HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

OSI - Office Of Strategic Influence
(InsideOut America)

Advance press of the players involved in this didn't hold much promise. That is, until Pain Of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow was replaced with Central American swami Kevin Moore. Then all bets were off and so was OSI, into the murky dreamscapes of Kevin's mind, led by his world-weary voice, his disconnecting politics and his more than choice keyboard eccentricities. OSI is essentially a Chroma Key album (thank God: more of those are needed) backed up by a full band of blinded-by-scientists. The backing consortium, essentially Mike Portnoy and Jim Matheos, thankfully seem as fed up and bored with progressive metal as Moore famously is, Moore darting from Dream Theater when their music looked to him as no more than "a series of parts." Moore is all this album would have needed to sound fresh, odd, curious, cold, lonely, isolated, fiercely artistic. But Matheos' near obsession with Porcupine Tree helps as well, the band reinforcing by having Stephen Wilson along for a lyric and a lead vocal on shutDOWN which moves repetitively and uneasily like a cynical Porcupine mantra. Gordian Knot bassist also adds to the finery, playing fretless bass against Portnoy's tasteful maelstrom. All told, OSI is progressive rock for some layer of prog intelligence (still thin) above the basement apartment Hobbitheads that frequent today's synthetic and contrived spider-fingered scene. In that respect, this is as revolutionary as it is purely pleasurable.
Rating 9

Armored Saint - A Trip Thru Red Times
(Metal Blade)

As a huge adjunct to the original video version released in '91, A Trip Thru Red Times nabs two production videos from the Symbol Of Salvation period of the band, that '91 album being one of Slagel's favourite records of all time and a beautiful career highlight of his whole Metal Blade saga. Both are solid songs with Reign Of Fire getting a live treatment and Last Train Home being filmed on and around a train. Other extras include a quickly evolving and entertaining photo gallery, four more live vids and best of all, a full one hour interview with the band, interspersed with rare photos, best being their make-up eras as kids! This is pretty hilarious, especially the beginning bit, where they talk about getting together in Joey's garage (man, these guys have been buddies since the second, third, fourth grade!), playing tennis racquet and "keyboard table" renditions of Pink Floyd and Queen songs and blowing off smoke bombs. Their crowd consisted of one buddy, to which they gave a tour program and made a hot dog. All the bonus stuff is helpfully placed in the Bonus Room and indeed, the whole thing is very professionally assembled and easy to use. The impression one gets is of a long career with many costume changes, and many great songs which blasted profoundly live while suffering on record.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 3