Originally written by Russ Wallin.
OSI can best be described as a progressive supergroup. The album features Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Sean Malone (Cynic, Gordian Knot, ect), Kevin Moore (Chroma Key) and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree). This album is pretty much what I expected. That’s not to say that it is exactly what I wanted to hear from these guys, but that’s no surprise to me either. The album is based around the proposed U.S. government branch that was aimed at changing the perception of America by middle eastern peoples. This, of course, is an oxymoron if you think about it. Anyway, the lyrics and samples certainly point in this direction. What I liked about this album are the areas that have the Dream Theater jam vibe. Upbeat, tight and pulsing. I also like the variety of the album. The writing is very eclectic. Although I’m not a huge fan of Pink Floyd, some songs have the Pink Floyd vibe happening. It sounds pretty good. I thought the vocals fit well and are well phrased despite the fact that the lyrics aren’t exactly artistic. However, some vocal phrases blend into each other and do much more for me than the lyrics themselves. The vocal sound itself often emulates the Pink Floyd vocal sound. Overall, there’s much here that is worthwhile. With that said, I must lay down my gripes. Since all these guys are talented as hell, I would hope to hear more aggressive individuality. A short drum solo in the middle of a tune would be great. A shredding lead would be fantastic. Some high energy jamming would be much appreciated as well. One thing about the writing process is the fact that when a certain person orchestrates the majority of what will be the end product, it can sound sterile with too much emphasis placed on certain instruments. I think that if OSI would have gathered together for a couple months to write, the album would feel much more energetic and spontaneous. The album features keyboards, samples, ambient effects and not so ambient effects. This was one of my main complaints. The album is nearly constant with keyboard and sound effects being thrown around. It’s far too excessive and detracts from everything. Some keys are fine and can help the music, but as this album proves, too much can just ruin the whole experience. A friend put it well when saying something to the effect; these guys would be much better if they used the bare minimum of gear. Essentially, if you threw these guys in a room with just the basic gear (guitars, drums, bass and some microphones) the end result would be twice as good as this album. His point was well taken by this reviewer. With that said, I think the album has several positives. I’ve often said that Jim Matheos has one of the best guitar sounds I know of. Very full and tight. However, I rarely hear this guy play to his full potential. The drums sound very good as well. It’s not heavy really, but rather tight and punchy. I’ll also say that Mike Portnoy doesn’t realize his full potential on the album either. I was very disappointed to hear a fair amount of electronic/sampled percussion when you have one of the top drummers at your disposal. There really should be no electronic drums anywhere on this album in my opinion. Hopefully Mike can finally afford a new paint scheme for his kit! The bass guitar isn’t as pronounced as it is on other albums that Sean Malone has played on, but it is still excellent. Again, I reinforce some of my comments above regarding utilizing the full potential of the group. Overall, it’s a good progressive release that is very precise, but it never realizes its full potential.