The debut release from O.S.I. is a dream for fans of heavily produced heavy music and a nightmare for the unfortunate soul who must categorize it. Crushing guitars collide with lush synthetic soundscapes that fall away to acoustic excursions, all with overdosing amounts of studio wizardry. As the band is formed of Fates Warning guitarist and figurehead Jim Matheos, Dream Theater drum legend Mike Portnoy and Kevin Moore of Chroma Key. you might think the album would lean towards progressive metal, which would have been the case had not Kevin Moore been so heavily involved, imbuing the project with legions of intriguing sounds.
“Head” is a perfect example of the perfection this band can achieve. Sitars and tabula open, weaving a light hypnotic trance in the verse before a meaty and angular guitar riff interrupts the dream with a massive groove. Then, amazingly, oil and water mix as the two extremes coexist in the same sonic space. In “Hello, Helicopter,” laconic vocals overlay Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd acoustic guitars set to a throbbing beat. The nightmarish and emotional “shutDOWN” features vocals by Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson, alternating between murky “Signify” sections and purely evil sounding, Black Sabbath-influenced bits that will certainly raise goosebumps. The title track is four minutes of controlled chaos, with fat synth tones speeding alongside a thick guitar riff that crashes into the opening acoustic guitars of “When You’re Ready,” a song which never fails to bring a smile to my face. The melancholy vocals hide deep in a forest of metallic sounds and amazing production ideas, mostly directed this time at the drums, which should be pointed out are simply astounding throughout. Another impressive song is “Memory Daydreams Lapses” which is a driving underworld dance beat enshrined in more amazing percussion prowess and ends with the chillingly delivered lyric of “You hated your friends best of all”
There are so many influences wrapped up in this album that our feeble minds are boggled as to how it all holds together. In addition to Fates Warning there’s Pink Floyd, NIN, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Flaming Lips, Peter Gabriel, Eno, Tool, David Bowie, Dream Theater and Moby, all peacefully coexisting in the same creative space. Yes it’s progressive but not in a Rush/technical way. These songs have souls, and the melodies creep into your cranium, smuggled in through inventive, artistic production techniques and astonishing yet unpretentious musicianship. This is good gravy just like grandma used to make. Make sure your ears are gravy boats!
Originally published 2004 in WhatzUp