In 2003 OSI (Office of Strategic Influence) released their self-titled debut CD. Combining the songwriting, keyboarding, and vocals of former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore with the guitar chops and songwriting skills of Fates Warning's Jim Matheos and the impeccable time-keeping of Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy this prog-rock supergroup created a new sound all their own. A kind of techno-metal combining all the best elements of all 3 of the musicians involved.
Oftentimes when a debut is succesful a band will wrest on the laurels of the success of that debut with their sophomore release-- every once in a great while instead of wresting on those laurels a band will evolve and extroplate upon the music of their debut for their follow-up. OSI falls into the latter category as they've evolved and improved upon what had been a thoroughly enjoyable debut.
Kevin Moore's vocals sound a bit more self-assured than they had on the debut and while Moore doesn't have an exceptional voice-- he does have a voice which fits perfectly within the style of music this group performs.
But the strength isn't in the individual pieces which make up this band it's in the sum of the whole. During his tenure in Dream Theater, Moore's lyrics were often the best of any of the songwriters in the band and while Dream Theater has continued to evolve musically since his departure in 1994, lyrically they've never quite matched the punch they had when Moore was in the band. Add to the mix Fates Warning's Jim Matheos and Moore's former bandmate, Mike Portnoy and the musical chemistry is quite unmistakable.
Musically some of the songs bear a passing resemblance to the material on Fates Warning's Disconnected album. Which can be attributed not only to Matheos influence but also to Kevin Moore's occassional guest spots on keyboard with Fates Warning. Moore's keyboard work is quite melodic and the chemistry between Moore's keyboard and Matheos guitar work is some of the best I've heard since the Geoffrey Downes/Steve Howe chemistry on Yes Drama album and on the first couple of Asia albums.
Much like on the debut, the last song on Free, Our Town, is a dramatic shift in gears from a techno-metal vibe to a more stripped down acoustic song. The addition of banjo and pedal steel makes for quite a stark contrast to the crunchy guitars and electronic flourishes which grace the rest of the album.
Given how busy both Matheos and Portnoy are with their respective bands, I won't hold my breath for an OSI tour, but if one were to ever happen I'd be one of the first in line for tickets.