Though the band was born and bred on the Atlanta music scene, performing with most of its current lineup intact since frontman Tanner Merritt joined in 2008, O’Brother has never enjoyed the hipster “buzz band” status bestowed on groups like Black Lips and Deerhunter. Perhaps that explains why O’Brother’s sound—a mixture of metal, prog and psychedelic rock—seems so unique to Georgia. Without the burden of expectation, they were allowed to evolve at their own pace, and in their own way.
Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and Robert McDowell produced the band’s stunning 2011 debut, Garden Window. Mike Sapone (who mixed the breakthrough) takes the helm for the sophomore album, which broadens their sonic palette via artful experimentation. Thankfully, stretching their creative boundaries does nothing to dull the edges of their potent 3-guitar attack.
Merritt seems particularly intent on exploring his range here: On the hallucinogenic opening track, “Come Into The Divide,” the vocals veer from Jeff Buckley-style falsetto melodies to whisper/moaned mantras in a lower register. The end result sounds like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, each of them tempting you to enter an otherworldly dimension from which you may or may not be able to depart.
Not all the tracks here are quite so esoteric: “Parasitical” is a throbbing rocker that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Alice In Chains album, while “Context” could be the perfect soundtrack to the climactic scene of a Jerry Bruckheimer action epic. But O’Brother is at its most interesting when it spreads its compositional wings and takes dynamic flight, as it does on “Oblivion,” “Absence” and the title track, which range in length from 6:43 to over nine minutes.
They may not be one of Atlanta’s buzziest bands. But Disillusion proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that O’Brother is well on its way to being one of Georgia’s best.