On the third OSI album, Blood, it is significantly easier to pinpoint what parts of each tune were penned by whom, as Jim Matheos assumes a bigger role on the album compared to their previous outing, Free. Unlike before, his riffs have been kept intact whereas Kevin Moore has applied his own songwriting vision without altering Matheos' ideas too much.
Matheos brings in plenty of catchy guitar riffs, which are merged with Kevin Moore's unique sense of atmosphere. None of the songs are heavy from start to finish, but several tunes, including the album opener "The Escape Artist," "False Start," and "Be the Hero" are marked with Matheos' distinctive riff architecture which is grooving and gripping. When combined with Moore's considerably catchier vocal parts, especially on the chorus of "False Start," the tunes feel like they would work greatly in a live setting if the duo were ever to play a show.
Kevin Moore's slow, monotonous delivery is still prevalant on all the tunes he sings, but he manages to implement more melody this time around, especially on the more Chroma Key-like pieces. His atmospherically dense tunes involve more synth work, lots of protruding noisescapes, and pulsing beats. "Terminal" is a very moody tune, comprised of myriad digital and acoustic elements; it boasts a deep, haunting atmosphere while "We Come Undone" sees the band work some of the compositional aesthetics of Free into the composition. Then there is "Radiologue," possibly their most inspired songwriting, where they blend modern and traditional songwriting elements into a cohesive whole driving the piece to a bittersweet midsection filled with wicked sonic experimentation.
New drummer Gavin Harrison proves to be a great fit, as he contributes immensely to the songs. His fills on both the rhythmically heavier cuts and the slower-paced numbers are great, best shining on the somewhat spacey "Microburst Alert," which just features voiceovers draped over curious sound effects, gruelling bass throbs (all played by Matheos), and whacky mini Moog effects alongside dazzling unison lines. Harrison's drumming neither dominates the mix nor turns into a lazy, vapid 4/4 rhythmic power. His tone, fills, and timing are simply brilliant.
Opeth leader Mikael Akerfeldt guests on "Stockholm," whose lyrics and vocal melody he co-wrote, putting in a breathtaking performance. His restrained yet highly emotive singing in a relatively electronic musical setting is someting we will probably never hear again. The tune slowly picks up momentum as Matheos begins to lay down single-note themes towards the end to push the song to its deserved apex.
The title track is arguably the best album closer they have had, retaining the controlled riff work and blending it with a ubiquitous synth melody through the course of the whole track. It is a very dynamic song with an emotional undercurrent.
The lyrical themes explored on Blood are moreso comparable to those on Free rather than their politically driven debut. However, this album is slightly darker, and Kevin Moore's lyrics seem even more enigmatic and esoteric than before. That said, the theme of death has certainly crept into most of the tunes not to mention the lyrics about school shootings that permeat the entirety of "Be the Hero."
The bonus disc of the album contains a track sung by Tim Bowness from No-Man, and I do feel it would deserve a place on the regular edition of the album.
By the way, Phil Magnotti's mix on the album is phenomenal. He deserves a medal for his work.
- The Escape Artist
- False Start
- We Come Undone
- Be the Hero
- Microburst Alert