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Fire of Unknown Origin

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Album Review

Who would have thought that in 1981, after a pair of limp, unfocused studio offerings, and two mixed — at best — live outings, that the once mighty Blue Öyster Cult would come back with such a fierce, creative, and uncompromising effort as Fire of Unknown Origin. Here was their finest moment since Agents of Fortune five years earlier, and one of their finest ever. Bringing back into the fold the faithful team who helped articulate their earlier vision, producer Sandy Pearlman, Richard Meltzer, and Patti Smith all helped in the lyric department, as did science-fiction and dark-fantasy writer Michael Moorcock. The band's sound was augmented by a plethora of keyboards courtesy of Allen Lanier, but nonetheless retained a modicum of its heaviness, and the sheer songwriting craft that had helped separate the band form its peers early on was everywhere evident here — especially the gloriously noir-ish Top 40 single "Burning for You," written by Meltzer and guitarist Buck Dharma. Other standouts on the set include the plodding, über-riff pyrotechnics of "Heavy Metal: The Black and the Silver," and the Mott the Hoople- and Queen-influenced glammed up roots rock of "Joan Crawford." The terrifying images of desecration and apocalyptic war in "Veteran of Psychic Wars," with words by Moorcock, feature huge synth lines, dual leads by Dharma and Eric Bloom — as well as a tom-tom orgy from Albert Bouchard — offered a new pathway through the eternal night of the Cult's best work. Fire of Unknown Origin has aged well, and deserves to be remastered in the 21st century.

Biography

Formed: 1967 in Long Island, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Blue Öyster Cult was the thinking man's heavy metal group. Put together on a college campus by a couple of rock critics, it maintained a close relationship with a series of literary figures (often in the fields of science fiction and horror), including Eric Von Lustbader, Patti Smith, Michael Moorcock, and Stephen King, while turning out some of the more listenable metal music of the early and mid-'70s. The band that became Blue Öyster Cult was organized in 1967 at Stony Brook College on Long Island...
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