Wednesday, April 22, 2009

OSI - Blood (Album review)

Collaborations can be a beautiful thing in life. Something that amazes me is the idea that two men, whose musical pedigrees don’t quite agree with my taste, can come together and create a project that absolutely strikes a thousand chords with me.

Kevin Moore, best known for his work behind the keyboard with progressive metal giant Dream Theater, and Jim Matheos, primary guitarist and songwriter for Hartford-founded progressive metal band Fates Warning, managed to do just that in 2003 with their first album under the name OSI titled Office of Strategic Influence.

I’ve never been one whose ears have been able to tolerate the metal genre. I’ve tried and tried, but nothing does the trick. OSI is a band at the crossroads of progressive rock, metal and alternative rock.

Blood is the band’s third full-length album and is as unique as the recording process Moore and Matheos employ. Moore and Matheos, who admittedly have different musical tastes, used a long distance collaboration method for Blood. Matheos would email files to Moore, who is also responsible for the band’s vocals, who would then shape the tracks to his taste before mailing them back to the guitarist.

With the addition of Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison, who has also joined the immortal progressive rock group King Crimson as a second drummer, OSI is able to explore facets of music they were previously unable to do so. Harrison replaces Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, who was responsible for the drums on the group’s two previous albums, the debut album Office of Strategic Influence and 2006’s Free.

Blood just comes off as being more free form and exploratory than previous efforts. Portnoy, who is an exceptionally talented and technical drummer, is of a much different style than the progressively evolved Harrison, who’s been constantly noted as being one of the genre’s best drummers by critics.

The new album is nine tracks of pure brilliance, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Moore and Matheos are both composers of this album and it shows. Blood is heavy, but not too heavy. Matheos’ guitar riffs absolutely engage the listener in its metal-based roots, but at the same time, matched with Moore’s effects-driven keys and Harrison’s unique and creative drums instill this insatiable progressive feel. These two men, differences aside, are a match made in heaven. Harrison only furthers their progression as composers and musicians.

Moore’s vocals and lyrics are another absolute highlight of Blood and the band in general. He has this unique vocal style that’s absolutely calming of the nerve, but demanding of your attention at the same time. In “Be the Hero”, Moore’s humorous vocals about a self-proclaimed badass who has an “air raid ring tone” and who can “high-five in a skydive” liven the hooking track up in an incomparable way.

The album, like its predecessors, features a well-known guest vocalist as well. Mikael Åkerfeldt, lead singer and guitarist of Scandinavian metal band Opeth, appears on a calming track titled “Stockholm”. Opeth is another band that fits into the category of groups I’ve tried so hard to like but haven’t been able to. Regardless, his non-metal vocals are kind to my ear and make for a great collaboration.

Blood is another exceptional album from one of my favorite groups of the decade. It many ways, this new album surpasses the previous two releases. This is music that should be appealing to people from all walks of musical backgrounds. The only thing more that I can ask from this creative group is for them to finally embark on an overdue tour.

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