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Office of Strategic Influence - "Blood" (CD)

Office of Strategic Influence - "Blood" CD cover image

"Blood" track listing:

01. The Escape Artist
02. Terminal
03. False Start
04. We Come Undone
05. Radiologue
06. Be The Hero
07. Microburst Alert
08. Stockholm
09. Blood

Reviewed by on May 26, 2009

"A dark techno-prog-rock album with a bit to be desired, but still leaves a good taste in your mouth."

Office of Strategic Influence is back with a familiar flair, a few new tricks, and a couple of new faces on their third offering “Blood.” The name of the game this time is sleek shadows, with most of the music sitting in minor keys; smoke-filled and backlit, yet expertly produced. Fans of the first two records will critique the lineup shift as they will, but the change in sound is quite obvious. Dream Theater big-wig Mike Portnoy, who drummed on the first two Office of Strategic Influence records, is out and expert skinsman Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree is in. There are more keys than guitar on this record and more Kevin Moore vocals than you’ve probably ever heard before. For better or for worse, the OSI sound has been clearly modified on “Blood” to produce some different side effects than before.

“You’re actin’ serious, but you’re speakin’ gibberish” – Kevin Moore of Chroma Key and formerly of Dream Theater, Jim Matheos of Fates Warning, and Gavin Harrison kick off “Blood” with a mid-tempo melodic powerhouse of a song in “The Escape Artist.” Fans of synthesizers of all different types will surely get their kicks, as Kevin Moore is a synth patch warehouse and keyboard wiz. The most noticeable elements of the album are the synthesizers, samples, and the drum work of Harrison. In the second tune, “Terminal,” a synthesizer/guitar approach is taken to create a cold atmosphere with lots of air for the parts to float by in a mist. In “False Start,” OSI take a turn for the heavy with drums and guitar leading off the attack into a song that will ultimately be the extent of the melodic development on the album.

“We Come Undone,” “Radiologue,” and “Blood” flow cohesively with the feel the three-piece establish early on in the record, while “Be The Hero” and “Microburst Alert” take off on heavy and fun tangents. “Stockholm” has guest melodic vocals by Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth, who assisted with the song’s composition as well, lending a classically scary tinge to the feel of the song.

Moore’s vocals are more numerous on “Blood” than on prior albums, but still have the same lackluster and unenthused sound, as if he was simply talking lightly into the microphone with somewhat of a raspy tone. This delivery is a bit unfitting for synth-based darkly heavy music and gives off a different feel than that of the mood created by the instruments a good amount of the time. The lyrics are cryptic and reference seemingly disjointed themes and scenarios, which is not unusual for OSI.

For all the intensity generated by the clever editing, great-sounding synthesizers, and superior drumming, the album fails to move a song beyond minor melodic movements outside of the non-representative “False Start.” Not even the guest appearance by Mikael Akerfeldt could make the album great. It’s solid, it flows well, and it establishes a distinct sound, but it’s still simply a good album.

Highs: Vibrant and clear production, good sampling, and Gavin Harrison’s notable drumwork.

Lows: Lack of vocal variation, lack of musical variation.

Bottom line: A good album that could have been great were it not for the lack of melodic development and the surplus of Kevin Moore’s unenthused vocals.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)