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Blue Öyster Cult Fire Of Unknown Origin album cover
3.72 | 204 ratings | 18 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1981

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Fire Of Unknown Origin (Patti Smith cover) (4:11)
2. Burnin' For You (4:30)
3. Veteran Of The Psychic Wars (4:50)
4. Sole Survivor (4:04)
5. Heavy Metal: The Black And Silver (3:19)
6. Vengeance (The Pact) (4:41)
7. After Dark (4:25)
8. Joan Crawford (4:54)
9. Don't Turn Your Back (4:02)

Total Time 39:04

Line-up / Musicians

- Eric Bloom / lead vocals (1,3-5,7,8), guitar, bass (5)
- Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser / lead guitar, bass & Fx (8), percussion (3), lead vocals (2,6,9)
- Allen Lanier / keyboards
- Joseph Bouchard / bass, lead vocals (6)
- Albert Bouchard / drums, synth, lead vocals (8)

- Karla DeVito / backing vocals (4)
- Sandy Jean / backing vocals (9)
- Bill Civitella / percussion (3)
- Tony Cedrone / percussion (3)
- Jesse Levy / string arrangements (3,8)

Releases information

Artwork: Greg Scott

LP Columbia ‎- FC 37389 (1981, US)

CD Columbia ‎- CK 37389 (1985, US)

Thanks to andrea cortese for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Fire Of Unknown Origin ratings distribution

(204 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Fire Of Unknown Origin reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chris H
4 stars Back in 1981, with the release of Blue Oyster Cult's "Fire of Unknown Origin", the tone was set for where 80's rock was supposed to go. Of course, the way Blue Oyster Cult set it was based on heavy guitars, pounding drums, and the occasional keyboards. We all know it didn't go they way they planned, what with the hair-metal scene and arena rock and such, but you can't blame Blue Oyster Cult for trying. In fact, you should praise them because not only is this album one of the high points of their great discography, but it is one of the highs of intelligent 80's rock and roll.

The Cult was still reeling from the biggest spoiler in their discography, their horrid attempt to make another commercial hit, "Mirrors". Although "Cultosaurus Erectus" had done a good job in giving them back their heavy image, they still needed to return to their early album's sounds. That might be why "Fire Of Unknown Origin" was welcomed, because of it's early 70's reminiscent crunching guitars. Another reason for this album's soaring popularity was the Buck Dharma penned "Burnin' For You", which was originally recorded for his first solo album, but he reluctantly agreed to release it under the Blue Oyster Cult name when Sandy Pearlman refused to release the album with it.

The thing that makes this album one of their best is their realization of their strengths. Instead of chasing after another radio hit, like they had done on "Mirrors", they return to their roots with crunchy riffs ("Heavy Metal"), and almost-ballad vocally powered songs ("Fire Of Unknown Origin"). The sci-fi movie themes that usually come with their albums are also present, most notably in "Joan Crawford". "Don't Turn Your Back" also deserves some recognition for Dharma use of pop lyricism, but still being able to pull off the rock n' roll image.

There are albums by Blue Oyster Cult that stand miles ahead of this, but this is an almost incredible turnaround from their previous attempts at chasing their "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" fame.

4 stars, one of their last great albums.

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yes, they did it again! Finally Blue Oyster Cult are back with saome of the most exciting material in years. Musically, "Fire of Unknown Origin" is far from what we are used to, more keyboards and a more relevant role for bass guitar. If a comparison can be found, I'd say it's a mix between "Tyranny and Mutation" and "Agent of Fortune". On one hand there are still (excellent) pop tunes that helped to reach commercial success as the titled track and, mainly, "Burning for You". On the other hand minds seem to be more open. Just listen to "Veterans of the Psychic Wars" or "Joan Crawford", examples of their finest songwriting. The first one, in particular, would appeal to progheads.

This is not a difficult album to get into, and I have to admit that it's not at the level of anything they did during the "black and white" period. Nevertheless it's a classic and one of the most interesting albums from 1981.

P.S. did you notice the incredible analogy between this cover and that of The Strawbs in the (oh, isn't strange?) "Burning for You" (1977) album?

3,75 stars, to be honest.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars A deliciously dark and often eerie album with a hard rock surface and a prog rock attitude, "Fire of Unknown Origin" was perhaps the most accessible and, coincidentally, best album created by Blue Oyster Cult in their long career. The track selection, sequence, and overall atmosphere is beyond reproach, with the whole surely bigger than the sum of its parts.

Yet this opus contains numerous superb individual efforts, from the feel good hit "Burning for You", to the mysterious Moorcock-penned "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" to the frightening two-fer"Sole Survivor" and "Vengeance", to the silly yet suspenseful "Joan Crawford". The closer "Don't Turn Your Back" is perhaps the best expression of the BOC obsession with Death since "Don't Fear the Reaper", but, unlike that massive hit, it bears nary a scent of influences. The song has an irresistible rhythm and Bloom's vocals are emotive yet subdued. The keyboard textures here and, really, throughout the album, make it clear that BOC was a band that believed in production values without succumbing to them. "Fire of Unknown Origin" is a classic album from one of America's more underrated bands.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Being a big metal fan it's nice to listen to an old school band churn out some old school metal, and the BOC are a group that I've always found interesting, but this album is far below their usual standards.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the album, but it's cursed with far too many problems. For example it seems that the usual brilliance of Buck Dharma's guitar is all but drowned out by the sound of that 80s synthesizer, and the usually strong vocals range from sounding like the BOC to early Gamma Ray to Weird Al Yankovich. Tracks like FIRE OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN and AFTERDARK could have easily been made better by bringing the guitar to the foreground, while on tracks like SOLE SURVIVOR and DON'T TURN YOUR BACK a bit more effort could have been put into the vocals, it seems.

It's not all bad, though, VETERAN OF THE PSYCHIC WARS offers a very prog track, with very well done lyrics, it's too bad they didn't make a more original choice on drum sounds. BURNIN' FOR YOU and VENGENCE are easily the standouts on the album, which, coinsidentally, have a heavy amount of guitar on the guitar to synthesizer ratio. BURNIN' is a very well done, radio friendly song, while VENGANCE is a bit on the darker side, but offers a nice bit of non-linear writting with the breakdown at center-song.

This album is not unenjoyable, nor is it bad by any means, I just think the BOC have better in them. 1.5 to 2 stars is all I'm willing to give this one.

Review by rogerthat
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.


Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Strange as it may sound to some, this album counts as one of my all-time favourites. Though some may not find it anything special, and others think it is a tad too AORish, it does nevertheless strike a chord within me. Some of the songs are realmasterpieces, the artwork is superb, and the prog quotient is one of the highest in BOC's output.

"Fire of Unknown Origin" (wonderful title indeed) contains at least one hit in "Burning for You", written by guitarist extraordinaire Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser - a catchy, almost infectious little number which got the band a lot of airplay back when the album was released. Though a simpler composition than their immortal (pardon the pun) "Don't Fear the Reaper", and far from being one of my favourite BOC songs, it's still AOR with some bite. The other tracks, however, are a different story - starting with the title-track, with lyrics penned by punk muse Patti Smith (who was for a long time the partner of keyboardist Allen Lanier). Featuring great keyboard work by Lanier himself, as well as the band's trademark, left-field lyrics, it straddles the line between commercial and sophisticated.

The album's real highpoint, though, is the magnificent "Veteran of the Psychic Wars", written by vocalist Eric Bloom together with English sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock (of Hawkwind fame). The latter had already provided the lyrics for two other BOC classics, "Black Blade" and "The Great Sun Jester", both inspired by his cycle of Elric of Melniboné and his magic sword, Stormbringer. However, as good as those two tracks are, "Veteran" is something more - definitely one of the band's classics, and one of my favourite songs ever. Its lyrics have had a constant appeal for me, especially in some difficult moments of my life: "My energy is spent at last/And my armour is destroyed/And I've used up all my weapons/And I'm helpless and bereaved...." The song, a slow, powerfully moving composition, features a killer guitar solo by Roeser, and a haunting drum pattern that was probably inspired by Peter Gabriel's "Intruder" (incidentally, another favourite of mine).

While "Sole Survivor", featuring former Meat Loaf vocalist Karla DeVito, and the somewhat weak "After Dark" follow the AOR-inclined path of "Burning for You", the eerie, ominous "Vengeance (The Pact)", and the dramatic "Joan Crawford" lean much more strongly towards prog, with frequent time changes, rich musical textures and intense, evocative vocals. The album closes with the deceptively catchy "Don't Turn Your Back", with its soothing vocal harmonies, layered bass and keyboard lines, and death-themed lyrics.

Like its predecessor, the excellent "Cultosaurus Erectus", "Fire of Unknown Origin" was produced by hard-rock icon Martin Birch, who in those years would also revive Black Sabbath's flagging career. With great clarity of sound, sterling performances from all the band members, powerfully emotional vocals by Eric Bloom, and intriguing, thought-provoking lyrics, it ranks undoubtedly as one of BOC's best offerings. Though not exactly a masterpiece, it is an album that has a lot to offer to prog fans. Highly recommended indeed.

Review by MovingPictures07
4 stars This is not the Blue Oyster Cult of the 70s, but it is their greatest effort since Secret Treaties by quite a large margin.

1. Fire of Unknown Origin- Great opener which shows that BOC are back on their game! Not the light metal sound of their first three albums, but nonetheless a fantastic opener. 8/10

2. Burnin' for You- This is their second biggest hit (after Don't Fear the Reaper) and it's just as enjoyable of a song. It is not as complex as Reaper, but it's nonetheless a very well-crafted piece of rock. 8/10

3. Veteran of the Psychic Wars- Yes! This song is so overlooked and it has to be one of my favorite songs of all time. BOC are at their best here, with haunting keyboards, a balance of catchy rock and complex variations, and wonderful vocals. The drumming and keyboard work are of note here, but all the instruments shine. The structure here is perfect. If you want to hear what BOC is all about, particularly after their first 3 albums, then give this one a listen. Flawless. 10+/10

4. Sole Survivor- Great catchy song more in the vein of Burnin' than the previous song. This is highly enjoyable rock with good synth and backing instruments, but more on the side of AOR than prog. 7/10

5. Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver- Back to their roots here, as you can tell from the opening guitar lick. This is a driving light metal song that is more typical of BOC's unique mix of prog, metal, and rock influences. Great guitar riff and the vocals have a well-sung anthem edge. 8/10

6. Vengeance (The Pact)- From the opening hypnotic keyboard pattern, this is another really fantastic BOC song and shows why they are prog related quite well. Wonderful instrumentation and vocals, lyrics are effective and haunting (in typical style), and the structure is always interesting and enjoyable. THIS IS THE PACT! 10/10

7. After Dark- Another well-crafted song here with interesting aspects added in with a masterful rock blend. More on the catchy/pop side than the previous two songs, but still enjoyable. I love the guitar on this track. 9/10

8. Joan Crawford- Listen to that piano intro! Awesome! This is another classic song, with upbeat innovative elements all of my all-time favorite BOC songs. Joan Crawford has risen from the graaaaaave! Flawless. 10+/10

9. Don't Turn Your Back- This is a good closer with some awesome, dominating synth work. Not a straight-up rocker here, but more of a relaxed atmosphere. Nonetheless, it is absolutely terrific and an often-overlooked song. 9/10

I love this album, so I want to give it 5 stars. However, Fire of Unknown Origin is not a masterpiece of progressive rock, but it is easily an extremely good prog-related rock album that definitely deserves a place in your music collection. This is the Oyster Cult at some of their finest moments!

Very highly recommended!

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars After that heavy comeback of Cultosaurus, the idea was to keep a winning formula and let's face it, worked at least for FOUO with its fantastic front and back sleeve artwork. Still the same line-up, same collabs (the usual suspects: Pearlman, Patti smith and Moorcock) but the album gains in commercial attraction with a bunch of well-crafted near-pop tunes (all between 3 ¼ to just under five mins) that signify that the 80's were around and a hit was needed: it would be Burning For You with its catchy chorus, kitsch synths (Lanier is the first to cede in the 80's mould with his synths) and fortunately still safe and sound drumming from Albert Bouchard.

Opening with a good Patti-penned title track, than upping the ante with the hit (saved by Bouchard's inventive drums) and then pulling one more upwards with the Moorcock- penned Veteran of the Psychic Wars (the last of his trilogy with BOC), which turns out to be the highlight of the album with its mid-80's Genesis better ambiances (Shapes album) while remaining Oyster-like. Funnily enough after a real promising three tracks, the Cultmen seem to run out a bit of steam like its predecessor CE did. While Sole Survivor is another catchy would-be hit, sounding much 80's-ish and still a bit fun (Karla DeVito's back vocals brings a little plus here), Silver & Black, a correct Heavy Metal Anthem. Outside the odd good guitar line and some interesting drumming (given the 80's context), there isn't much on this first side for a proghead here unless he wants to feed on Sci-Fi images in the lyrics.

The flipside starts out with the average Vengeance and sub-par After Dark, the latter sounding like a new wave type band between Squeeze and Stranglers. Another biggie coming from this album is the piano-led Joan Crawford, where Lanier gets partly forgiven for some of the vile synths choices on other tracks. Plenty of crashes and fights noises throughout the track makes this track an interesting listen. The closing synth-laden track is hard to believe that it is BOC playing it. Definitely the poor track of the album, they at least placed it last so you could skip it easier by lifting the needle from the wax, and tucking the album in the back of the closet until the next decade's decennial spin.

While this album confirms the return to form of BOC, it lacks CE's surprise and the 80's feel is starting to seep through in BOC's music. One might say that if I grew up with CE in my collection for a decade or so, I never really owned FOUO, which might actually explain the star difference between these two albums.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The 1980s were unkind to all manner of rock lovers, warping intelligent and inspiring rock bands into plastic clones all apparently vying for commercial viability. While the decade took its toll on Blue Oyster Cult, the band still managed to create excellent songs, including some of their most progressive work.

"Fire Of Unknown Origin" The opener has slight disco leanings, but maintains the true Blue Oyster Cult sound, even if it doesn't rock quite as hard. The bass is the key instrument.

"Burnin' For You" Blue Oyster Cult's second biggest radio hit (following "Don't Fear (The Reaper)"), this one somewhat ironically also features Donald Roeser on lead vocals (my preferred singer). It begins with a fantastic dual lead riff and contains a great chord progression, as well as one of the catchiest choruses the band ever put together. The guitar solo is also a moment of brilliance.

"Veteran of the Psychic Wars" A genuine progressive rock song of the 1980s, this has great percussion hammering things out underneath synthesizer, along with excellent vocals and an intriguing arrangement. The echoing guitar solo works to great effect in this science-fiction song. The music is almost "proto-neo-prog," sounding a bit like Marillion's debut.

"Sole Survivor" An awkward track with a rather annoying melody, this one is probably the weakest of the bunch.

"Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver" A return to 1970s hard rock, this is a riff-based song with a forceful refrain.

"Vengeance (The Pact)" Another moderately progressive work, this begins with quiet keyboard and soon becomes a rock monster. The main riff is impressive, and the lead guitar is tasteful and interesting.

"After Dark" Another blight on a great album, this song sounds like something out of a cheesy 1980s dance film, especially with that goofy drumming and crappy synthesizer. Buck Dharma recompenses the listener with a blistering guitar solo- his third best on the album.

"Joan Crawford" What a fantastic introduction- that haunting, classical piano. It gives way to edgier rock. The eerie song is based on the life of the titular actress and her allegedly abused adoptive daughter, Christina (who wrote Mommie Dearest and made child abuse a hot topic). This song is definitely one of my favorites from the band.

"Don't Turn Your Back" Another song boasting Roeser on lead vocals, this is one of his strongest singing performances, I think. This song sounds quite a bit like Steely Dan, with a prominent bass riff, peppy chord progression, and an easygoing melody. The guitar solo is also similar, but of course far superior. All said, "Don't Turn Your Back" is an overlooked gem from a great and generally consistent band.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Even though I tend to group this album with their previous album "Mirrors" as far as being radio friendly, I do like this one better. It seems BOC is trying to find that perfect place somewhere between Radio friendly tunes and progressive art. They come close here, but I think they really hit it on the head two albums ago with "Specters". There is a return to more progressive elements here on this album, but its not quite on par with some of their earlier albums. Nevertheless, I do like this album a lot. Especially the second side.

Everything on the first half of the album is enjoyable. But the second half really hits closer to the mark starting with "Vengence (The Pact)" which is the most proggy song on here. I love the way each song flows into the next on this side to and it almost makes it feel like a suite of songs that are meant to be heard together. I love the song "After Dark" which seems to fly foreward at a breakneck speed and has a killer guitar solo in the middle. "Joan Crawford" is one of my all time favorite songs that starts out with an excellent piano solo which eventually crashes into the frantic pace of the main song. The middle section of this song is a perfect example of what I like to call "organized chaos" with the continued frantic pace and what sounds like a bunch of possessed appliances and devices. The song then breaks into an almost scary reprieve and builds back into the frantic chorus. This is an almost perfect song, and is more of a "Muse"-type prog. The last song is "Don't Turn Your Back" which is somewhat similar to the terrible final song from "Mirrors" (Lonely Teardrops), but at least it's not as annoying as that song and is a lot more likeable. Again, this is not a prog masterpiece, but it is much better than "Mirrors" with the second side almost raising it to 4 stars, but not quite. If the entire album was like the 2nd side, then this would definately be essential. I'll rate it 3 stars but it deserves 3.5.

Edit May 2020: I can't believe I only gave this 3 stars as it remains a favorite of mine. The fact that it stands the test of time as well as it does makes me want to bump it up to 4 stars. BOC is one band that I continued to love even when they became more commercial, and could find great music in even their "lesser" albums. However, I don't even consider this a lesser album. "Joan Crawford", "Vengence" and other still are some of my all-time favorites.

Review by JLocke
3 stars ''It's time we had a break . . . ''

At times, it sounds like that's what the band members themselves were thinking when making Fire Of Unkown Origin. I'm not so sure what people see in this album that they give it such high marks. I'm not even saying it's bad my BOC standards, but I do feel like the band has done better work than this, and while it's not bad, I don't consider it to be among the band's best works, either.

Perhaps it's because I grew up listening to the Blue Oyster Cult that played adventurous, technical Hard Rock music that touched me in ways emotionally I couldn't eve describe. All of the music I heard coming from them before I decided to experience their albums one-by-one seemed to be full of adventure and slightly foreboding undertones, presented in a fresh, interesting package. When I first heard Fire Of Unknown Origin, it almost sounded too simple for them.

Now, I don't have any issue with simpler music, as long as the songs themselves are best served, but i don't know . . . something about this music gives me a vibe that they were almost holding back at times. I think it's quite good in many respects, but it gets stale rather fast for me when compared to some of the other BOC stuff I've been listening to, lately. Perhaps I still need time to 'get it', but I've had this album for quite a while, now, and whenever I return to it, my opinion stays the same; very good, but subdued and not as good as it could have been.

So, while they sound a bit tired on this release, at least to my ears, it's still pretty good, and worth giving a chance. but for some reason I have never been able to 'connect' with this one. Oh well. Can't win them all, I suppose.

A solid three stars. Semi-happy listening.

Review by The Quiet One
3 stars Music of Known Origin: from the 80's

After having been stunned by the live release, Extraterrestrial Live, I knew I had to check out some of the studio offerings by this legendary hard rock band. One of these purchases was Fire of Unknown Origin, which was the studio album Blue Oyster Cult promoted with the aforementioned live release.

Extraterrestrial Live showcased three songs out of Fire of Unknown Origin, these were Burnin' For You, Veteran of the Psychic Wars and Joan Crawford. Undoubtly the best songs from this album, however as good as they are in the studio, the live versions definitely beat them, specially the live version of Veteran of the Psychic Wars with the extended guitar solo and with the greater dark atmosphere.

The rest of the album is still pretty decent and enjoyable if you like 80's hard rock, stuff like Moving Pictures by Rush which was also released in 1981. The song Don't Turn Your Back even reminds me of Moving Pictures with the synths and cooled-down riffs. However, just like that release by Rush, Fire of Unknown Origin has the same issue of not having much power due to the focus on the synths and not featuring very strong melodies/riffs.

Still, the catchy and clever factor on many of the songs, including the title track and the four aforementioned songs make this album worthwhile and good in general. When it comes to recommending this album, I would say purchase Extraterrestrial Live first which has the best songs from this album in better shape and also has some of Blue Oyster Cult's early classics.

3 stars: good album with some clever catchy hooks, but the 80's factor harms a bit the songwriting. Though if you're an 80's rock fan, I'm sure you'll find this record top-notch.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars BLUE OYSTER CULT is a band that i've had trouble getting into from day one. Like SAGA they have some great songs but the studio albums from both bands do little for me overall. This one from 1981 is no exception.

"Fire Of Unknown Orgin" is very eighties sounding as we get a beat with synths to start. Vocals join in.This is catchy but i'm not a fan. "Burnin' For You" is a song i've loved since I first heard it in the eighties. It's so uplifting that it makes me feel good everytime I hear it. "Veteran Of The Psychic Wars" like most of the songs opens with synths and a beat. Vocals before a minute in this mid paced and reserved tune.

"Sole Survivor" has a beat with synths as vocals arrive quickly. It's fuller on the chorus. Some tasteful guitar after 2 minutes. "Heavy Metal : The Black And Silver" is a little more aggressive including the vocals. "Vengence (The Pact)" is a great sounding tune with some heaviness late.The tempo picks up after that. "After Dark" is another winner with that uptempo beat with synths and guitar. I like the vocals a lot in this one. Guitar solo 2 1/2 minutes in. Nice ending. "Joan Crawford" opens with piano then it kicks in with vocals a minute in. "Don't Turn Your Back" is a good way to end the album. Some laid back guitar after 2 minutes.

This album has it's moments but overall my rating is 3 stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Like its predecessor, Cultosaurus Erectus, Fire of Unknown Origin retains a little of the dark, murky energy which made the band's early albums (up to Secret Treaties) so compelling. However, the band's experiments with their style here are somewhat less successful than on the preceding albums. The mid-paced Veteran of the Psychic Wars can, depending on mood, turn into a bit of a slow plod, and the opening title track incorporates a disco beat which you really have to be in the right mood for if it's going to work.

If you come here seeking occult proto-metal fury like the Cult of old, you won't get it. Still, Burning For You and Joan Crawford are catchy enough tracks, and the album overall is one of their more successful blends of hard rock, pop, and thematic weirdness.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "It's time we had some leave, We've been living in the flames..."

'Fire Of Unknown Origin' is one of the Blue Oyster Cult albums that most people agree on, as being one of the band's best. I can concur definitely that the album is very consistent in terms of quality rock and melodic compositions, the sound is terrific and the songs are easy to latch onto and stay in the head. The opening track is blockbuster, being the title track, and one of the all time great BOC songs. I was astonished at how amazing the musicianship is on this after hearing them on the far more inferior singles that have littered rock compilations over the years. BOC are at their best on album tracks I believe, rather than the AOR radio approach akin to Journey or Asia. 'Fire of Unknown Origin' is one of the songs I would say deserves to be on any BOC compilation.

'Burnin' For You' immediately moves into the AOR territory that inevitably the band turn to in their latter years. However this is still a decent melodic song, ad more of a diversion on this album. 'Veteran Of The Psychic Wars' is a track I have heard a number of ties in various forms; it appears on the movie and soundtrack of 'Heavy Metal:The Movie', the adult illustrated magazine movie that I actually saw in a dark, dingy theatre in the 80s. I had forgotten it until a recent listen to Arjen Lucassen's 'Lost in the New Real'. The post metal approach, and very strong lyrics by Michael Moorcock resonate with me; 'Don't let these shakes go on, It's time we had a break from it, It's time we had some leave, We've been living in the flames, We've been eating out our brains, Oh, please don't let theses shakes go on.' This is excellent song from BOC, but I kind of love Arjen's version better, as it is heavier and more complex musically.

'Sole Survivor' is next but Asia's song is actually better if we are comparing. I am no fan of this style and it reeks of soft AOR. Moving on, we have the mighty 'Heavy Metal: The Black And Silver' and what a song this is; metal to the max, old school with crunching axes and pounding drumbeats. 'Vengeance (The Pact)' follows and they bring out the flute. There is a powerhouse performance from Bloom on vox, and cool riffs over some non-sensical lyrics. The chorus is anthemic, and those harmonies work well together. Dharma's lead break is exceptional, he really lights it up, and then the riff moves up a key, until it gets locked into a faster tempo; now we are motoring! The lyrics mention an arrow in the head to save his master, but I never understood BOC.

'After Dark' is one I like to skip as it does nothing for me, but the next track is incredible. Based on Joan Crawford's expose novel and film, 'Mommie Dearest' this song goes into some sordid details about the troubled actress's life. 'Joan Crawford' is very weird and scary with some fun moments such as a car skidding across my earphones and then crashing in a fireball. Then there are a bunch of jazz sounds and other effects. The lyrics are rather chilling; 'Crawford has risen from the grave!'

'Don't Turn Your Back' is the proggiest thing on here and it's a sheer delight when BOC get creative. The time sig is very odd, perhaps a 4/2 or 6/8 in some places, and this has a great bassline. It is the ultimate way to finish an album.

In conclusion, I agree that this is a terrific album for BOC but I have heard better form them, especially in their so-called black and white period, the first three albums. Nevertheless, this has some extraordinary songs, and is well deserved of a solid 4 stars.

Review by friso
3 stars Now here's a nice artsy classic rock album you should know about. 'Fire of Unknown Origin' is the eighties answer to the catchy tour the force 'Secret Treaties' album from '74. Blue Oyster Cult has always coined itself as a 'heavy metal' band - even naming a song on this album to the genre. I would however suggest that if Blue Oyster Cult were 'heavy metal', so would David Bowie, Spirit and The Who. On this album I hear a gentle poppy rock group that happens to have some strong ideas about songwriting and the accompanying sound pallets. The bass guitar is particularly articulated in the mix, the synth are a bit typical of its time, but mostly this is a fairly unsurprising continuation of the seventies sound of the band.

Listening to this album for the first few times I was quite surprised how nice it can be to be able familiarize oneself with a new record in such little time. The album's pace and early succession of winning songs like the the Patti Smith cover & title song, the pleasant enough radio song 'Burnin' for You' and the more melodic synth driven tunes 'Veteran of a Thousand Psychic Wars' and 'Sole Survivor' - all fine memorable songs. The before mentioned 'Heavy Metal' is the first weaker song, but the peeps en shrieks of chorussy guitars are a nice detail. On side two the band opens and closes strongly with 'Vengeance' and the very catchy and atmospheric 'Don't Turn You Back' - with again a leading role for the bass guitar of Joseph Bouchard.

The melodic synth-driven songs are - not surprisingly - the most interesting for listeners of progressive rock, but the album is a strong record in its entirety. If you enjoy albums like Deep Purple's 'Burn', The Who's 'Quadrophenia' or 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' chances are you will greatly enjoy this album as well. The artwork on my vinyl print of CBS is also worth mentioning. For a classic rock album this deserves four stars.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Fire of Unknown Origin is my first full album venture into BOC's catalogue. The main reason I decided to start with this particular album is because I am a huge fan of the Canadian animated cult classic Heavy Metal. My favourite track from the album, Veteran of the Psychic Wars features prominent ... (read more)

Report this review (#804028) | Posted by R-A-N-M-A | Monday, August 13, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Having just reviewed a subpar BOC effort with HEAVEN FORBID, it's time to whet my whistle on some "real" Cult! This release, along with SPECTRES and IMAGINOS, are, IMHO, the finest that this band produced in their long career. Everything that Blue Oyster Cult was about can be found in thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#280426) | Posted by mohaveman | Monday, May 3, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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