

"Fire Make Thunder" track listing:

1. Cold Call
2. Guards
3. Indian Curse
4. Enemy Prayer
5. Wind Won't Howl
6. Big Chief II
7. For Nothing
10. Invisible Men

Reviewed by on January 15, 2013

"If consistency can be considered a virtue, songwriters Jim Matheos (Arch/Matheos, ex-Fates Warning) and Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, ex-Dream Theater) could be considered saints by now."

If consistency can be considered a virtue, songwriters Jim Matheos (Arch/Matheos, ex-Fates Warning) and Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, ex-Dream Theater) could be considered saints by now. On their fourth album, little new ground may have been tread, but a valuable framework had been established with the previous album and there didn't seem to be much reason to change it for "Fire Make Thunder." By now, it's clear that these guys follow a very Quentin Tarantino-esque philosophy of "just do it and explain it later. Maybe. Or not at all."

If Kevin Moore's cryptic half-militaristic speak-sing and multitudinous synthesizer palettes are your thing, the first three tracks alone will deliver in spades. The lead lines, if you can call any of them that, are few and far between, which speaks to Moore's uncanny ability to blend himself into a track. Never one to needlessly noodle, his parts here are once again based around creating a soundscape. He also exerts some influence over Matheos, as even he has pulled back on "Fire Make Thunder."

Various sections of certain songs beg for some showy guitar work to provide counterpoint to the high-gain riffing, but are left to run on momentum instead. Nevertheless, the riffs are big enough to generate momentum. On the other hand, the backing tracks have gotten more expansive than on "Blood." Tracks like "Indian Curse," "Invisible Men," and "Wind Won't Howl" are excellent examples of carefully constructed worlds of sound, buzzing with subtle electronic elements and back-masked backing guitars, easily matching and exceeding the creep factor set on their first album by "shutDOWN."

Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison makes another appearance on the record, additionally co-writing with the duo on one song. Like a sushi chef, Harrison chops up standard rhythms, re-arranges them, and rolls them up in delicious ways that few ever match. The drum production on this record may also be one of his best yet, recorded at Harrison's home in London and mixed by Matt Sepanic of Sound Farm. Electronic drum programming is also prevalent in songs like "For Nothing," "Invisible Men," and "Guards," though all three call for it and don't raise any consistency alarms.

As for Moore's lyrics, themes for some songs are easier to understand than others, but are still mostly smoke and mirrors, which feels otherworldly. This, of course, lends credo to the notion that OSI is crafting aural worlds instead of songs. "Big Chief II" and "For Nothing" are particularly good counterpoints of each other, the latter even venturing into a sort of light Devin Townsend-like electro-dream-rock. Overall, OSI has avoided a misstep and managed to create another truly unique and enjoyable chunk of electro-prog-metal.

Highs: Unique soundscapes and straightforward grooves.

Lows: Cryptic lyrics leave no room for emotional connection.

Bottom line: More smoke, mirrors, and riffs -- a delicious fourth album of electro-prog-metal from Kevin Moore and Jim Matheos.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)