Today on Blogcritics
Home » CD Review: OSI – Free

CD Review: OSI – Free

Please Share...Twitter0Facebook0Google+0LinkedIn0Pinterest0tumblrStumbleUpon0Reddit0Email

The year 2003 saw the release of what has become one of InsideOut Music's top selling albums. What was it that made Office of Strategic Influence such a success? Of course, it is impossible to tell, but it is likely a multi-factorial effect. Dream Theater fans, who are often rabid and follow the members from side project to side project, picked it up to hear Mike Portnoy smack the skins. They also likely picked it up to hear more from ex-DT keyboardist Kevin Moore. And Fates Warning fans snagged it to get a fill of more of Jim Matheos' vicious chops. Add in bassist Sean Malone, and you have the formula for a veritable prog super group.

So just what happens when you combine the rocking song writing of Jim Matheos with the ambient, spacey writing that Kevin Moore has been writing with Chroma Key for a few years now? You get a thing of beauty. You get OSI.

And their most recent release, Free, is no different.

Noticeable immediately from the start is that Free is a more relaxed and laid back record than its predecessor. Also apparent is the fact that only one song even cracks the 6 minute mark (as compared to the 10+ minute masterpiece "shutDOWN" from the first album, and 17+ minute "The Thing That Never Was", if you got the bonus disc). But don't let that fool you. This is very much a progressive record.

Free focuses a lot on the keyboards and programming of Kevin Moore, but Jim Matheos is always present. His heavy guitar riffs, while not as frequent on this disc, have an even harder edge. They have an energy, and urgency, and serious metal crunch to them that will make any rocker sit up and pay attention. Likewise, Matheos does his fair share of programming. As evidenced on Fates Warning's most recent release FWX, Jim Matheos has learned much from his collaborations with Kevin Moore.

That history of collaborating also helps to make Free such a strong record. It is a magnificent symbiosis of metal and experimental electronica. Very few of the songs can be taken at face value, and multiple listens are required to really get a hold of each song. Even after so many listens, songs still pack surprise punches.

The performances from each band member are fantastic. As mentioned, Matheos' guitar work is always excellent. Kevin Moore's vocal work, an almost painfully restrained monotone, is often in such stark contrast to the music that it serves to heighten the tension of the songs. Mike Portnoy continues to amaze with his adaptability, playing perfectly with just about whatever style of music. Finally, Joey Vera's presence on the heavier tunes adds extra strength and depth to the rhythm section.

Tracks to catch: "Sure You Will" is a high octane electro-metal rocker that will get you our of your seat every time. "Free" is one of the few obvious heavy tunes on the album, but the multi-layered instrumentation sets this track apart. "Home Was Good" is a haunting, minimalistic tune. "Kicking" has a great groove. "Our Town" strips back all the electronics and leaves the listener with Moore's minimalistic vocals and Matheos' acoustic guitar. It is a beautiful way to end the album.

Rating: 9/10
Free is a deceptive album. On the surface, it appears to be a rather accessible bit of music. However, it is just the opposite. A dense, meaty album with tons of substance, there is something to keep the listener coming back for more, time and again. Free is a masterful evolution of the sound of two fabulous musicians. It isn't an album for everyone, but those who delve its progressive depths are sure to find it a rewarding experience.

About BlueDev

  • Guppusmaximus

    Nice Review…I was curious how they would sound together because I am old school Fates Warning fan. I also love DT. But, they have worked together on a Fates Warning album in 2000(I had no idea). “Free” is definately alittle more accessible and has more of a positive feel to it then their self-titled debut.I feel they are pulling slowly away from their metal influences. I’m not too crazy about it yet but it’s a nice cd to have in the changer. Plus, Steve Wilson didn’t join in on this one. He made shutDOWN the ballsiest song…

    As much as I am an oldschool Armored Saint fan, They should’ve begged to have Sean Malone on bass again. But,that’s my opinion because I love complex sh!t like Cynic,Spiritual Architect and O.S.I. is more about layers and electronica. I want O.S.I. to go more metal but I don’t see it happening especially with the weird sh!t that Moore can do and with the people they could involve.
    I’m rambling… Again, Nice Review.

  • http://progged.blogspot.com Progged

    Thanks for the comment. Being a huge DT fan ever since I heard “Pull Me Under” on the radio back in 1992, I have been following Kevin Moore since he left the band. Personally, I think DT has been weaker ever since he left, though still an amazing band. Chroma Key is too spacey and atmospheric and a lot gets lost in the layers of electronica.

    Likewise, I love Fates (both old and new), and really enjoyed Moore’s contributions on both A Pleasant Shade of Gray and Disconnected. I think he added a lot of atmosphere to the albums.

    OSI is, I think, and evolving animal. I agree that they have moved away somewhat from the metal side of things on this disc, but if another album comes from this collaboration, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them moving back. Fates Warning has been really moving back to the metal side of things since Inside Out, so perhaps Matheos will move things that way.

    Either way, OSI makes for some great, moody music. Oh, and I have to agree, “shutDOWN” is one of the greatest songs, ever. And it would have been awesome to have Sean Malone back on this one, but with the direction they went, probably not necessary. It will be interesting to see what direction they take if there is another OSI disc.

  • Guppusmaximus

    Yeah, I hear ya.. I’m a huge DT fan because of what they can do live but my fav from them has to be “Metropolis Pt2..”.It was such an awesome concept album. “I&W” was just unreal for it’s time..Brilliance! I’m not a fan of Chroma Key musically but I do think his(Moore)recent idea was pretty cool considering that’s what the name of the band is referring to. I respect him because his stuff is very original(to me).

    “Parallels” was my last fav from Fates Warning. “Inside Out” had a couple of decent tunes. I tried “A Pleasant Shade of Grey” but it was kinda..uh..monotonous not really showcasing any talent(my opinion).I didn’t bother with Disconnected, it didn’t appeal to me. Now, Fates Warning is starting to sound like all the Nu-Metal crap…It’s a shame.Maybe it will change, I don’t really follow them anymore. I’ve been going in a heavier direction and there are a ton of bands releasing some cool sh!t.

    I agree 100%, OSI is limitless(kinda like Mike Patton) that’s probably why I still keep my “ear to the door”. They can pretty much do whatever they want. I am very interested in seeing where they go next and I hear what you are saying about Sean Malone. He likes doing some pretty technical stuff and OSI wasn’t necessarily going in that direction. I mean, I heard it was hard enough to keep Mike Portnoy in check for their first album but it looks like he is really adapting to the Industrial feel of these albums. I can understand the addiction to playing challenging material, when I constantly look for bands that blow my mind.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    This article has been placed at the Advance.net websites, a site affiliated with about 12 newspapers.

    One such site is here.