“Office Of Strategic Influence” is the debut album by progressive metal trio OSI, originally released in 2003 and reissued in 2010 by Metal Blade Records. The three involved musicians are well-known figures of the progressive metal scene: Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos (who also plays keyboards on this album), Dream Theater and Chroma Key keyboarder Kevin Moore and former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. So the bar is set high for this release!
The opening track ‘The New Math (What He Said)’ and the following ‘OSI’ are perfect examples of the band’s abilities. The hard guitar sound and the almost spacy, often industrial-like sounding keyboard lines work very well together and – as always – Portnoy does a great job at the drums. Interestingly the track ‘OSI’ seems to have inspired Steven Wilson as it sounds like it could be a song from the 2007 Porcupine Tree album “Fear Of A Blank Planet”. Funnily enough, Wilson is actually featured on this OSI album, just like Sean Malone of Cynic and Gordian Knot. One more influence: ‘Memory Daydream Lapses’ sounds like King Crimson.
But the band doesn’t only play prog metal the whole time. Tracks like ‘When You’re Ready’ remind me of softer Nine Inch Nails songs with acoustic guitar playing along keyboards, sometimes heavily modulated. ‘Hello, Helicopter!’ and ‘Standby (Looks Like Rain)’ could even be acoustic pop singles.
Nevertheless the album has a very dark atmosphere due to the fact that all songs deal with 9/11 and the war against terrorism (take the name of the band as an obvious hint). There are bits and pieces of telephone calls, news show reels and political speeches in almost every song creating this special and strange atmosphere together with the overall dark music and lush vocals. All this leads to some kind of depressive heaviness which captures the tension of the time after 9/11 in a very direct and haunting way.
Beside the regular release there also is a special edition available with an extra disc featuring three bonus tracks. Two good cover versions of Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ and Neil Young’s ‘New Mama’ start it off. However, more interesting is the 17 minute plus, ‘The Thing That Never Was’, the original demo of ‘Standby (Looks Like Rain)’. This track doesn’t show the band testing and experimenting – it’s completely different and could easily fit onto the actual album. The mix of acoustic and electric passages shows that the band surely knows how to compose longer songs, yet such songs aren’t missed.
OSI’s debut “Office Of Strategic Influence” is a powerful album which has it all: a tense atmosphere, fantastic songs and the band’s tight performance make it a great one!