Smote Reverser

Thee Oh Sees

Castle Face, 2018

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


See, now, albums like this are such fun. You can’t pigeonhole them with one or two of those pesky genres. You can’t compare this to the band’s previous works as a means to discuss the current music. You can’t really compare it to its contemporaries, because few bands that I can think off offhand are currently making acid-jazz-prog-metal by way of whatever Deep Purple was doing in 1970. Smote Reverser is that kind of album.

It’s not exactly an instant classic, inasmuch as it is an insular album with many layers and no real cohesion, but it’s a truly fascinating piece of work. And it’s funny that prog-rock continues to sound as different in 2018 as it did in 1969 when the progenitors of the genre were bending time signatures and fusing guitar solos to classical music with lyrics about hogweeds and roundabouts and tarkuses. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And like those, this is an album that one can get lost in and that takes a few listens to understand. “Sentient Oona” is basically a twin-drum-and-vocals attack, with slight guitar coloring from time to time until the final two minutes turn into a full-band instrumental. “Enrique El Cobrador” essentially updates Deep Purple In Rock for the modern era, as does “C.” Both are solid tunes, but its on “Overthrown” that the volume gets ratcheted up and completely shreds the guitars and your eardrums. It’s very possible you’ll blow a speaker or a neck muscle to this one.

“Last Peace” plods along for a few minutes but then develops into a pulse-racing space-rock jam. Both “Abysmal Urn” and “Nail House Needle Boys” are good, if not great, but contribute to the overall feel of the disc. Penultimate track “Flies Bump Against The Glass” is one of the strongest ones here, the spacy keyboards settling an unsettling backdrop for the fuzzed-out guitar solo. It’s both menacing and triumphant. “Beat Quest” tries to end things on an upbeat instrumental note but the keyboards are unimaginative, playing a repetitive note without the dynamics that could have steered the song into greatness.

And then there’s “Anthemic Aggressor,” 12 minutes of fusion jazz, atonal guitar dribblings, some great bass work, and no point whatsoever. It’s an eternal jam, one that would probably sound great live or with some chemical substance enhancement, but its presence is simply interminable and stops the momentum of the record. That said, the sort of Bitches Brew-meets-“Time Has Come Today” vibe is both interesting and unique to modern music, as said above.

So, your enjoyment of Smote Reverser comes down to your tolerance for this sort of thing. If you’re looking for a mostly-instrumental album that twist and turns and doesn’t conform to normal – the real alternative music – then this is a fine choice, and proof that Thee Oh Sees continues to confound and subvert 22 albums deep into their career.

Rating: B-

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© 2018 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Castle Face, and is used for informational purposes only.