Ah, Kevin Moore. He was a major part of what is widely reknowned as the best era of Dream Theater, the early era. He could play fast, but there was a compositional aspect to his playing that the other two keyboard players of DT just cannot match. Unfortunately, his chosen direction was away from Dream Theater’s, and since then DT have been getting more and more metal, and less prog. Moore bought balance.
But lets not cry over spilt milk. He has moved on and made some excellent, if very somber music. Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) is probably his most commercial project to date, with guitarist Jim Matheos providing guitar, and a revolving door of drummers and bass players handling the rest.
So how does this, OSI’s latest album from 2009, get on? In short, it’s like Porcupine Tree, but darker. Moore will never be as technically gifted as Dream Theater, but I like this music a lot more. There is a lot of soul here, and lots of atmosphere. Kevin Moore’s approach to lyrics is refreshing. Simple, but with many layers and importantly without any overusing of words like love or baby or heart around. Good. And all this lyrical goodness is delivered is the characterful and relaxed voice of Kevin Moore. Earlier, I’ve talked about a category of singers who make you want to listen to their lyrics just by the sound of their voices. Kevin Moore is one of those singers. Sample “Terminal”, “Radiologue” and “False Start”.
The big connecting thread is that all the songs are somber, moody and throaty. Katy Perry this aint. There are fairly long, and moody instrumental sections knitted together with floaty keyboards and minimal drum grooves. The epitome of this is “Terminal”. All the guitar solos serve the song rather than the soloist, and the vocal melodies are always original and fresh. This is good music. When the band does get to a seriously heavy song, it’s still great, thanks to Matheos. The best example is “False Start”, which even has a Tool like 45/343 type interlude groove. But even then, there is something about the vocal treatment and keyboards in the background that makes it more atmospheric than most modern metal.
The general approach to the songs is somehow much more ‘compositional’ than most rock-electronica efforts. “We Come Undone” is almost like some of the slower work of my favourite composer of all time, A.R.Rahman. The drums are electronic, the bass is minimalistic, treacly textural keyboards are everywhere and there is some interesting use of voice samples.
Blood tends to become a little too dark and heavy towards the end, so that makes this album one that is best heard in parts rather than in a sitting. Leave that to the reviewers. But I can guarantee that the very strong songs and Kevin Moore’s characterful voice will have you keep coming back. There are a couple of unconvincing cuts towards the end, such as “Be the Hero” and “Microburst Alert”, which sound a bit like the first few songs, but just don’t have the staying power that they have. Thankfully, the final song on the album, “Blood” recoups lost ground with solid grooves, melodies and is a good representation of this album.
So the bottom line is this. This is good music if you want to calm down and really enjoy some good tunes. Kevin Moore is not realy as famous as his previous band mates, but this is very good, sometimes better, music than Dream Theater. This sounds right.
– El Bajista
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