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5 stars My first hope for 2006.

I'm not sure but, '06 seems to start slowly on the progressive scene. Some bands tends to keep the best for last, but this year seems to 'not start' on the right foot. Lots of bands that tries to be the new king of metallic prog, often without too much originality...

Hip hip hurray, finally something's happening.

Office of Strategic Influence gave us one the best 2003 albums without exagerating. The blend of high tech sounds and programming, with sharp guitars and phantom bass lines made them a super surprise and immediately gave street cred to the band. The first album was such a thrill, my hopes were high for the next one...super bands can be so decieving.

Well, slap me and call me Charlie, they did it.

This is getting deeper in the programming vein, making it more electronic. Man, this sounds so rich and complex AND modern at the same time! I've waited a long time for an album that crosses keyboard gadgets, dark atmospheres and sharp guitars without being Evanescence or Riverside. This flirts more with Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros or Fates Warning, without being a rip-off. Once again, this would be a fantastic soundtrack for a Bourne Identity movie or Mission Impossible. Both albums go great together, first one being more guitars, the second one being more electronic.

Many are complaining about Moore's voice, that is too melancholic and depressing. I do agree that Moore is not really 'singing' like Labrie is doing, but his voice is there to soothe and calm the listener; many times I've I felt relaxed after a song. To me, Moore's voice is the key to OSI. You like it or you don't. Perfect espionnage music.

Report this review (#75885)
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a sneaky album. I must admit that at the first couple spins, I wasn't quite catching on to the unique sound of OSI's new release. Probably because I was expecting something very similar to their first album, it wasn't until about the third listen that I really began to appreciate what this one is all about. I would say that where the band's self- titled CD gets by with individual guitar-driven rockers, FREE succeeds with a more coherent, electronically atmospheric feel. In fact, as someone who enjoyed their first album but didn't love it, I can say that I'm finding myself getting more and more into this one. Not only does the album flow seamlessly between harder and softer tracks, but the playing of the individual band members blends together to create almost transcendent sounds and moods.

One of the most impressive things about this album is that someone who hasn't done their homework may never know that Mike Portnoy is drumming here. This doesn't mean that the drum work is less than excellent, but only that it is so tastefully done that it gels with the rest of the music. This goes for the rest of the band as well. A surface listen may lead one to ask if Kevin Moore is actually doing anything here. You're not going to hear any of his Dream Theater-era melodies on this album. A more careful listen, though, reveals a melodic subtlety that is at times more rewarding than much of his work with that....other band. It is Moore's moody soundscapes that really provide the emotional feel to the music, and I think they also set the stage for and add power to the more driving tracks of the CD. Although the opener is probably one of the least moving songs here, the title-track that follows is one of the most catchy rockers of the album. "All Gone Now" is perhaps the best example of a song that is at once atmospheric and at the same time powerfully kicking. "Go" and "Bigger Wave" are excellent examples of the electronic moodiness that pervades the music.

When it's all said and done, OSI's FREE is for me the biggest surprise of the year, and it is a mature step forward from the first release. I would recommend it to almost any prog fan. It is the type of album that can be blasted on a car stereo or just as easily played on headphones at the beach.

*UPDATE 3/14/17* Over several years, I've come to appreciate the band's debut release much more than Free for its atmosphere and complexity. Still, though, Free holds up very well when I'm in the mood for electronic rockers. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#76772)
Posted Monday, May 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Been very excited knowing that OSI was releasing another album real soon. and once it got into stores i was able to get it right away not to mention it was on sale. My overal feelings about his album that it is just as good as the first album. FREE has a little complexity than the debut album but it is a little bit heavier, tighter, and also more experimental than the debut album which means this is gonna be good. I guess you can say that this band main members are both JIM and KEVIN since the cd says that guest appearances are made by MIKE PORTNOY and JOEY VERA. But who cares as this album really displays some great experimental stuff here. Kevin Moore once again shows off his more Chroma Key like loops in each track he even displays some songs along with Jim where its just some nice experimental stuff with lyrics. Jim once again shows us why he is such a great metal player as the riffs are very heavy especially in the first two tracks. Mike Portnoy once again displays his talents but not only going over the top a little bit in some songs but displaying more tightness into the group with his more groovy side. Joey Vera makes his prescence known as the bassist from Fates Warning really does a great job infact i would say he does better in this album than Sean Malone. Anyway the songs are heavy, psychedelic, and sometimes just crazy weird but in a good way lol. So once again if you like progressive experimental metal well just go and get this album trust me its worth it.
Report this review (#76870)
Posted Monday, May 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Free is the second album from OSI, the project of ex-Dream Theater keyboard wizard Kevin Moore, Jim Matheos of Fates Warning and Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy. This, however, is not the balls out technical wizardry that you might expect from such a line up, in fact it is a rather melodic and mellow album.

Character is definitely the biggest problem here, there is just a chronic lack of any, and though this is a short album by modern standards (48 minutes) I found myself wondering when it was going to end, in short its largely dull. Listening to this album you find it very difficult to judge were one song ends and another begins, everything just blends together as most of the songs contain very little change in their feeling. As the song Go fade's through All Gone Now and the album continues to move you don't realize the track has changed until you reach Better (witch as an apt description of it compared to the previous songs), some four songs latter. Unfortunately this up turn doesn't hold and the following two songs revert to the same drone as before. This album does finish on a higher note though with Our Town, witch has a surprising country feel to it.

The individual performances are also a bit hit-and-miss here as well. Jim Matheos guitar work dominates on this album and what we get is slightly lack lustre, there's only a minimal sense of dynamic coming from his riffs, though Our Town is much more memorable. Portnoy's drum's are massively subdued here and tend to get lost behind the guitar riffs, something I was surprised at considering Mike's playing for Dream Theater and other side-projects he's worked on. Kevin Moore offers up some redeeming qualities in his occasionally interesting keyboard lines but unfortunately I find his voice to be droning and very dull, though it appears to fit the music. Joey Vera, also of Fates Warning, gives some very nice bass lines, most notably on the opening track, Sure You Will, however as he only performs on about half of the songs his contribution wasn't enough to bring the rating of the album up.

Overall this is a rather dull album that totally lacks any major dynamic, and I would even question just how prog it is, because to these ears its rather straight forward rock/metal. I'll give it two stars as the opening two tracks plus the closer, Our Town, are half decent songs but the rest I could do without.

Report this review (#78742)
Posted Friday, May 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I am not allowed to give "0" stars rating, I am not allowed to use rude and abusive language when reviewing an album, therefore I am very limited by the site's rules in expression of all my disgust by this album.

This is work of two highly acclaimed persons in progressive music - namely famous Kevin Moore (first DT keyboardist) and Jim Matheos (leading force of Fates Warning). I enjoyed very much the first album they made together, leaving alone their works in DT, FW, and solo projects, all of which are ranging between good and excellent (except for the latest works of Kevin in Croma Key, which are very monotonous in the same way and somewhat close to this particular album in question). What we have here with "Free" is very different to all these two musicians had done before, and it's also very different from what I could expect from them. I personally think that this music has nothing to do with prog what so ever, I'd rather call it regressive all the way. I am not into categorization , but even if I was, it would be very difficult for me to tell which musical genre it is - it sounds like alternative meets rap with metal influences. Vocals are just downright bad through out - he is just mumbling something with stupid distorted voice. He probably thinks it's very "cool" to sing in such a manner, but I beg to differ. Main disc of Special Edition contains 11 tracks of hardly listenable musical material. The only good thing about it is that it's comparatively short - about 48 minutes, but even this length of an album seemed endless to me. Absolutely uninspiring, dull and boring, but at times aggressive (in a rap style of aggressiveness), at times ambient electronic, setting you in a very sleepy mood, but then suddenly you are waken up with loud but primitive heavy metal guitar riff, heard hundreds time before. Vocal melodies are so childishly simplistic, that can be laughable at. Actually it's difficult to describe this music in more details, as there are practically no details to describe. I am not listening to this kind of music at all, therefore I can hardly compare it with anything, but it seems like I could have heard some of this kind on MTV or something. All in all, this album shows absolute lack of any musical ideas and total absence of any creativity from any member of the band. It's a shame that musicians of such high standards produce such rubbish. And "to add insult to the injury" they made it double CD set Special Edition, with Bonus disc, containing 6 tracks summing upto 20 minutes of similar stuff, but even worse than main one. I consider this album as pure money making exercise, as otherwise they could easily fit all material into one CD and sell it at half price just promoting new "musical direction" in their careers.

As I am typing this in, I am listening (again) to the one-before-last track from Bonus disc. It's called "Remain Calm", - I wish I bloody could....

Avoid this album, unless you are an absolutely die-hard fan of Moore and Matheos, and ready to praise to the skies any garbage they might have courtesy to produce.

Report this review (#79337)
Posted Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
King of Loss
4 stars This is OSI's new album, featuring the famous Prog trio of Jim Matheos, Mike Portnoy and Kevin Moore. It kicks off with the rockers Sure You Will and Free. These songs mix experimental rock, metal and of course Kevin moore's Chroma Key. I had a strange craving that this what was going to firmly put into place, seeing Dream Theater's latest album, Octavarium and Fates Warning's FWX was simpler and less pretentious. This, however, was a good thing in both cases with Octavarium and FWX being better than the albums before such as the ambitious, heavy Train Of Thought album that tried to be a bit too heavy, but never brutal. The mixture of Kevin Moore's project is evident in the song structure and the electronic beats.

This album highly reminds me of a Porcupine Tree album, with the simple Metal riffs, the electronic background music and simple lyrics, but Kevin Moore's voice really stands above everything. Even though Kevin Moore is not the master of voice projection, his voice stands out as beautiful, soothing and relaxing. The beautiful emotions that he has are highly reminiscent of that sad, legendary Dream Theater song.

This album is very good and deserves a lot of praise. Definitely a step up from the first OSI album. Ignore all the un-pleasant comments about this album, because this album is very good.

Grade: 85%

Report this review (#79354)
Posted Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars After an excellent first album called "Office of Strategical Influence" from the ex-keyboardist of Dream Theater Kevin Moore, Jim Matheos from Fates Warning and Mike Portnoy from DT, I was very impressed. Great songs, harmonics and compositions. I bought the limited edition and also loved their remake of Pink Floyd succes : Set the Controls to the Earth of the Sun.

3 years later, "Free", the new album from Moore and Matheos is distributed and sold everywhere... why? I bought once more time the limited Edition thinking I would not regret it... ouch, what a mistake. A lot more monotone than their first album, OSI "Free" sound much more electronic and synthetic than "Office of Strategical Influence". The Kevin Moore vocal is stagnant, without variation, dull all the album long. The music composition follow this same way. "GO" and "Bigger Wave" are goods... but not awesome.

But I don't regret completly my cds... the bonus one sound more cool.

BTW, OSI "Free" is my worst bought I made from long time... for Collectos/Fans only

Report this review (#79370)
Posted Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
2 stars There's no way - I'm very disappointed about this release! Listening to this for several times doesn't help. Nothing to get excited.

The voice of Kevin Moore is boring! Chroma Key (f.e. Dead air for radios) is much better! All releases from Fates Warning are better! The first output of OSI is better! I can only see one exception: track 4 'All gone now'.

Summary: lost time for Mike Portnoy and Joe Vera.

Report this review (#79741)
Posted Monday, May 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars well, let's start... Thanks for a great record, and a great attitude to music industry: NONE. Yes, the great mastermind melted into one, i think that the history of Fates Warning and Dream Theater would have been a lot more different if KEVIN MOORE had chosen to play with JIM MATHEOS earlier, what do you know... So, an unexpected record almost for everyone (even them). Honestly since i saw the post in CHROMAKEY's page where KEVIN states that "we are sorting out a drummer" i imagined a different perspective in this record, and what a change: a lot more electronic, ambient, organic and less metallic, with vocals reminding me DAVID GAHAN or even MARTIN GORE (a nice touch actually), however, they broke the spell of what we call "prog-metal" and i have to say that i love that decision, we cannot pretend to observe a "side-project" with the same path from one record to another. Perhaps, i found a lot more personal and honest this album, then, we leave the complex 16/27 times, but we have a lot more layered and complex record, with so many textures and colors, and of course, focusing the keyboard, guitar and vocal work rather than sounding like a traditional group. To me is a great record, a controversial one yes, but certainly a very fine one, sadder than their previous effort. Since the opening song SURE YOU WILL you realize there's something hidden in here, like a mythical animal waiting to attack, but not with rage but whispers, like in HOME WAS GOOD, or ONCE, then the heavy songs ALL GONE NOW and FREE are outstanding, beacuse they don't rely in the "show-off" side (if you hear at least twice the record you'll found that there are no solos in here). In structure is similar to O.S.I. but a lot different in escence. A great record that needs to be heard twice, and once you learned it, is poetry time!!! peace
Report this review (#83770)
Posted Friday, July 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
4 stars OSI - Free

O.S.I. really caught me off-guard with their self-titled debut album "Office of Strategic Influence". The songs were filled with strange synthesizer melodies, sounds and mainly effected drum patterns. Not being a Mike Portnoy fan, mainly because of his rather annoying habit to fill every gap of air with cymbals, I have to admit his rhythmic work with OSI is quite splendid.

Whereas the debut album was a lot in the same vein as Kevin Moore's Chroma Key music, here it is a lot more rock orientated. Somehow this does not give the music a totally different sound like one might suspect. But not everything on this second album has its roots in rock music. Some of the songs would have fitted perfectly on the debut album. One of these songs is called Go. This experimental song sounds a lot like Chroma Key, mainly because it's all experimentation with electronics. Don't expect something like Ulver's "Silence teaches you how to sin" suite, here it is one coherent piece of music.

Home was good is yet another slow piece of music. With its minimalist synthesizer patterns and warm waves of keyboards it really sounds unearthly and I cannot compare it to anything but OSI themselves or Chroma Key, the sound is just typical Kevin Moore-esque I think.

Being a fan of both rock/metal and electronic music, I can enjoy OSI's music to the max. Songs alike Bigger Wave really combine these two/three genres to the fullest. Did the debut album sound like Porcupine Tree in places (not only because of Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson's involvement with the song "ShutDOWN")? Here these aspects are lesser present, instead they have a more or less sound of their own.

There's a major difference between the "Office of Strategic Influence" and "Free" albums: the song on the "Free" album sound a lot more catchy and a friend of mine even commented that the guitar sounded a bit like nu-metal (Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park!) to her ears and I can relate to her comment when listening to the song Better, but I think it is a combination of the guitar sound and the drum computer.

The song that sounds the most like Porcupine Tree has to be Simple Life. Composition wise it reminds me of Porcupine Tree around the "Signify" era, but the heavier guitar section and the gentle guitar solo sound like anything on either the "In Absentia" or their "Deadwing" album.

Quite often I've read comments about OSI's music that state Moore's 'monotonous' vocals, but I don't mind his sound personally. They work as an extra instrument and since the music already has a tendency to be rather hypnotic, this is only for the better.

The final space rock song on this follow-up album is the well-constructed Once. Not only being one of the longer songs on the album (6.37 min! Wow hehe, that's long for prog standards), it is also the song with the best intro, which sounds suspiciously a lot like Ozric Tentacles. But this is nothing to complain about. Gradually a beat is noticeable and Kevin Moore's vocals enter the frame. The song continuous in typical OSI style with loopbased drumming and guitarplaying. What I think is best about the song is that it would work as a great final track with its lengthy outro, but instead an acoustic song is included as another, and final, track.

This acoustic piece, Our Town, was the one track I disliked the first couple of times I listened to the album, mainly because it misses all the typical OSI elements (i.e. the atmospheres, the electronics etc.) instead we get something that sounds a lot like Pink Floyd as in "Wish you were here" (the song), with some folky (!) guitar included. Not the best way to round of such a great album, but it does show a side of OSI we haven't heard before.

This album will most definitely not disappoint those who are fond of the band's debut album and I think it could work as a great album to introduce fans of progressive metal to another sub genre of prog rock, space rock, as well.

Report this review (#86321)
Posted Wednesday, August 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars They've changed.

(Side note -- I'd originally given this album a 4 when I'd first gotten it... it was also my first review. After listening to it recently I've decided to completely overhaul this review)

Stunning a good chunk of the prog world with their self titled debut, masterminds Joey Vera and Kevin Moore regroup and release this effort. Unfortunately for the people more acquainted to OSI's progressive side the band would choose to take (at once) a more heavy and electronic sound over their spacey and meditative debut. The songs here are shorter, more strait forward, and less inclined towards experimentation.

There's no instrumental overture as the album kicks off into SURE YOU WILL. A good, electo-rock song that still has it's moments the song more or less sets the pace of the rest of the album. Others to follow such as FREE, KICKING, GO and BIGGER WAVE follow this formula fairly closely wile some others such as HOME WAS GOOD take the slower route.

Still some standout above the generally 'good' tracks, a couple of them branch off into the territories that they were in before. The longest track on the album, the six and a half minute ONCE is probably the most progressive thing that the album has to offer, and this is one that would have fit right in on the first album. OUR TOWN is a beautiful outro that it very emotionally sung and played giving off all the feelings portrayed in the music.

Still a 'good' album, this one is hardly essential. If you're a big fan of the first album you might like this one, and if you like your music a little bit more electro-rock this might quench your thirst as well. The rest of us will just have to wait for their next album. 3 stars, good but not essential.

A couple more things to note. If you go out and buy the special edition you'll also get a bonus disc of some of the tracks left off the album. Apparently this is where everything that would have made this album sound more like their first. Perhaps they didn't want to do that (and kudos for that), but one still sheds a single tear over what the album could have been. A bit more on the electronic side, this disc is actually very very experimental and any one who liked the first album will get an intense kick out of this disc. If you're getting the special edition then tack another half star onto this rating.

Report this review (#89554)
Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Good album yes, masterpiece, not really. I didn't really try to compare it to their first album, and I definatly pushed aside my expecations (I try to do that with sequal albums....), and well I'd have to say that I was definetly impressed with these talented muscians work. I love Office of Strategic Influence and listen to it a bit too much infact. This album is not the least disapointing, but if your trying to make it compare to the grandure of their first there's a high chance you might not find it captivating. Progressive Metal, yes for sure! Give it a listen it's just a great album, and OSI has a potential to go far. It's good and lovable, give it a listen! 4/5 stars, good job guys! Go far in your career.
Report this review (#93256)
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars OSI is the project of Jim Matheos and Kevin Moore, this is their second album and they get help on drums from friend Mike Portnoy, while FATES WARNING bassist Joey Vera adds his talents to 5 tracks. In the liner notes they thank former FATES WARNING guitarist Frank Aresti among others.

"Sure You Will" is an uptempo track with some huge bass lines from Joey. Vocals before a minute. The drums are great and check out the powerful guitar that comes and goes. Synths arrive 2 1/2 minutes in and a calm follows a minute later. "Free" opens with this amazing guitar intro. Jim is incredible ! Vocals join in with a full sound. Love the heaviness that comes and goes. Turn it up ! Killer track ! They slow it down on the next song "Go" with lots of electronics from Kevin. Love this song ! Kevin is freaking amazing ! "All Gone Now" opens with the guitar crashing in and heaviness follows. It settles down before a minute as contrast continues. Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. "Home Was Good" opens with some great atmosphere. Vocals before a minute. Not a lot going on in this one but it's very cool.

"Bigger Wave" hits us with a heavy beat eventually with electonics. Vocals join in. It kicks in heavily before 3 minutes. Killer sound ! It settles back a minute later. "Kicking" has this great sounding bass as drums and vocals come in. A fuller sound a minute in. The electronics are a nice touch. "Better" is such a good track. Check out Matheos early on. Love the heaviness after 2 minutes. A ton of bass follows with vocals. Huge bass lines from Vera ! "Simple Life" features a lot of electronics with vocals. This very much reminds me of Kevin's other project CHROMA KEY. Some power 2 minutes in though. "Once" opens with electronics and I really like the guitar after a minute. Cool melodies. Vocals before 2 minutes. Check out the drums after 3 1/2 minutes. "Our Town" is pretty much strummed guitar and vocals.

"Go" is my favourite track on here with "Free" and "Once" the runners up. Great album though that can kick ass, but also has lots of electronics and Kevin's cool vocals.

Report this review (#93422)
Posted Wednesday, October 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I waited for some time before giving review of this album, as I rushed in writing of first O.S.I. album to which I gave five stars. Trust me, I did not make mistake with first one, it is truly fantastic record, with many new stuffs, original and challenging sound.

This is not similar to first album at all, this one has more pop and industrial elements. One might even consider this as non progressive album, but again, this is something new and can be put in prog category because of that.

Let me now describe you songs in record:

Album starts with some programmed percussion sound and simple bass line and simple drums. Singer sings rough, without any studio corrections, with voice somehow relaxed and without higher notes. Through whole song there are some scratchy effects and some effect on guitar, with occasional heavier riff based only on one accord! And later come some repetitions with bit more riffs now based on few more notes. This is poor song to me, but has some excellent drumming played by extraordinary Mike Portnoy.

"Free" is based on rhythm guitar riffs that sound good to me, and some cool lyrics, and once again great drumming; in few words, this is cool metal track, that even makes me thing of industrial metal, but this one is more cool and warm than any industrial metal track I have heard.

"Go" goes with some cool keyboards, sounds great, vocals are fascinating to me, drums are soft, probably processed real drums. Track is original and inspiring, soft and melodic, disco oriented, but complex and with intelligent textures.

"All Gone Now" is the best track on album. It is psychedelic/electronic metal song, with great sound of guitar, typical for Matheos, with vocals that go toward Trans, cool computer effects mixed with the sound of guitar sound excellent.

"Home Was Good" is an ambient track based on few simple acoustic guitar riffs, sleepy vocals, and some background keyboards sound. Not bad, but too simple. Never mind, it is effective.

"Bigger Wave" is fantastic song; it starts with guitar theme which is combined with similar keyboards playing and some interesting drums combined with programmed drums in background. Here we have one fine tempo/melody shift after nice passage made of electronic keys and fantastic drumming, everything ends similar to song "All Gone Now", but less psychedelic. This song is not much complicated, too.

First time I heard one interesting thing in song "Kicking": fantastic digital solo. How it was made, I am not sure, might be that it was programmed computer effect, or it may be distorted keyboard sound, anyway it sounds intriguing. There is sense for detail in this track, and for the first time I realized that I like these processed drums arranged probably by Moore.

Song called "Better" reminds me on Nine Inch Nails, although it is still much different. It has cool bombastic drums at the end.

"Simple Life" starts like totally electronic track, similar to Chroma Key style, these scratchiness and overdubbed vocals sound really picturesque. Then, there come industrial guitar riff followed by softer sound of guitar, full of effects, and song goes toward space music at he end.

"Once" can go boring to me with its repetitive singing, and this one could be disco song if put on double speed, or so. Some said that it is in style of Kraftwerk, might be, but this one is softer.

"Our Town" is acoustic song with very good written lyrics, without any effects, it has also great electric guitar theme played over an acoustic one, in vein of Pink Floyd. I can imagine this song to be ending theme of some film.

And so the whole album is like a movie to me. It has soul and it is picturesque. It is not disappointing album to me, but this could have been much better. I do not think it would be smart to recommend this to every prog fan. Anyone who has listening experience which is wider than whole prog music, should try this one, too. I would like to hear this live! There are many experiments here, players had some fun doing this and mixing is crucial here. That is why I consider this as a part of industrial genre.

Report this review (#101458)
Posted Sunday, December 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Second album by this super group.

And possibly disappointing for quite a few people, as the music on display here as a bit unlike what you'd expect by these guys as a group. Backgrounds from prog metal greats Dream Theater and fates Warning should opt for a prog metal release you'd think.

But not in this case.

Although the synth and guitar both are much used on this album, it's the synthwork that forms a general ambient-related and digital mood here. The music has drive, can be hard and heavy as well, there's even a few riff based displays here - but the synth work is noticeable throughout here.

The end result is a laid back affair with futuristic tinges to the sound, and world-weary vocals creating a very special mood throughout.

Not everybody's cup of tea probably, but in my view this one is way up there as a truly great release.

Report this review (#112929)
Posted Tuesday, February 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars An interesting change in tone and song style make for another round of fun listening with OSI's second release. Taken as a whole, I think the debut is stronger and more creative musically-- but be damned if I don't find myself enjoying the slickly produced effects and performances here just as much.

Songs are, as a general thing, have much more in common with Moore's Chroma Key work than with the groups metal roots. Only three of the songs really rock (with crunchy guitar riffs and big drumming), with the other selections featuring a much more somber and laidback mood. Moore's synth and vocal's are deceptively simple and deliciously textures, while Maethos gives us lots of guitar effects and simpleish melodies to shine through Moore's dark tapestries. Songs here can slither past the listener's attention easily, but taking the time to listen will certainly please.

Recommended for fans of metal/electronica/psychdelia whom are prepared to be seduced by Moore's infectious compositions (and probably become Chroma Key fans in the process).

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#141426)
Posted Tuesday, October 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The second album from OSI is a continuation of the style they started on their debut album. This time the diversity isnt in the high seat though. What made the debut so strong was the diversity IMO. Free is a bit more ambient and almost every song is in the same mood. OSI is a project that Kevin Moore ( ex-Dream Theater, Chroma Key) and Jim Matheos ( Fates Warning) has put together. They are helped by Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Transatlantic, Neal Morse and more) on drums and Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Engine, Armored Saint and more) on bass. Its clearly the brainchild of Kevin Moore though.

The music is ambient electronic prog rock with occasional heavy moments created by Jim Matheos distorted guitar. There are many good emotional songs on the album, but I think its a problem that the mood is much the same in every song. Not unlike the mood in Chroma Keys songs. Free generally sounds a lot like Chroma Key just with added heavy moments. It gets a bit trivial in the end but itt still enjoyable though. Favorites for me are Sure You Will, All Gone Now and Home Was Good. Kevin Moores emotional voice is kept much in the same register which can at times seem trivial. This is an aquired taste though.

The production is very good and modern sounding. But I expect no less when were dealing with Kevin Moore.

The musicians are outstanding, but knowing which bands they come from and have played with this is no surprise. Kevin Moore seems to have an endless amount of sounds to his disposal, and this is used cleverly.

Free is not as good or innovative as the OSI debut but it is still a good album that deserves 3 stars. I think OSI needs a bit more diversity in their song writing to get 4 stars from me but a big 3 star rating it is.

Report this review (#163221)
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Having bought the first OSI album and not enjoying it very much you might wonder why I bothered getting this one too. Well being a Dream Theater fan and OSI including ex-Keyboard player Kevin Moore and Drummer Mike Pornoy I was prepared to give them another chance and was hoping for something better. Not that I was expecting anything in the Dream Theater vein, OSI's first album bore no resemblance to them whatsoever and why should it, the reason for Moore leaving the band was due to the fact he'd grown tired of their grandiose Prog Metal. To be honest I wish I hadn't bothered though as if anything Free is a less enjoyable listening experience than the first cd.

Although Mike Portnoy appears, as does ex-Armoured Saint and Fates Warning Bassist Joey Vera this project is the baby of Moore and partner in crime Jim Matheos who is better known for being the Guitarist in Fates Warning. Between them they share Keyboard and Programming duties with Matheos also on Guitar and Moore doing the Vocals.

So why don't I like it? Well first off I want to make it clear that Free is not a bad album, just not a particularly enjoyable listen. Matheos is underused on Guitar which is a pity as the bits that actually make me sit up and listen a bit more is when he beefs up the sound with a decent Guitar riff. I don't like Moore's Vocals which are soulless, very clinical sounding and almost monotone. Nor do I in the main like the Keyboards either. None of the dexterity that Moore displayed in Dream Theater is on display here. The Keyboards are very modern sounding often creating ambient soundscapes and to use that word again, clinical. As already mentioned things are improved a bit when Matheos is given a bit of free rein on Guitar and thus the better tracks being album opener Sure You Will (nice sounding Vera Bass too), title track Free and Better. Somewhat out of place is album closer Our Town, which is in the main dominated by acoustic Guitar and the most melodic track on offer. A nice closer which could have been even better with a decent singer and a shame a few more tracks weren't like this. 2 stars.

Report this review (#165298)
Posted Saturday, March 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars With ''Free'', O.S.I., a collaboration by Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater) and Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) have released their second album. This project' sound is similar to Kevin Moore's Chroma Key project (which he started years after leaving Dream Theater) with the guitars of Fates Warning added. What at first might seem strange, unites here to the definition of ambient rock. While the previous effort was largely focused on this fusion, ''Free'' features programming and synthesizer effects very much in the vein of Chroma Key with Moore clearly dominating songwriting and adding vocals. With Mike Portnoy adding the drums and Joey Vera playing the bass on 5 tracks, we find leading musicians of today's progressive metal scene involved in this recording. Interestingly enough, this album does not sound metal at all.

Most of the tracks are based on their rhythm and monotonous sounds, keyboard layers, bass and Moore's vocals. Though all songs are composed with the same ingredients, they certainly have a sound of their own, for instance the impulsive first track, the pounding ''Better'', melancholic synthesizer sounds on ''Home was Good'' or the ballad-like track ''Our Town'', dominated by accoustic guitar and layered by keyboard sounds - this album features so many differend ways of expression, but concentrates on one topic on the whole, the solitude and pressure and desire of modern life. Admittedly the appreciation of this concept might be heavily dependent on one's view of the World and not everyone will be happy with the melancholy of the lyrics (which anyway is a contradiction in itself). It all is based on one mood, which is set to music in versatile ways, yet this mood and Moore's certainly monotonous vocals are the reason for the whole album to be rather monotonous. This monotony reduces the rating by one star to me, as it certainly does not add to the listening experience. Even though I enjoy the Chroma Key albums a lot, here he seems unable to realise this concept the same way as on e.g. ''Dead Air for Radios''. Nevertheless, this is a good album!

I still am not sure whether this album rather deserves three or four stars, as it is really good, but nothing special. I however would recommend ''Free'' to everyone interested in progressive rock music. What is missing here is that this seems like Chroma Key material with guitar added. If Matheos would have been involved more, ''Free'' would have had the potential to be a great four star album. I am not the one to complain a lot, Matheos should be. Sometimes his guitar playing is just dispensable in the context of the song. On the contrary, Vera and Portnoy do a great job, the latter surprisingly neglecting his usual.. let's called it additional beats. A 3.4, really, unfortunately only good three but nearly four stars. However, this is not an effort to be dismissed easily!

Report this review (#222106)
Posted Sunday, June 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first time that I rate an album of this genre. I usually rate progressive metal albums. Even if the artists that are included here, originally belonged to prog metal bands(fates warning, dream theater the majors of the groups) the music is much simpler than the aforementioned bands. But what I've heard is solid and fits to my ears. Excellent bass playing by mr.Vera in the tracks that he participates,Portnoy good as always and Matheos builds the music with his diverse riffs. The first 2 tracks are the hits of the album, more straight and catchy. I want also to refer the tracks 'All gone now', 'bigger wave', 'better', 'our town' which deserve our attention. Especially 'our town' is very interesting due to the banjo use. Many may dislike Moore's voice and actually it is not good because the man is not a singer. It sounds very sterilized and monotonous but you can get used to it. Generally, it is an album different enough from what I listen but it is actually very good. I would recommend it to the majority of people and that is why I give it 4 stars.
Report this review (#223316)
Posted Saturday, June 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Could be consider like power pop... but is very enjoyable...

Their second album is kind of a "heavy Chroma Key" more oriented into the Kevin Moore inspiration... sure there are heavy songs, and the excellent guitar riffs from Matheos... but you know, their are not into catching prog fans... they're just making interesting and original music into a very dense atmosphere...

The story continues with the end of the first album... this secret agent find out that he's if free 'cause they dissolve his secret spay division... so the album deals with his struggles to get a "Free" life and try to reconnect with the regular people... With this plot, you'll find Moore having fun been very ambiguous in the lyrics... so many people didn't get that is not about anybody but our secret agent life... I think the lyrics are really the outstanding thing about this album... People really get related with them...

Portnoy makes a decent job here, not overwhelming but is nice to see him been on some kind of held and not trying to bring every wall down... is nice and refreshing... The album has short songs... don't spect epics or something like that... Is all about sense and sound...

I really recomend it when you have time to really dedicate atention... 'cause you'll be wonder what he really mean on every turn... is nice... so... com'on... this is very entertaining and again, not just about crazy riffs and though music... this is about sense and soul...

You'll find yourself wanting to be "Free..."

Report this review (#232406)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Few will argue that Kevin Moore's involvement on OSI's second album is much larger then Jim Mateos's contributions. But an equally low amount of fans will agree whether that was a good or a bad thing. With Mateos guitars taking the backseat, the vocals come more to the fore. That's where a lot of the discord stems from. Not everybody appreciates different Kevin Moore's discreet vocals. Some find him flat, limited, tedious and soulless. Others love his sensitive and understated delivery.

Being quite the admirer of Kevin Moore and Chroma Key, I have always deeply loved this OSI album. Even if it's not entirely consistent and doesn't live up to the promise set by the opening songs, it's a very strong album that is filled to the brim with sophisticated rock music and sonic explorations. The first two songs are absolutely brilliant trip-rockers, appealing for their metallic edge, catchy grooves and clever arrangements.

Also the next batch of songs is solid. Jim Mateos only contributes to All Gone Now, so don't expect much metal here. Instead Moore sings on atmospheric rock songs that should appeal to fans of Anathema, Porcupine Tree and Chroma Key. The flash of inspiration ends with Kicking, one of my favourites on this album.

What follows is slightly below the excellence of the first 7 tracks. Or maybe it's just the continuous gloomy mood of the album that makes it slightly dragging. Better brings the guitars back and is still a decent strongest tune, but Once is a bit dreary in the melodic department. Just like the previous OSI, this album ends with a long progressive space-rock techno piece followed by a short acoustic tune. The ambient techno prog of Once is fine, but somehow it disappoints, maybe the album needed a more powerful statement to raise the mood here. It sounds a bit flat. The charming acoustic tune Our Town is a real winner. Pink Floyd couldn't have done it better.

Overall, a wonderful OSI album. Just don't expect or judge this as a metal album.

Report this review (#282633)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Free' - OSI (6/10)

Prog rock supergroups are generally consistent in two ways. First, they are bound to create a level of excitement for the fans of whatever artists involved, and second, they almost always disappoint. While jazz 'super' groups work because that style is focused on the musicianship and skill of the members, it's rare that a group of established musicians will put a great deal of effort or ambition into a project that isn't part of their 'flagship' band. Regardless, OSI has proven itself to be more than a one-off venture. Leading this group is keyboardist Kevin Moore, who most will know for his tenure in the 'classic' lineup of Dream Theater, although he has kept himself busy since leaving, be it through his solo work with Chroma Key, or his keyboard contributions to Fates Warning. Joining him from Fates Warning is guitarist Jim Matheos and bassist Joey Vera. Add now-former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy into the mix and you have a group that's bound to get progressive metallers around the world excited. But does OSI pay off the fans' anticipation?

'Free' is the second album coming from the OSI project, and readily evident in each song here is the declaration that this is a separate entity from any of the band member's other work or 'best known' bands. The closest thing this might come to is Kevin Moore's Chroma Key, although OSI brings in a metal element. At its core, this is atmospheric hard rock, complete with chunky riffs, catchy vocal hooks, and plenty of electronic ambiance to make things more interesting. Although it may have been different on OSI's first album, 'Free' is a very keyboard-driven effort, and considering that Kevin Moore is also doing the vocal work, it's clear who the star of the show is from track one onwards. From a perspective of songwriting, these songs are fairly easy to digest, but certainly enjoyable. Kevin Moore's voice leans towards the warm-yet-not-technically-skilled spectrum of singers, and this works with the fairly straightforward style that OSI is going for here.

The production gives OSI a sound that's comparable to Porcupine Tree, and though there is little to startle a seasoned prog listener here, the rich and professional recording gives this collection of songs a perfect frame. Moore's approach here is personal and sincere, although the one-sided nature of the album tends to hurt the album's lasting effect. Although OSI may take the listener through harder rocking tunes and softer ballads alike, the emotional resonance feels the same throughout this album, and as such, it makes an already accessible album all the less of a challenge. To answer the question I posed; yes, OSI does deliver something new for fans of Dream Theater and Fates Warning, but the enjoyment sadly shrinks once a listener gains familiarity with the work. Kevin Moore delivers a fine performance on 'Free', but this brevity could have been offset by a more band-based experience. Although there is a full cast of musicians here, the limelight is shed on ambient electronic-based rock tunes, and the rest of the artists fail to get the degree of exposure here that their fans might have been expected.

Report this review (#656095)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
2 stars Kevin Moore from Dream Theatre, Jim Matheos from Fates Warning, guests Mike Portnoy also from Dream Theatre, Joey Vera from Armored Saint.....sounds like a powerhouse lineup that could produce some excellent heavy prog doesn't it? Well, in this case on this album, it doesn't produce the fireworks you would think it would. The songs here are good, but sort of lackluster for the most part.

Where the first OSI album was more guitar based, this one brings in more keyboards. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, there isn't really much wrong with most of the instrumentals other than there just isn't enough of them on this album, and the tired sounding, non-dynamic vocals from Kevin only bring down the mood and sound of the music. What you end up with is a bunch of mid-tempo, mostly lackluster songs when you should be getting a bunch of hard hitting music considering who is involved in this album.

Moore stated that this album feels more focused. Well, it is more focused and consistent, that is for sure. But that really is the downfall to this album. There are a few highlights where the music sounds like it might just take off, but something always seems to restrain it from doing so. This is also not an experimental album, the music is really quite straightforward, with not much in the way of dynamics or innovation. Vocals sound tired and the instrumentals sound restrained. The vocals have a strange processed sound to them and that comes from the doubletracking that is used.

The album was put together by Matheos sending Moore guitar parts that he made up and Moore would arrange them to fit into the songs. I can't help but think that the guitar parts might have had a little more life to them before they hit the chopping block. Now, it's not that I have anything against using more keyboards, I'm all for it in fact. But all the life just seems to be taken out of the music just so it matches Moore's vocals. I don't know why he decided to double track his vocals either, yes it does give a certain atmosphere to the music, and if the vocals were more dynamic, then it might work, but all it does here is deaden the music twice as much.

There are a few highlights here, the ones that break the mold of the same sounding songs like "Go", "Home Was Good" (which actually uses some very nice atmospheric keyboards to break up the usual sound), and "Better", but those tracks get lost in the sameness of the majority of the songs here. As much as I wanted to love this album, I am disappointed in that it seems that I can't wait for it to be over whenever I play it. I don't think this album is really worth the effort it might take to locate it, so I have to consider it a 2 star album. It's just too flat, boring and there really isn't anything that progressive about it.

Report this review (#1383740)
Posted Tuesday, March 17, 2015 | Review Permalink

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