Oh Sees' 2017 album Smote Reverser seemed at the time of its release to be just about as far as the band could push their combination psychedelic-metal-prog-jazz-garage sound before it might split into a million pieces. It was hard to imagine that John Dwyer and company could twist, fold, or mangle things any more than they were or that they could add more elements without capsizing the rollicking ship entirely. Face Stabber puts a lie to those preconceptions -- not only does the band take another step further out into space, they tumble through the abyss with an energetic fury that most bands can never conjure, much less one on their 300th album. This time around, keyboards are more prominent thanks to Tomas Dolas being more integrated into the band; the songs unwind more completely with the last track, the mighty "Henchlock," lasting over 20 minutes; and some free-form jazz freak-outs slip into the mix. "Fu XI" is bit like festival jazz if the event were being held on Mars, and "S.S. Luker's Mom" comes across like "Giant Steps" being played by Judas Priest. There are some side trips into denim-ripping Motörhead-style metal ("Gholü"), blown-out punk rock ("Heart Worm"), tracks that dig into ugly, scraped-up funk that would make George Clinton proud ("Scutum & Scorpius"), abstract electronic pieces ("Captain Loosley"), and lots of songs that feel like classic, recent Oh Sees, but just a little wilder and weirder. Add to that already-roiling stew the album-ending "Henchlock," a deeply funky and ominous track that never flags over its extended running time as the horn section blares, the guitars rip and tear, the keyboards make odd sounds, the rhythm section locks into a nasty, low-down groove, and Dwyer orchestrates the proceedings like a wild-eyed shaman. It's rare that a band can go on for this long without it feeling like filler; Oh Sees do it so well that another ten minutes would have been okay. On this song and the rest of the album, the band take chances, push hungrily at boundaries, and generally play like they were racing the clock to get the songs on tape before the studio collapsed around them. It's desperate and dangerous music given power by the assurance of the playing and the purity of Dwyer's vision as a songwriter and musician. Any band looking to play psychedelic music should look to this album (and Smote Reverser) to fully understand the possibilities that exist within (and far outside of) the style, and just how far a band with limitless imagination can go if they don't settle for clichés and easy answers, and push hard to make something unique and beautiful like the Oh Sees do here (and almost always).
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra