Oh Sees – Smote Reverser

On August 17th, garage rock project, Oh Sees released their whopping 21st studio album. John Dwyer’s project continues to mess with their sound (as well as their name), and this album seemed to be leaning towards a more metal sound, intriguing many, including myself. And while I don’t think I’d consider it a “metal” album, a lot of the themes and inspirations in the album are certainly of that genre.

The first two tracks of the album give it a solid basis, and really show off what’s on the majority of this release. “Sentient Oona” begins very subtly, with haunting, hushed vocals from Dwyer, but quickly devolves into a harsher and more energetic instrumental, before swapping back to their softer side. “Enrique El Cobrador” juxtaposes this, structurally, but is very similar stylistically. This intro is much heavier, with a filtered, anger-filled vocal performance, yet its instrumental pieces are a bit less aggressive, and serves to highlight some funky keyboard pieces.

“C” and “Overthrown” are really the main reasons I was excited about this album. The singles each have their own unique and fun styles. Oddly, “C” sounds like if someone tried to take “Green Onions” and make it darker. The silky-smooth guitar riffs remind me of Booker T and the M.G.s, and the keyboard as well. Meanwhile, “Overthrown” is a purely aggressive, over-the-top metal song, featuring heavily filtered vocals, and a very fast, but tight instrumental to back it. It comes out of nowhere, but I love that about it.

After that blast of energy, the album takes a break for a while. The first half of “Last Peace,” features a slower, more acoustic sound, but then showcases a great, driving, hard/psychedelic rock instrumental. “Moon Bog” also drags a little bit in tempo and volume, but the sweet, sexy guitar licks make up for this, making it a unique and enjoyable listen.

“Anthemic Aggressor” is by far my least favorite track. The twelve-minute-long instrumental is overly long, without any large or unique progression through the first half. The second half of the song isn’t bad, once it takes a more psychedelic, cacophonous turn, but by the time I heard the same bass line for 7 minutes, I was disinterested.

The last four tracks are also not as great, in many ways. “Abysmal Urn” isn’t too bad, starting off with some very clustered, high-energy instrumental pieces, and features a repetitive, yet catchy series of descending guitar chords. “Needle House Needle Boys,” is another dragging, slow jam, but to me, there’s nothing that separates it from anything else on the album, making it kind of uninspiring. “Flies Bump Against the Glass” is similar. I like the nice distorted, “wah wah” effect of the guitar, but I view it as more of a guitar feature than anything else. Finally, “Beat Quest” is a large let-down as well. The first half rides very slowly, and it finally ends with a bouncy, almost pop-esque duo of keyboard and guitar, reminiscent of a Yes or Styx album. It doesn’t sound too bad, but it juxtaposes just about everything else featured on the album, and seems very weird given the deep, deep, doom-filled ambiance of the rest of it.

The album as a whole is decent. The first half is very strong, but it takes a turn for me after the mess that is “Anthemic Aggressor.” It begins to lag, once the energy is lost, and the creativity isn’t as overt. I wish they’d lose the quiet, subtle evil, and instead feature more pieces like “Overthrown” in the future.

Verdict: 6/10

Favorite Track(s): “C,” “Overthrown”

Least Favorite Track(s): “Anthemic Aggressor,” “Beat Quest,” “Needle House Needle Boys”

By Hunter Church

Reach Hunter’s music blog, here.

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