Oh Sees – Smote Reverser

Charging in like a psych rock rollercoaster, the latest Oh Sees album finds frontman and record label owner John Dwyer expanding into new territory. Following a slight name change (dropping from Thee Oh Sees to simply Oh Sees) for last release ‘Orc’ in 2017, Dwyer and co have once again combined their ferocious guitar tunes with more swirling melodies, but what makes ‘Smote Reverser’ different from previous releases is the way they’ve combined more intricate harmonies into their sonic approach, at times veering off into prog rock territory. No, wait, come back – Prog Rock isn’t actually that bad! If someone would have told my teenage indie grunge self, that I’d be enjoying guitar freak outs, sci-fi based lyrics and own an album cover with some huge mythical fire-monster on the cover, I’d have probably stuck my two black painted fingernails up in defiance. Now, my cloth ears are thankfully fully open to all musical genres, this slight change of direction for Oh Sees adds another layer to their already exhilarating sound.

‘Sentient Oona’ has Dwyer’s whispered, soft vocals over shuffling drum fills and wailing guitar riffs, it’s a more expansive sound than previous Oh Sees releases, before finishing on a proper guitar wig out as only Oh Sees can do. ‘Enrique El Cobrador’ has Wurlitzer electric pianos, weaving in and out of guitar riffs and a thunderous bass groove driving it all along, no idea what he’s singing about but it sounds like some almighty mythical battle, of the good versus evil kind, dreamt up from the deepest crevices of John Dwyer’s mind, and it’s an absolute belter of a tune.

‘C’ has the stomp rock beat of a Bolan or glam rock song, sped up and constantly charging forward with its noodling guitar riffs adding high rock drama to the proceedings, whereas ‘Overthrown’ starts with an absolute onslaught of drums rolling so fast they sound like a hundred horses running past, with a speed metal style riff wailing over the top, and Dwyer’s shouted, hysterical vocals powering it even further. Then it’s back to the slower, more reflective approach on ‘Last Peace’ with harmonised vocals from Dwyer and Brigid Dawson, with gentler guitar riffs ringing out over the top, at least for the first half of the song anyway, before it once again takes flight into a another excellent Oh Sees style freak out.

The fantastically titled ‘Moon Bog’ is another sci-fi based lyrical meander, set to an more sedate pace, and interspersed with Neil Young-esque guitar solos. There are also two instrumentals on here, with ‘Anthemic Aggressor’ being a twelve minute epic held together by a motorik bassline which remains virtually constant throughout, whilst the guitars wail and weave in and out above, and ‘Flies Bump Against The Grass’ being a slow paced sedate more melodic affair as is the wonderfully titled ‘Abysmal Urn’. Then ‘Nail House Needle Boys’ has an almost funk groove to its bass and organ melodies, before the riotous guitars come in again. Although I can’t see them donning capes and magician’s hats anytime soon, Smote Reverser is a modern day prog rock gem!

Dwyer has created his own brilliant psych-rock empire with the mountain of astounding bands he’s signed to his label Castle-Face, plus the ever expanding Oh Sees catalogue. Smote Reverser is another fine addition to the Oh Sees legacy as the finest modern day pysch rockers around.

Released 17th August 2018 (Castle Face Records)

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.