Blood is the third release from supergroup O.S.I. that was originally founded by Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), Kevin Moore (Dream Theater and Chroma Key) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) and drew on the talents of musician and producer extraordinaire Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree). Given the very different backgrounds of the people involved, the band’s music has always been a melting pot of styles ranging from heavy metal riffing over prog rock time signatures and changes in pace to the lucid, dreamy atmosphere of alternative rock as well as incorporating electronic elements courtesy of Kevin Moore.
Musically, nothing much has changed compared to the two previous albums except for the fact that Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) is the new man behind the drums, and he does a fine job at filling out the shoes of Portnoy. The production is just as great as we’ve come to expect from these guys, and the compositions still swerve effortlessly from rock hard to quiet and contemplative, always with the calmly delivered vocals of Kevin Moore taking centre stage on top of a musical landscape with so many strata that you will still find something new to enjoy even after repeated listening.
The album sets off with a bang in the form of ‘The Escape Artist’ that blends solid riffing in the super melodic chorus with a scaled down electronic beat to great effect. With track two, ‘Terminal’, we slip straight into a melancholy atmosphere in a slow, pulsating tune driven mainly by drums and keyboard, but once we reach the third track we are once again hit by a barrage of sound in the form of a massive prog metal riff and some truly aggressive drumming in the straight out rocker ‘False Start’.
I could go on describing the way in which this album twist and turns from hard to soft and back – from track to track or over the course of a single song – but this is a known fact to those familiar with O.S.I. One thing that is worth mentioning, however, is the track ‘Stockholm’ featuring Mikael Åkerfeldt (who also happens to have worked with Steven Wilson on a number of Opeth albums). It was based on a track composed by Moore and Matheos but written and sung by Åkerfeldt. As always, I was looking forward to another great performance by this musical chameleon, but I’m not particularly impressed by what mostly sounds like a cross between Porcupine Tree and Opeth’s Damnation album. Though it is by no means a poor track, I believe his talents could have been employed to greater effect in order to offset the atmosphere and sound of the remaining tracks.
There can be no doubt that Blood is yet another quality album from O.S.I., and all tracks have something to offer no matter how often I give this disc a spin. On the whole it comes across as a very homogenous effort, which is odd, in a sense, given that the music comprises so many different styles. Those familiar with the previous releases will definitely get what they expect, although I do sense something of a departure from the will to experiment and a slight tendency to play it a bit safer. On the other hand, that could simply be an expression of finding their desired form. In any case, give it a listen and be your own judge – this is good stuff!