OH SEES “Smote Reverser” (Castle Face)

Oh Sees / Thee Oh Sees (or one of their many other alter egos) are a band that could be your life. Much like The Fall, you could sustain yourself on their music alone such is the extent of their multifarious back catalogue, full of tangential variance and always familiar like your best buddy. And when they’re on a groove they really lock in tight. I’d been recommended to see them many, many times over the past few years, and Make Up apart they were a real draw to me booking a ticket to the All Tomorrow’s Parties event I’ll Be Your Mirror at the Alexandra Palace a few years back. However due to transport delays and after a breathy run up the hill, I stumbled into the venue to literally hear a final discordant twang of a chord and John Dwyer (the Mark E Smith to Thee Oh Sees) say “We’re Thee Oh Sees from San Francisco, goodnight!” Nonetheless I bought myself a copy of “Carrion Crawler/The Dream” and I was hooked.

Earlier this year, with tickets secured six months previously I was all set to see them finally as part of the CastleMania / Castle Face Records event at the Troxy, only to be prevented at the last minute from travelling up from the ‘burbs by the unexpected (for March) snow/shit-storm The Beast From the East. I’ve now got physical possession of tickets to their next London gig in early September and hopefully it’s third time lucky. And this time they’ll be playing a record (their 21st all told!) whose cover is resplendent with something that could well be a Beast from the East, except it’s swapped snow for smoke, and I’m not Tolkein shit but it’s all gone a bit prog, following on from the last record as Oh Sees last year’s excellent “Orc”, this time it’s called “Smote Reverser!”

I’m still saying Yes please despite the Wakeman-esque ivory tinkling that’s carried over from (also last year’s) lower key OCS “Memory From A Cut Off Head” keyboardist Tom Dolas, and in fact the almost three minute warning clarion reverbs he drops on my head towards the end of opening track “Sentient Oona” truly send a shiver down to my tailbone. And his work on “C” totally turns this into Grand Funk Railroad choogling fun with Dwyer teaming up with his favourite vocal foil, the majesterial and bewitching tones of Brigid Dawson (if she is on an Oh Sees record you know it’s gonna be an absolute corker).

There’s plenty of baroque & roll, noodling nuggets, garage bangers and headfuck psych hydras that will please you if you’ve got into Thee Oh Sees via the likes of “Mutilator Defeated At Last”, “A Weird Exits” or “Floating Coffin”, but on “Smote Reverser” it even hurtles into a breakneck death metal foray with the track “Overthrown” – carried along by the fiercesome twin drum cyclone of Quattrone/Rincon – the best double drum backline since Karl Burns & Paul Hanley.

The imagery of “Smote Reverser” – lyrically and artistically is very mythical and beastly and normally I’d run a mile from anything with a whiff of a cryptid or a fantastical folklore (I have never ever watched Lord Of The Rings or Game Of Thrones), but when the guitar lets rip through the middle of “Moon Bog” like a fissure in the moors, how can you ignore its primordial and gravitational pull? Meanwhile “Anthemic Aggressor” is hypnotic like Can at their very best, and shows a subtle sleight of hand, while with the shredding of “Abysmal Urn” it’s a full on glancing impact, and try as I smite to move on from their orbit, which given their profligacy of output is sometimes difficult to keep up with, wherever his imagination takes him and whatever trip John Dwyer is on, I’m more than happy to get on board.

Album Rating: No smote without fire

The album is out on 17th August and there’s more on it here:


and you can get some pretty sweet editions of it, including peacock blood coloured vinyl at indies including Rough Trade

Oh Sees UK tour ’18 dates/venues:

31/08 – Margate – Winter Gardens

1/09  – Dorset – End Of The Road Festival

2/09  – Bristol – O2 Academy

3/09  – London  – O2 The Forum