O.S.I. - Office Of Strategic Influence (Limited Edition)

Year of Release: 2003
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 116
Format: CD
Total Time: 76:05:00

By now we all know that some years ago it was Mike Portnoy who launched the idea to create a new project featuring his buddy Jim Matheos. Because the legendary Fates Warning guitarist was too busy at the time, Roine Stolt came to the rescue and so Transatlantic was born. Would Transatlantic have sounded the way it did had Matheos been free right away? No one will know. Surely OSI sounds less melodic than Transatlantic and also borrows less from the authentic progressive heritage. Instead you get some powerful prog'n roll with a very contemporary feel, often delivering the right amount of indie flavoured material MTV kids and alternative radio stations love to death.

With the inclusion of "old" Dream Theater partner Kevin Moore, the music of OSI not only showcases Kevin as the lead singer, but also delivers a fair amount of inventive keyboard sounds, sometimes adding textures flirting with semi-industrial patches and often being closer to Nine Inch Nails than "vintage" melodic prog. Maybe in that context the material on Office Of Strategic Influence gets closer to Moore's very own Chroma Key mixed with dashes of latterday Porcupine Tree. PT leader Steve Wilson even guests on "shutdown" whilst there are bits and bobs all over the album that could easily have fit on In Absentia. If you were waiting for yet another dose of percussive fireworks then I'm afraid OSI is not a new Liquid Tension Experiment, as Portnoy rather sticks to "plain" drumming, whatever "plain" means in the Portnoy encyclopedia! Also Matheos doesn't deliver rousing solos but offers loud guitar riffs as kind of a backing tape for Moore's often masked vocals.

No doubt fans of current Porcupine Tree material will love this album to bits simply because it contains that same approach, melting acoustic and electric patches in order to create something new. All along these lines Portnoy surely uses his knowledge of ethnic percussion to give the music an original twist. "When You're Ready" is a prime example of how experimental sounds entertwine with a rather laidback rhythm. But it's all systems go during "Horseshoes and B-52s" when both Portnoy and Gordion Knot bass player Sean Malone hit their respective instruments until their hands begin to bleed. Throughout this song also some backward tapes are used to make the sound even fuller. "Head" fuses headbanging moments with softer passages through which I can hear the sound of a distant koto. Again the percussive patterns steer the song into a completely different direction even flirting with ambient music.

With an acoustic guitar as backbone "Hello, Helicopter" is probably my favourite on the album as it once again gets so very close to authentic Porcupine Tree with Portnoy introducing some tribal rhythms that go ever so well with the rest of the material. I simply melt once that superb sound of the Fender Rhodes enters, taking turns with synthesizer tweaks. In honour of Porcupine Tree none other than Steve Wilson himself delivers the vocals (and lyrics) for the lengthy "shutdown," epitomizing the many faces of Wilson. So once again soft and hard elements shine back to back, giving way to ambient soundscapes where Fender Rhodes battles it out with Matheos' loud riffs. Add to that the thundering drum sound of octopus Portnoy and you surely know you're in for a treat with this little gem.

We have to wait for the instrumental "Dirt From A Holy Place" before we witness the true Jim Matheos delivering kind of a Fates Warning outtake, doom atmosphere included. Jim's wonderful solo is relieved by Kevin Moore and Sean Malone who in turn put their respective instruments in the picture. Kevin's hoarse, slightly uncertain vocals are the focal point of "Memory Daydreams Lapses" whilst its Sean Malone's bass that really sets the pace here. By means of Eno-like textures the song evolves towards industrial cut-and-paste passages. The album closes with the rather short yet poppy "Standby (Looks Like Rain)," which might just be the album's perfect single choice if only it was a little longer. So instead of an edited version, maybe OSI should hit the studio once again and add another chorus?

In all OSI is not the kind of band Dream Theater and Fates Warning fans the world over probably were expecting. The predictable path into forming yet another LTE or Transatlantic has wisely been left aside. Instead the threesome Matheos, Portnoy and Moore have started from scratch without copying their past in order to deliver something fresh, new and exciting, a style they will most certainly develop as time goes by.

Released in North America by InsideOut Music America (Regular edtion: IOMACD 2049-2)

Disc One: The New Math (What He Said) (3:36) / OSI (3:48) / When You're Ready (4:09) / Horseshoes And B-52s (4:18) / Head (5:17) / Hello, Helicopter! (3:44) / ShutDOWN (10:35) / Dirt From A Holy Place (5:10) / Memory Daydreams Lapses 5:56) / Standby (Looks Like Rain) (2:09) / Videoclip: Horseshoes And B-52s

Disc Two: Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (8:49) / New Mama (2:22) / The Thing That Never Was (17:21) / plus: video documentary

Jim Matheos - guitars, keyboards, programming
Kevin Moore - vocals, keyboards, programming
Mike Portnoy - drums
Sean Malone - bass, stick
Steven Wilson - vocals (7)

Office Of Strategic Influence (2003)
Free (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: February 23rd 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.osiband.com
Hits: 7344
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]