By Eduardo Baz
Artist: Oh Sees
Label: Castle Face Records
Release Date: August 25, 2017
2017 marked the 20th anniversary for John Dwyer’s garage-psych rock band Thee Oh Sees. Throughout these 20 years the band has earned a reputation of creating high energy rock songs that contain elements of psychedelia and punk, all wrapped up in a high octane package. With the release of Orc under their new name, Oh Sees, Dwyer leads the group in another excellent example of raw, fast paced garage psych rock that maintains high production quality and polish.
Upon immediately listening to Orc, you are introduced to just how intense an Oh Sees record is with the opening track “The Static God.” Fast-paced drums layered with screeching guitar riffs instantly start this track off with a quick pace and are soon followed by vocals from Dwyer that truly embody the name and aesthetic of this record. Dwyer’s vocals sound like they are being groaned from an orc-like monster and contribute to the song’s overall grungy sound. Although there are many sounds being layered on top of one another–pounding drums, howling guitar and freakish vocals– there is a high amount of production quality which translates into everything sounding very tightly knit together. This does not mean the garage charm is gone, rather it is more easily visible with tightly aligned instrumentation and vocals.
The following song “Nite Expo” slows down a bit in comparison to the opening track, however it is no slouch when it comes to musical exuberance, loud guitar riffs and beating drums. The next track, “Animated Violence,” is another tune that is loud and fast and picks up where “The Static God” left off. The monster-like vocals are persistent throughout and deliver interesting lines such as “ Why is warrior / Swinging bludgeon? / How does warrior / Swallow dynasty?” The fourth song of the record, “Keys to the Castle,” begins as another high paced jammer but after a couple of minutes, transitions into a slow eerie, almost dreadful sounding tune. The guitar becomes very distorted and slowly disappears while soft keyboard chords and string instruments are introduced in its absence. For six minutes there are no vocals, rather an instrumental piece of music that exhibits psychedelic characteristics which is a staple for Oh Sees. Later tracks from this album all provide a similar sound, whether that is another high-tempo rock song, slower methodical psychedelic tune, or a combination of the two.
The amalgamation of the recurring reverb-soaked guitar riffs and monstrous vocals lend this record to aligning perfectly with what it aimed to achieve. Although it is not reinventing the genre, “Orc” bestows enough variety and jam-worthy songs that contain in many instances psychedelic characteristics, contributing to the slight weirdness of the record. Dwyer has once again lead a collective of talented musicians into crafting an intense and loud album that is best played on high volume and with the windows rolled down.