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Office of Strategic Influence

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Average Rating
(13 Reviews)

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  • If you’re reading this page, chances are you know the names already: Kevin Moore, Mike Portnoy, Jim Matheos. If you’re familiar with their regular bands, you’ll even spot some of the same elements through this disc – some of Chroma Key’s loopy light-techno touches, a little (very little) of Dream Theater’s crunch, plenty of the gloomy atmospherics of Fates Warning. OSI is a web of subtle electronics, monstrous riffs and everything in between. Bassist Sean Malone is basically a session hand rather than a collaborative partner, but I have to mention him as well. His low-end work is a study in masterful understatement, and any fan of intelligent hard rock will be well-served by his Gordian Knot project (which I think eclipses OSI and all the bands mentioned above). But this isn’t the place to talk about that. The other name on the cast list is Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, who co-writes and sings “shutDOWN.” That track is possibly the main standout on a disc with virtually no weak points (even though it could almost belong on a recent PT album just as easily as here). They take several minutes building an enveloping atmosphere of doom before kicking into a fantastic mid-tempo thrash. It’s a disturbingly powerful ten minutes that’ll make you want to either sink into a bleak coma or punch through some windows.Other highlights? The title song is a beautiful three-minute slice of hard rock with Moore providing some of the most excellent vocal harmonies I’ve heard lately outside of, well, Porcupine Tree. “Head” is evil electro-funk that’ll warp your mind from the inside out. “Memory Daydreams Lapses” always makes me imagine wandering through the corridors of some huge cybernetic brain with a vague feeling of fear. I’ve seen Pink Floyd mentioned in a couple reviews, and to be fair there’s a little similarity to be heard here. “Dirt From a Holy Place” has some of that same creepy ambience and searing guitar, and part of “Standby (Looks Like Rain)” seems to be flat-out copied from the slow middle section of PF’s “Dogs.” I guess OSI has a similar taste for moody atmospherics, but comparing them to Floyd is like comparing Phish to the Grateful Dead (which, if that’s unclear, just means that it’s wildly inaccurate and grossly unfair to both bands).Kevin and Jim handle the production, which means that the recording & engineering throughout are simply superb. You can hear Mike’s cymbals crackle with electricity when the occasional effects are added, you can hear Jim’s guitar shred from one side of your head to the other, you can hear Kevin’s voice range between softly filtered and metallized like an android’s. I only wish that “The New Math” didn’t date itself with its news samples, but that’s only three minutes out of almost 45. It’s a listening experience vivid enough to induce visions and strongly-written enough to rank with the best albums of the year (so far, and probably overall). Get in on this, or be left behind when the aliens come.

    Posted on January 27, 2010