O.S.I.

Free

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Prog metal supergroup O.S.I. return with their second album, which finds the duo of singer and keyboardist Kevin Moore and guitarist Jim Matheos moving away from the fairly standard-issue epic metal of 2003's Office of Strategic Influence into something that sounds more like Evanescence's gothy metal-pop crossed with late-era Radiohead's fondness for electronic interference. Moore, formerly of Dream Theater (his ex-bandmate Mike Portnoy plays the album's few non-electronic drums), and Fates Warning leader Matheos are venturing into relatively new territory here: Free is downright commercial in a way that none of the duo's previous projects have been. Moore sings with a new, less aggressive voice that's unfortunately reminiscent of any number of faceless alternative rock singers, and Matheos' guitar is downplayed in favor of keyboards and sequencers. Even on "All Gone Now," which has the most overtly metallic riffs on the album, the guitar is overpowered by layers of twitchy electronic cut-up rhythms and twinkling keyboards. The songs are catchy enough that it's not unthinkable that unadventurous rock radio programmers could take a shine to the title track or "Go," but Fates Warning and Dream Theater fans might be less impressed. [There is a special edition featuring a bonus CD with six otherwise unavailable tracks.]

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