1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“OSI is a project by Jim Matheos and Kevin Moore. "Office of Strategic Influence" was released in 2003, followed by "Free" in 2006. "Blood" was released in April, 2009, and includes guests Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) and Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth). Past participants include Mike Portnoy on the first two albums, Sean Malone and Steven Wilson on the debut, and Joey Vera on "Free." OSI serves at the pleasure of InsideOut Music.
In Blood, O.S.I. has succeeded in creating a fascinating album at the crossroads between rock and progressive metal. They have created music that alternates between atmospherically dense and aggressively demanding elements, while effortlessly transcending barriers between different styles and genres. Following its impressive predecessors, Office of Strategic Influence (2003) and Free (2006), Blood is the third release by Kevin Moore and Jim Matheos. O.S.I. unites two exceptional composers who share their penchant for the unusual and are on the same artistic wavelength. “We have different musical tastes but an unspoken musical understanding" Moore enthuses. The creative process which produced Blood lasted more than a year.. In their now familiar long distance collaboration Matheos sent his ideas via email to Moore, who honed them to his own taste before mailing the results back to Matheos. At the end of the day, some pieces were sent back and forth countless times, while others, such as the pulsating metal track ‘Be The Hero’, required very little exchange. “When Jim sent me his tracks for I had a vocal idea right away.
OSI is cooperating with local authorities and is looking forward to proving its innocence in a court of law.” (OSIband.com, 2009).
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
This is the third album for this band. I have both of the previous albums and have enjoyed both. However, I found some of the material on those earlier works repetitive. This album is much more accessible and the lyrics and music are deeper and less repetitive than the last album. The quality of this one rises above both of the previous albums.
The themes like all of their albums involve this mysterious, James Bond/Office of Homeland Security - like Office of Strategic Influence. With song titles like: Be the Hero, Microburst Alert, the Escape Artist, and the title track Blood, you get a sense for the espionage, military or counter – intelligence theme.
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
The message is a progressive hard rock delivered through espionage lyrics and powerful music.
The Escape Artist – “You act mysterious but speak in gibberish. You can take your memories, I’m off, I better be…alone…” Yeah, mysterious is the message. Leaving behind someone trying to act mysterious or shade their character. Someone who has “lit the fuse”, and ruined a partnership or friendship. The guitar and drum action is powerful and there is almost the sound of a helicopter and maybe laser – like gunfire going on, to add to the excitement and the drama behind this first track. Great keys and Pro Tools sounds supporting the action. “Run, run…you better find a place to land..” “There is no fun…no fun at all.” Wonderful opener, you can almost imagine a video for this one or a clip from your favorite action TV series or movie.
Terminal – Seems like everyone these days is adding John Paul Jones, No Quarter keyboards to their music. But that’s ok with me. I love that song and OSI does another good job of bringing back the master. This song opens with those famous organ keys and it sounds wonderful. “I woke up to a beautiful day in a cave, watching colors wave. I sat up, as the broadcast day begins…” “Here’s another clue, I’ll be gone before the daylight sailing is through..” Those JPJ keys continue throughout the song making this one of my favorites off the album. Just stirring an eerie. “Going, going, going, feet don’t fail me.. I’ll be in California…and maybe I can love you completely.”
False Start – Blasting drums and guitar interplay open this magnificent song! “Here’s a white lie, here’s an alibi, we’ll stick together until another one comes around…just another false start.” Reminds me of a Rush song with the guitar and drum interplay, but Kevin’s vocals make it original.
We Come Undone – Very nice keyboard opening which takes you deep into reflection. “Moneys all gone…get straight.” The protagonist may be reflecting upon his role in this “game”. The feeling of isolation is deep and the music helps put you in the middle of the action.
Radiologue – The beginning of this one is awesome! Keys that are haunting and like a wave pushing forward and back. “Had a fever breaking out in sweat…can’t go on, can’t go back..” The piano in the middle really focuses your attention and helps add more depth and power to the fear the protagonist must be going through. Excellent effect followed up with a guitar blitz and a guitar echo with drum effect. Just awesome. One of the best songs on the album. Had to hear this one again…and again…”I was dreaming…I was heading West, 30 days faster…”
Be the Hero – This one opens eerily with spacey sounds and an almost helicopter start before it hits you with a Cygnus X-1 guitar and rum blast reminiscent of the great Farewell to Kings version! Then the thunder and roar of the guitar and drum extravaganza begins. “We can walk hard in your school yard; see your face as we terrorize the place.” “Keep your head down, keep your voice down, tell the terrorists were coming inside.” Some serious thumping is about to begin. “He can high five from a sky dive.” “ He’s a hero from coast to coast.” Definitely a theme song designed for a bad a**.
Microburst Alert – Sounds like a burst at the beginning with the key sound effects and the guy speaking into a transmitter. Cool effects. Makes you feel like you’re there. Lots of experimental keyboards. “Micorburst ordered…” Somebody’s about to get sizzled. Really cool effects, reminds me of UKZs new song Radiation with it’s effects. Rockin’ grove that can’t be ignored, but is danceable, on a progressive rock album nonetheless. Nice surprise.
Stockholm – Nice slow acoustic guitar and synth effects. The first unaltered voice effect on the album. Mikael Akerfeldt takes over the singing duties here and does a wonderful job. That wonderful No Quarter organ sound again. Eerie and foreboding. Almost a Tubular Bell effects with ripping guitar chords thrown in to drive home the lyrics, “He…is…code… red… ice picks…”.
Blood – Keyboard effects like plodding across a phone dial, then heavy dark guitar chords. “It’s been a long time…I thought you’d finally get it…but I finally beat the man...”. The keyboards mixed with the sound of radio noise in the background is very cool.
This is definitely music you need to sit down and listen to intently. Especially, if you want to get the whole story right. It’s not meant for the drive home from work, but would probably sound cool in the car cranked up loud on a hot summer night anyway!
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
The listener receives the value of the maturity of these artists and the continued progress of this band, which is now definitely on my concert calendar radar. This is to my ears the best of the three albums they have produced, which means they are progressing.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Oh yeh! I have been playing this one every day for two weeks straight. I am sure I will be playing it a year from now.
Rating: 9/10 – Best album of their catalog yet!
Reviewed by Prof on April 30th, 2009