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Blue Öyster Cult - Fire Of Unknown Origin CD (album) cover


Blue Öyster Cult


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3.58 | 149 ratings

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5 stars I must decidedly go against the consensus on Cult here..this is far and away the best BOC offering and perhaps the finest ever rock album. I mean, rock, not progressive rock, not progressive metal, not metal, although personally I do prefer it even to TAAB or DSOTM. Indeed among 'prog-oriented rock albums', Moving Pictures and DSOTM are its only competition. This is such a very nearly perfect work of music that I can hold it up to anyone to point it out as THE example of how music must be composed and executed. Here are my reasons.

I believe it is not necessary that a ROCK album as opposed to one of extreme/progressive music must exhibit extraordinary virtuosity or extremely complex compositional skills to be deemed great. What is really required is to hook the listener from track one and not let him off till the very last track and this can only be accomplished if there is a balance of intelligent songwriting, great musicianship and simplicity of concept. That is precisely what Blue Oyster Cult achieved with this album. After adding layers of softness from Agents of Fortune and onwards and then tracing their steps back with Cultosaurus, they really hit the bulls eye here. There is plenty of metal muscle on offer here, most notably on Vengeance (The Pact) and After Dark. There are also the typical 80s keyboards but these only enrich the sound of the album and don't intrude in the way of the invincible riffs.

But where Cult scored over one and all in the metal/rock fraternity of the time was in their eye for melody. A finer balance of grit and sensitivity is well nigh impossible and indeed BOC too couldn't repeat the achievement. The tunes too are highly original and create an atmosphere full of suspense; there is an uneasy mix of the dark and the happy, which keeps the listener guessing. The band pull off another rare feat; writing an album which has plenty of variety and still is of one mood throughout. The orientation of the instrumental attack also goes to sealing the fate of the album. None of the band members step over the line; they sound just perfect, not too subdued, not indisciplined either, save for a somewhat incoherent Dharma solo in After Dark. Bouchard, in particular, keeps it tight, punchy and nasty at the drums.

The sole - and minor at that - blemish of the album is the mandatory metal-worthiness certificate coming this time in the form of "Heavy Metal - the Black and the Silver". This sounds like Point of Entry - Judas Priest and that can't be a good thing, no sir. It is far less effective than previous proto-metal ventures like Cities on Flame, The Red and the Black or This Ain't The Summer of Love, but not a bad song in the final analysis. It is also not long enough to damage the flow of the album either.

So there it is then, Fire of Unknown Origin is a big hurrah for music that is sing-along and accessible without getting reduced to the inane - a thumbs up, if you will, to the Highway to hell/ Ace of spades/ Tom Sawyer variety of rock. It is also possibly the only album that both the staunch metalhead (Vengeance) and the quintessential pop listener (Don't Turn Your Back) stand an equal chance of liking. It also stands out from other Cult offerings because if you have heard Burning for you and Joan Crawford, you still haven't heard everything you need to off Fire of unknown origin. In that sense, it is an astonishingly complete album - a masterclass in masterful rock songwriting.


rogerthat | 5/5 |


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