Few of the riffs grab you, less stands out, but the effort put in makes for something to admire
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‘Smote Reverser’ is the second album released by Oh Sees, twenty-first if you include everything released under the names Thee Oh Sees, The Oh Sees, TheOhsees, and OCS. For over a decade now, the group’s core member, John Dwyer, has been in hot pursuit of becoming psychedelic royalty, and this new addition to his catalogue of chaos would be what sees him obtain the crown and sceptre, if it wasn’t for its far too frequent equitability.
A collection of rousing battle-cries, and mini musical cataclysms, ‘Smote Reverser’ sees Dwyer and friends ditch any true conceptuality, in favour of strong, dynamic and progressive ideas that continue to incorporate a contemporary freak rock flare. Like a heavy psych jam band, think a more garage-y Phish, it’s the music that matters here.
Sure, ‘Enrique El Cobrador’ may fool you into thinking you’re in for some of 2018’s premier oddball rock, follow-up ‘C’ will continue to solicit empty promises in that regard, but ‘Smote Reverser’ is an album of heights, of sheerness, but Oh Sees seem to be hellbent on creating their own clichés in the process.
You’ll notice formulas and patterns. A number of tunes, such as ‘Abysmal Urn’, keep grinding out the same ‘play the lick a few times, then double-track it a few times’ idea that you’ll end up predicting before it happens. There was a similar issue on last year’s ‘Orc’, but ‘Orc’ was at least cutting edge in places.
The mixing, handled by Eric Bauer, Enrique Tena and John Dwyer himself, isn’t all there, with only a few of the soundscapes sounding as viciously grand as they perhaps should. Still, the more violent cuts serve as tremendous exceptions, particularly ‘Overthrown’, which is carnage epitomised in song – dramatic distortion, constant, pummelling drums, it might be a better example of an unflawed band than a fine production job, but there are a good few moments on ‘Smote Reverser’ where Oh Sees are on fire, and it comes across beautifully in their sound.
Said moments where Oh Sees are at their most musically concise mostly appear within their epic instrumental pieces, as mentioned, this IS about the music. Dwyer’s guitar on ‘Last Peace’ is dazzling, and the twelve-minute ‘Anthemic Aggressor’ hits all the right notes, like it’s their jazz, granting a spectacle of lead and rhythm sections battling it out, but again, Oh Sees struggle to go the distance with these epics, they’re no King Crimson, then again, who is?
While no stranger to this style of uber-venomous psychedelic garage rock, more-so than anything else Dwyer has done, ‘Smote Reverser’ does sound like a full-on King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard impression. Still, who can blame him? King Gizzard’s sound has become pretty damn influential.
On ‘Orc’, Oh Sees gave us attention-grabbing power in spurts over a considerable timeframe. It may have been their best work, and unfortunately, on ‘Smote Reverser’, they seem to struggle to stay totally entrancing or striking for the full hour. Few of the riffs grab you, less stands out, but the effort put in makes for something to admire.