A feeding trough for the fanbase
Osees certainly know how to keep themselves busy. The group’s first project under their current moniker, which was changed just this past summer, was released early last month. On September 23rd, the band announced not one, but two more full-length projects. One of those projects, Metamorphosed, is the album on which this review is focused, and the other, Panther Rotate, will be available to the public in December. Metamorphosed is a hand-picked selection of five songs from the sessions that resulted in the band’s third and final release under their “Oh Sees” title, the progressive psych-rock double album Face Stabber (2019).
It’s clear that Osees maintain a deeply held desire to go above and beyond, and share as much of their creative process with their avowed supporters as possible (and frequently). While this is certainly an admirable characteristic for any band, there’s a chance that this can result in haphazard output. On Metamorphosed, the situation is complex, and Osees struggle to make the project feel like much more than cobbled together leftovers. There are some very high quality leftovers, but leftovers nonetheless.
First of all, the structure of the project is incredibly obtuse. It’s a five-song album in which the first three tracks total about five and a half minutes, and the following two are 14 minutes and 23 minutes, respectively. There’s probably a world in which this album structure works, but this is certainly not that world. The three opening tracks, “Saignant,” “Electric War” and “Weird And Wasted Connection,” are bite size bursts of extremely high intensity rock. “Saignant,” probably the noisiest minute and a half on the album, is the amalgamation of shredding guitars, electronic beeps and screeches, and unintelligible lyrics trapped in the mix, all of which is underpinned by the uniting force: great drums and near constant cymbal crashes. It’s a lovely trip.
“Electric War” is a ton of fun as well, with more amazing guitar, significantly more intelligible vocal work and some genuinely catchy riffs around the halfway point of the track. The drums once again take on a glue-like role, and remain incredibly effective. Of the three shorter tracks, “Weird And Wasted Connection” is definitely the weakest, but it remains entertaining as a result of a playful vocal performance and the song’s innately curious nature.
Onto the second “half” of the album. For a 14-minute song, “The Virologist” doesn’t really feel like it goes anywhere. There are flashes of brilliance in the way that the track implodes into a beautiful mess of electric guitar experimentation in the final minutes, but other than that, it’s a middling ride. The unvaried drum rhythms and sparse guitar lines are not nearly enough to carry all 14 minutes.
Finally, listeners have reached the chunky 23-minute monster, “I Got A Lot” (literally over half the runtime of the album). It’s a similar story to “The Virologist.” There are interesting moments, like the “I got a lot on my mind” refrain and its similar counterparts, or the process by which the second half of the track essentially descends into insanity. Unfortunately though, like the other long track, there still is just not enough going on to warrant the impressively bold structure of this track. It’s a few great ideas that, somewhere during Osees’ process, became gratuitous and self-indulgent.
As previously mentioned, Osees’ commitment to providing fans with a constant treasure trove of new content is extremely admirable. The fact that the band is over 20 albums deep into an already illustrious career makes this commitment even more impressive. That being said, one must imagine that the heavy and often languid hand of quality control plays less of a role in a creative process like the Osees.’ For example, while it’s clear that this selection of five tracks wasn’t completely random, it also doesn’t feel entirely focused. As a unit, Metamorphosed flails, pulsates and writhes. At times, it’s satisfying enough, and at other times, it isn’t. Either way, Osees probably won’t be all that concerned. This is a project that will, in all likelihood, only feel fulfilling to the most committed of the Osees fanbase. The fact that it’s a borderline impossibility that this project will attract any new listeners is essentially irrelevant. All things considered, Osees is probably too focused on their next project already to care. More power to ‘em.