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.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek