Metal Blade, 2009

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


OSI is another one of those “supergroups”—and while I hate that term being bandied about for every time four guys get bored with their groups and make another group, this one deserves it. The brainchild of Jim Matheos (longtime guitarist for Fates Warning) and one of my favorite progressive metal artists, Kevin Moore (the original keyboardist for Dream Theater and the sole driving force behind the superlative Chroma Key), OSI has also included at various times Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Joey Vera (Armored Saint and Fates Warning), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), the late Sean Malone (Cynic and Gordian Knot), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), and Tim Bowness (No-Man, one of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson’s side projects). If this is not enough musical chops for you, you’d probably complain that there wasn’t enough star power in USA For Africa.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

OSI has had four albums to date; at some point, I’m going to get to all of them. I’m starting with the first one I was turned on to, 2009’s Blood.

With this lineup, you would think that OSI would be a progressive metal act—and you’d be mostly wrong. Their sensibilities are more in classic prog; there’s some Floyd and King Crimson going on here, but it’s leavened sensibly with Moore’s more ambient/trance sound and the precision of prog metal. I find a lot of classically styled prog to be muddy and meandering. OSI is neither.

For starters, there’s Moore’s vocals (he handles almost all the vocals on Blood). His voice is eerie, sometimes almost monotone, and has a certain alien quality that means there’s a detached step between delivery and impact. It’s never jarring or unpleasant, but after a time it seems to induce a musical dichotomy that really suits OSI.

That’s not to say, however, that OSI is all mellow and dreamy and such. Songs like “False Start,” “Stockholm,” and “Be My Hero” emphatically remind you that one of two roots of the band is metal; Matheos lets loose with some crunchy guitar and the mad drum fills are thunderous. “We Come Undone” shades into Radiohead territory, but without Radiohead’s pretentious precociousness. “Blood” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tool album, except Moore’s vocals are so cool and remote that there’s a striking dissonance between the message and the delivery.

On the other hand, I can’t say I warmed to the instrumental-with-vocal-samples “Microburst Alert”; it just seemed a lot more disjointed than the rest of Blood. “Christian Brothers” sounds like a rejected Soundgarden song. And “No Celebrations” guest vocalist Tim Bowness sounds way too much like Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) for me to think it works here.

Did I like Blood? In the end, it was mostly hits with a few notable misses. I would recommend it for fans of prog or prog-metal, but it may be a bit too much for others to take in.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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