OSI — Office Of Strategic Influence (review)

OSI — Office Of Strategic Influence album cover Album · 2003 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Taking their name from the abbreviated form of the briefly engaged US government agency named OFFICE OF STRATEGIC INFLUENCE (which serves as the title of this debut album), this supergroup was the brainchild of Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos who collaborated with Kevin Moore, keyboardist and vocalist for the art rock band Chroma Key. Adding to the well known musicians on board came Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy to fill the percussionist spot and Sean Malone of Cynic to play the bass. Originally the band pursued Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree to be the vocalist but he declined leaving them to fend for themselves and adopt many of his influences without him. Although intended to be a one-off project and studio band only, OSI continued recording new albums after their debut was met with positive reviews which led the band to continue the project and release future albums.

While touted as a progressive metal band, the truth is that there is little of Dream Theater or Fate Warning influence to be found on this one. The focus of hero worship on this one is primarily limited to the likes of Porcupine Tree’s more metal ventures as heard on “In Absentia” or “Deadwing” except Kevin Moore’s vocal ability sounds more like Eric Woolfson of The Alan Parsons Project fame. Despite his refusal as lead vocalist Wilson did however contribute to the outstanding track “ShudDOWN” which is the best Porcupine Tree track not on a PT album. Overall the music on OSI’s debut is tantamount to the heavier riffing style of PT with songwriting compositions to match all painted with the art rock electronica heard on Moore’s Chroma Key project.

The fact is OSI sounds so much like Porcupine Tree that i had to scan my liner notes upon first listen to find out if this was some clandestine Steven Wilson project but other than the guest spot on one track it is clearly not. I feel the band borrowed a little too heavily from the Porcupine Tree sound and granted Steven Wilson’s sound was more than a worthy supply of inspiration, OSI tries a little too hard to fully replicate it leaving them with very little original sound of their own. The fact that a Fates Warning and Dream Theater combo effect is totally absent is rather disappointing. The project could’ve been a much better one if they had. While i can’t say i don’t enjoy listening to this one as the tracks are catchy, sombre and excellently produced, the combo effect of the PT influences reigning supreme with the lackluster vocal talents of Moore leaves me slightly cold on this one. For those who care less about blatant ripoffs of other’s signature sounds, you might like this more than i do.
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