Album Review: Oh Sees – Smote Reverser

Stream Smote Reverser HereOh sees (aka: Thee Oh Sees, The Oh Sees, Orange
County Sound, ect. Ect.) have been at it for over 20 years now, garnering an
intense and incredibly loyal underground following. After finding their niche
blending elements of garage, punk, hardcore, and psych, Oh Sees have seen an
incredible amount of both critical and fan success, becoming one of the most
recognizable names in the garage scene alongside the likes of Ty Segall and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Almost every single one of
their past albums and EP’s released under the Oh Sees name have brought hard
hitting and abrasive track after blood-pumping and infectious track. Orc, A Weird Exits, Mutilator Defeated at
Last, Drop, and Floating Coffin have all been some of my favorite albums of
their respective years. Oh Sees have often maintained John Dwyer’s goblin-like
vocal quality, screeching and roaring guitar, heavier than lead base, and tense
drums (sometimes multiple sets of them) as the linchpin of their sound and have
continually put out one fantastic record after another.Needless to say, I was more than excited with the
announcement of their twenty second studio album, Smote Reverser. The first single to drop, “Overthrown” featuring
buzzing guitar, primordial drums, John Dwyer’s distorted lo-fi screamed vocals
that came together to… underwhelm. The drums are flat, the bass is almost impossible
to hear over the fuzzed-out guitar and Dwyer’s vocals sound completely out of
place in respect to the rest of his work. While I desperately wanted to like
it, I couldn’t get past the horrendous production on the track.The next single to drop gave me hope; “C” is totally
infectious, featuring bustling drums, buzzing synths and an incredibly groovy
guitar – it was something I could get behind and it renewed my hope for the
forthcoming release. To my disappointment, Smote
Reverser just doesn’t deliver. It certainly has its highlights; the opening
track, ”Sentient Oona” is a haunting and wonderfully grimy piece of perfectly
blended psych and garage rock featuring marching drums, smoky whispered vocals,
and a commanding guitar – legitimately one of my favorite Oh Sees tracks of all time. However, over its
hour runtime, Smote Reverser fails to
achieve the same level of quality after this first track and delivers a bland
mix of psych, garage, noise, occasionally with elements of prog metal poorly
mixed in.Smote Reverser is
laden with weird and unnecessary detours throughout much of its runtime. It is
a serious step down from the blistering, raw, and visceral tracks that run
throughout much of their discography. “Last Peace”, “Moon Bog”, “Anthemic
Aggressor”, “Flies Bump Against the Glass” and “Beast Quest” are all fairly
sleepy, slow, and redundant tracks that make up the majority of the album. Now
I’m not trying say that I don’t like artists taking their music in new
directions or utilizing their artistic ability to expand the sound that they
are trying to produce, but Smote Reverse
is laden with uninteresting and sloppy sonic turns that just destroy the
listening experience as whole. A prime example of this is in the second track, “Enrique
El Cobrador” which features poorly
executed and disjointed soloing and keyboard fills that feel like they could
have been pulled out of a Booker T. and
the M.G.’s album but, you know, worse. I’ll say again that I don’t
discourage bands from making an unconventional blend of genres, I just
discourage it being done poorly. The track “Anthemic Aggressor” is a twelve-minute monster accounting for over a fifth of the
overall runtime of the album. It’s a total slog which features the same tedious
bass and drum rhythm for nearly the entire twelve goddamn minutes. Oh Sees are
more than capable of making longer, slower tracks like this interesting (see “Sticky
Hulks” and “Drowned Beast”) but this is a massive waste of twelve minutes. The
track “Beast Quest” accumulate in a headache-inducing hammering of the same Booker
T.-esque synth chords over and over again for two solid minutes; which I
suppose makes it a fitting closing track because by the end of it I was ready
to take off my headphones and down half a bottle of Advil. There is some potential for Oh Sees to explore this avenue
further. They are more than capable of making these tracks so much more interesting
and listenable. The few tracks I actually like would be better severed with
tighter, cleaner instrumentation, and better production. Honestly, especially if you haven’t listened to Oh Sees before, listen to any of the better albums I listed above first, then come back to this if you really feel so inclined.5/10-Alex