Heavy metal isn’t generally known for its ambience. Listening to any of OSI’s three releases it doesn’t appear that Kevin Moore or Jim Matheos received that memo. Their latest release, Blood, is a natural progression from its two precursors. Where 2003’s self-titled debut felt a bit tentative, 2006’s Free and their latest, Blood feel decidedly more certain.
While some may describe OSI’s music as being progressive metal, perhaps ambient metal is a more fitting descriptor. While the music does certainly bear the evidence of the progressive metal roots of both Matheos (Fates Warning) and Moore (Dream Theater)—Moore’s influence provides the music with a much more ambient feel that listeners only caught sparse glimpses of on his Dream Theater material.
After providing percussion on the first two OSI releases, Mike Portnoy bowed out for the third outing—in his place Matheos and Moore tapped Porcupine Tree’s Gavin Harrison. Given Porcupine Tree’s musical proclivities, one might argue that while Portnoy may have a better pedigree, Harrison’s style is a much better fit for this band than his predecessor.
With each successive release Moore’s vocals have seemed to fit better than the one before. While Moore is a mediocre vocalist at best, his sparse vocals fit the general ambience of OSI’s music. And much like on their debut in which Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson contributed his vocals to shutdown, OSI once again knew when to invite guest vocalists to step in—Mikael Akerfeldt (of Opeth) on Stockholm and Tim Bowness on No Celebrations (only available on the 2CD Digipak version).
In addition to No Celebrations, the two disc digipak version of this release also features a cover of the late Elliot Smith’s Christian Brothers and an extended version of Terminal.
All that being said, this release isn’t for everyone—if you’re a fan of the first two OSI releases, the recent albums of Fates Warning, and Kevin Moore’s Chroma Key releases, or if you’re willing to take a chance on something a bit different than the mainstream there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this next leap in OSI’s musical evolution.
Chroma Key Dead Air For Radios (1999)
Dream Theater Images and Words (1992)
Dream Theater Awake (1994)
OSI Free (2006)
Porcupine Tree In Absentia (2002)