Oh Sees drop the "Thee" but retain all of the explosive intensity of their past work on Orc.Castle Face, 2017
7.5 / 10
Orc, the 19th album from John Dwyer‘s rock band Oh Sees, is disruptive. However, not in the way you may expect. It’s disruptive because Dwyer dropped “Thee” as a prefix to Oh Sees. It just feels weird, and it still feels necessary to address them as The Oh Sees rather than Oh Sees. So the “the” is there, just without an extra ‘e’. Oh, the insanity of it all! While this is an obvious change for the band, other things remain the same. Like the typical Oh Sees’ song structure.
Whether they have a the with an extra ‘e’ or not, their songs share the same MO as their past work. Dwyer will sing a verse either with a high-pitched whisper or froggy croak. Then, he’ll do a soaring howl. Then, the band slays the guitar and drums. Repeat all of this with a few minor adjustments here and there, and you have a crazy time. And crazy FUN times are to be had with Orc. Lyrically, but do you really follow this band for its lyrics, the songs follow a mystical setting with warriors, monsters, and starving citizens. Are they goofy? Yes, but the Oh Sees rock the shit out of them.
“Animated Violence” tears the door off the hinges with its burly riffs. The song itself follows a destructive narrative of a warrior laying waste to everything in his path. Oh Sees’ dark jams recall Black Sabbath’s early work, which many people thought was demonic and evil. You could argue the same about some of Orc‘s songs. But we all know that they’re not conjuring up sinister spirits. “Keys to the Castle” follows the aforementioned Oh Sees’ song structure, but its minor adjustment feels major. After Dwyer gets all of the pesky singing out of the way, it becomes this psychedelic jam session with a breeze flowing through the soothing keys, humming bass, and steady drums. Hell, there’s even some violin in there too because why not?
Although not the album’s final track, “Drowned Beast” is a bold closing statement. Spacey synths meld with the band’s booming bass in the intro to give way to Dwyer’s high-pitched whisper. His promise of “soon we will feast,” is creepy and gives way to explosive, raw energy that only Oh Sees do so perfectly. Twenty years, nineteen albums, and a new name. This band doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. And we don’t want it to.