[sic] Magazine

Oh Sees – Smote Reverser

What the hell even is a Smote Reverser? An un-doer of God’s best smiting? It matters not one jot of course as all it needs to be is the latest offering from John Dwyer’s prolific carousel of cacophony that has – in recent times anyway – variously called itself Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees and/or, more simply, OCS. It almost goes without saying these days that Dwyer’s willingness to mutate while keeping the standards high is what has always set him apart, paddling as has in the pools of demented psych, garage-fuzz, stoner kraut, punk Nuggets, VU-style drone and noise, and now, so too on Smote Reverser, in the dark waters of heavy prog.

For all Dwyer’s strong influences, however, it’s never been wise to ignore those of long-time band-member Brigid Dawson too. In and out of prominence like the hokey cokey, an album like 2017’s Orc tumbled along quite happily on dual-drum-fired garage-psych and her unobtrusive keys, but Memory Of A Cut Off Head, which came out just a few months later, was altogether a different proposition as Dawson came back to the fore and with her some of the band’s earliest psych-folk fixations. With a B-side heavily weighted towards her vocals, a thought occurred that maybe – on that occasion at least – it was her doing the lion’s share of the leading. Curiously, A Weird Exits, only a year earlier, was just the opposite however, a conscious effort to move away from the Dawson’s legacy of keys and synths and back into the domain of guitars.

Here on Smote Reverser, the apple-cart is once again upset, Dawson bringing Memory Of A Cut Off Head‘s 60s psych organ to the party, but otherwise generally letting Dwyer’s stranger and more rhythmically repetitive tendencies dominate. Nearly an hour long and never quite as awesome as its ridiculous artwork, Smote Reverser takes its time to make its point and then revels in making that point over and over. Most obviously in this camp is “Anthemic Aggressor”, its 12 instrumental minutes crackling with static interference, incessant kraut-repeats from the drums and grooving bass, the high-end guitar hitting the extremes. Undeniably a wild, polyrhythmic beast from the get-go, it’s also a little aimless truth be told. Proving itself more the exception than the rule though, what’s to be found either side of it is truly strong on variety on the other hand.

The opener for example, “Sentient Oona”, veers between soothing percussive overloads and crunching keys, riffs and weighty prog noodling. The sparsely titled “C” later quickly settles into a funky, popping groove, Dwyer’s falsetto getting all weird at its crests, guitar fuzz set to slay over scanning sci-fi drones. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, royal racket “Overthrown” is – more straightforwardly – a quick-fire blast of noise-punk over speed-ball drumming while “Enrique El Cobrador” is a trademark garage-ripper. In turn, “Nail House Needle Boys” is built around a fuzzy, bluesy chug and the stand-out “Abysmal Urn” further offers cascades of chunky riffs and huge guitars, wailing right up to the point Dwyer’s dropped-out choruses bed in with insidious melody. Throwaway, fun and pummelling like a prize-fighter, this latter statement in particular is a damn-fine mouthful. The melancholy vocal harmonies that prop up the 7-minute “Last Peace” are unrecognisable under any Dwyer or Dawson guise though, the needling guitar that follows however a different matter, so too the tempo switch-up and arrival of liquid psych effects that could only ever emanate from the warped mind of Dwyer – another aural smiting surely if ever there were one.

Best track: “Abysmal Urn”

~Smote Reverser is released 17th August 2018 via Castle Face.~