Released: 17th August 2018
‘Smote Reverser’ is the 21st album in just 15 years from Oh Sees, a band with more names than some festival line-ups. Continuing founding member John Dwyer’s restless sonic exploration, it has largely no interest in choruses or anything as obvious as that. Instead, it slithers deep into your brain in a rush of energising future-proofed prog rock. Driven again on the twin polyrhythmic pillars of drummers Dan Rincone and Paul Quattrone, it is music designed for a listener to be happily lost inside for days. Opening salvo ‘Sentient Oona’ and ‘Enrique El Cobrador’ set the tone, the former swirling around the ether, threatening to dissipate altogether before reforming and returning in a sensational finale. The latter meanwhile thunders in on a pounding rhythm straight out of ‘Immigrant Song’, though its lyrics hint at a darker, Sabbath-shaped malevolence (“Skull upon the hill, drenched in blood that I’ve spilled”).
As you would expect from Dwyer and the gang, there are more ideas packed into one album, sometimes even one song, than some artists manage in an entire career. Rather than it being a case of chucking everything into a studio to see what sticks, however, it all feels highly crafted and structured. ‘Overthrown’ erupts into a wild wind of wailing, flailing guitars, a frenetic wake-up call for anyone not paying full attention. ‘Anthemic Aggressor’ on the other hand, is a 12-minute instrumental masterclass in modern prog – hypnotic, mesmerising drumbeats pushing and pulling a careening guitar in every direction, always avoiding repetition. And that, if nothing else, sums up the magic of ‘Smote Reverser’ – yet another first class album from a band that continues their musical odyssey through the stranger reaches of the universe without feeling the need to merely repeat what has come before.