Review: Osees Cover Entire Prog Rock Domain with Inventive Album ‘Metamorphosed’

John Dwyer of Osees - Donna Balancia photo
John Dwyer of Osees - File photo Donna Balancia


Gawk-worthy California psych-rock group Osees released Metamorphosed, a characteristically daring album with trademark kaleidoscopic sonics. Many, many releases and projects later, frontman and multi-instrumentalist John Dwyer never fails to conjure a subtle absurdity in all his work- a concept that is ever-present on Metamorphosed.

The word “metamorphosis” is defined by Oxford Dictionary as, “ a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.” Osees brilliantly incorporate this concept of transience and transition, especially in the otherworldly realm, into the new album. The saga of Metamorphosed is one in which each chapter not only increases in length but falls deeper into an electro-dystopia until the garage rock presence in the initial tracks is completely surrendered to a video game soundtrack eclecticism.

In just five tracks, Osees transition from explosive, fuzz-saturated punk rockers to an experimental, somewhat heady, techno group that is reminiscent of supergroup Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s 1971 studio-album Tarkus. Within the realm of progressive rock, the fusion of electro and punk is nothing revolutionary, but, quite evidently, Metamorphosed makes no attempt to fuse these genres, opting instead to transition, quite abruptly at times, between the two rock dimensions. These changes are made apparent with the introduction of synthesized electro-beats and the disappearance of traditional instruments as the album progresses, but, more impressively, the changes are marked by Dwyer’s vocals which range from taut Gordon Gano-esque sing-talking to robotic droning.

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Metsmorphosed ’s stronger initial tracks like “Saignant” and “Electric War” are not only frenzied exemplifications of punk rock, but they also work hard to temper the up-to-23-minute metronomic tracks that await. These once-garage-rockers do, however, very carefully incorporate aspects of electro sonics in intensely reverberating guitar lines and occasional synth-driven interludes – a palatable techno incorporation for those not engrossed in electronic sound.

However, as the album progresses, an acquired taste for stagnant computerized beats is essential to enjoyment. In later tracks like “I Got A Lot” and “The Virologist,” ranging from fourteen to twenty-three minutes, Osees create somewhat droning patterns that make little effort to heighten tension sonically and lack lyrical diversity, save some incredible percussion moments. This repetition is indicative of the track lengths, and should not overshadow the experimental value the album holistically displays. Osees and Metamorphosed live up to not only the name, but to the entire progressive rock domain with an album that spans across vast sonic realms all packaged nicely in the grungy psychedelia that earned the outfit’s fixture in experimental rock.