Oh Sees consistently seem like a moving target of genre and overall voice as a band, with the one constant being the immense talent behind it all. They get angry and metal on their new record, while not hitting the extreme ends that the genre has become parodied for in modern times. Even with some fun jazz mixed into their heavy rock, they tend to overindulge themselves more than they give listeners moments to come back for.
While there’s certainly undertones of metal in their rushing intro on “Sentient Oona,” Oh Sees are blending much more jazz into their rock here. As drums thud with a reckless sense of urgency, the soaring harmonies only make their sprawling drops that much more intense. The bass and noise kick up however on “Enrique El Cobrador” as the jazzy tones only serve to make the metal more vicious and ecstatic. Though there’s less strong dynamics to keep the track feeling varied and deep, there’s a total mood shift that sets you up for what’s to come. With riffs flying every which way on “C’ there’s a more immediate tone to their writing and it keeps each hook drop exciting and bouncy. Oh Sees sense of fun in the song even makes grooving along a much more contagious and enjoyable experience this time around.
Oh Sees hit a furious pitch on “Overthrown” as they max-out the metal for some absolutely heavy shredding. With little breaks from the mayhem and strong points that they keep building to, they really focus themselves for some dynamic rock here. For all its sonic diversity “Last Peace” often feels like the complete opposite of its preceding track and can feel aimless more often than not. Luckily, it eventually hits its stride for some satisfying, if drawn-out, solos.
Though many tracks on Smote Reverser also suffer from this sense of extended, tiring writing, songs like “Moon Bog” at least offer a sublime sense of mood and driving energy. The shifting tides of its vocals and solos come together for something that while not constantly raucous, is often intriguing. It becomes pretty obvious fast that “Anthemic Aggressor” was born for the live world, as many of its solos feel spontaneous but ultimately lacking its titular anthem-like qualities. At 12 minutes long, it just can’t sustain its audience without much more variety in its writing.
“Abysmal Urn” seems to talk to a real set of people through fictional circumstances, and lets the band look at our current state of affairs. With their more tightened and over-the-top delivery here, they create something much more fun and lively. What “Nail House Needle Boys” lacks in all out big moments, it more than makes up for in its feel and general smooth grooves. This is pushed to a high-point as they crescendo hard on the beautifully mixed drum breaks for one of the album’s finest moments.
Though instrumentals could seem a bit indulgent on this record, “Flies Bump Against The Glass” counters the argument with strong hooks, and more riffs than much of the record ever offers. More than anything else, the sense of place and general emotion to the track really feels substantial and enveloping. It seems Oh Sees are already moving on to a new sound on “Beat Quest” as they bring out immense drum lines and synths for a gripping sound that’s noticeably separate from the album. Moving past this difference however, they really play around a lot for a track that will keep you on your toes.
Words by Owen Maxwell