(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
(originally written for www.prog4you.com)
OSI is a project group consisting of Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) and Kevin Moore (Dream Theater, Chroma Key) plus various guest artists. On this release, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) and Joey Vera (Fates Warning) have been the lucky guest musicians.
OSI has been and to some extent is haunted by the ghost of Pink Floyd. In a world where everybody and their mother needs a point of reference, Floyd has been the reference point for OSI's relatively unique approach to the art of music. I beg to differ. This is an album with a modern sound, a unique but not groundbreaking type of music that in it's totality doesn't have any reference points at all.
Synth, keyboards and samples are the keywords to describe this record. Layers upon layers of electronic sounds that fill out the soundscapes of the songs, creating nuances and subtle moods as well as walls of sound and tension. Matheos uses acoustic and electric guitar to fill out the soundscapes even more, and is at the most effective when playing the acoustic guitar, giving life and warmth to songs that would have been a bit cold sounding without that input.
Kevin Moore's vocals are an important asset to this release. He isn't a good vocalist when it comes to singing voice or range, but utilizes his talk-like singing effectively, binding together 11 quite different sounding songs. He also more or less purposefully signals a feeling of "I have seen everything and nothing surprises me anymore" through his singing, adding quite a lot of emotion to the songs due to that.
Mike Portnoy's input is good, as always. He delivers driving rhythms when appropriate, and has a more laid back approach when necessary. A good performance, as expected.
As for the songs themselves, tracks 1-10 are all good or very good, the only filler on the album being track 11 "Our Town", with it's country-like sound.
"Sure You Will" kicks off the album, a fast-paced driving song with industrial and techno-like overtones.
"Free" is a guitar-driven song, with a riff that has a strong 70's feel to it; a riff that would have fitted perfectly on any of Ted Nugents late 70's releases.
"Go" is a more mellow affair, with synth and acoustic guitar and fragmented drum samples creating tension in the rhythm department.
"All Gone Now" is a darker synth driven tune, with a cold and distanced feel to it; and a sound best described as futuristic.
"Home was good" starts out vulnerable and fragile sounding, and then builds itself into another dark tune with a massive wall of synths dominating the soundscape, building up a high tension that never is actually released
"Bigger Wave" is a song driven onwards by acoustic guitars and drums, where the synth mainly is used to fill out the soundscape, and where a more metal-inspired guitar riff is added halfway through the song.
"Kicking" is driven onwards by a guitar-picking like riff, with the bass guitar and drums adding to the drive of the guitar, all the while sounding more futuristic than retro.
"Better" is a darker tune again, with synth and a metal guitar riff as standout features.
"Simple Life" is driven onwards by drums and synth, with a bit of a jazz-influenced sound to Portnoy's drumming.
"Once" has a nice guitar picking line that comes and goes throughout the song. as well as a more straight metal guitar riff hidden away in the background of the soundscape for most of the song.
"Our Town" is the only purely acoustic sounding track on the album, ending the album with a country & western inspired feel.
All in all, this is a strong release from OSI, and an album I'll probably play frequently for the coming years. The sound is contemporary, but with a timeless feel to it overall. Somehow, I doubt that this music will ever sound old-fashioned, my opinion is that this release is one of the very few albums that in later years will be given the description timeless.
A fun fact for me personally, was that a few of the tracks, most noticeably "Bigger wave", contains elements that could have been copied out of the soundtrack from obscure computer game "Chaos Overlords" from 1996. Someone should send OSI that soundtrack, as I guess the similarities would have given them a good laugh.
Reviewer: Olav Björnsen
(All Album Reviews by 3LockBox)
The first OSI was one contiguous listening experience, with a central theme. The vocals, while not great, worked. The mono-toned, disembodied vox were a perfect juxtaposition to the cold, menacing, industrial/metal music. Their cover of “Set The Controls For the Heart Of The Sun” is steller and should have made the initial release (it was instead issued on the bonus disc).
One telling clue was that Free was nothing like the first was the sticker on the front that lists Maethos and Moore as 'members', and Portnoy and Vera are below in smaller print after the quote, "with performances by", as to suggest that their contribution were minimal (and they were). The resulting album sounds just that way, too. Gone is the suspense, the palpable tension and band chemistry. What we have here is a pretty good Chroma Key album, but not the brooding, industrial math-rock, paranoid concept album that the first one was.
It takes the first few tracks to get this thing into gear, but the last three or four tracks are worth the wait (actually, the first track is a 'skipper' IMO). But still, I kinda had high expectations for this one and I found that I was a tad disappointed after the first few listens.
After a time however, I have had to eat some crow concerning this album - I've grown very fond of it, despite the fact that I still say its a gross misrepresentation to have Portnoy and Vera's name on the front, or even to reuse the OSI moniker. This is a Kevin Moore project through and through, not a band effort. But, if you can get over the fact that it isn't like the first album and compartmentalize it as a stand alone statement, it becomes a thoroughly enjoyable, modern sounding pop/prog album (ala Kino or Frost*). I hope there's a third one on the way, which ever way they go this time.