Otep: Otep Shamaya (Lead Vocals), Evil J (Bass, Backing Vocals), Brian Wolff (Drums)
I’ll just start off by saying that it is an incredible honor for me to be a
ble to write about Otep‘s new album The Ascension. I wanted to get my hands on it ever since I heard “Ghostflowers” and saw the music video that accompanied it. I was really looking forward to the album’s release in March, but Otep kept having problems with their former label, Capitol Records, and it was delayed indefinitely. Fortunately for me, and all other eager fans, the band switched to Koch Records and was able to release their much anticipated work on October 30. Let me tell you that it was most definitely worth the wait. It’s a really heavy album with a lot emotional energy packed into it. Even the slow track of the album, “Perfectly Flawed,” has got that heavy metal vibe churning throughout the somber tinkling of the piano and Otep Shamaya’s solemnly beautiful singing.
But despite the album’s undeniable quality, a lot of critics complain that it contains too much of the supposedly played out nu-metal genre. I’m not going to deny that Otep is very nu-metal in their sound. In fact, when I first heard “Ghostflowers” I noted that it sounded like Mudvayne. The bass line in particular is very reminiscent of some of the hit songs from L.D. 50, such as “Dig” and “Nothing to Gein.” But I don’t like how people dismiss nu-metal just because a lot its most popular and influential artists went downhill at a certain point and are no longer viewed as “in.” I’ve heard people comparing it to disco, which is really unfair to both genres. I don’t understand why, but disco has become the whipping boy in the music entertainment industry, but the same people who laugh at disco fail to see how heavily it influenced electronica, hip-hop, and modern dance music, which tend to get a lot of praise as a whole. But you can hear a clear disco influence in each of those styles, and more to the point those genres would not exist were it not for disco. So you can’t just discount an entire genre because it went downhill after a while.
The same thing goes for nu-metal and its purveyors. Granted, bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn aren’t what they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you have to lump newer bands of the same genre in with the old, fallen hacks. Otep is reaping fresh new product from what some would consider stale and used up territory. Just listen to “Ghostflowers.” After listening to the whole album several times, it still remains my favorite. It has just about everything I could expect from a good heavy metal song: a huge build-up, an especially powerful rhythm section, and tons of pure, raw energy pulsing through every note. Even just a good build-up is enough to get me to love a song, which “Ghostflowers” has in spades. The song starts off sounding slow and moody and it picks up the pace one step at a time until it reaches a roaring climax. And even when you think it has gotten as powerful as it can get, it still manages to reach even higher levels metal mightiness. And as strange a line as it sounds, I guarantee that “We are the thousand children of death!” will be going through your head constantly after first listening to this song. It’s a really well-delivered hook. I remember I was visiting my grandmother at a retirement community not too long after hearing “Ghostflowers” and I had that line running through my head. It’s hard for me to resist the urge to sing under my breath sometimes, but I somehow managed to avoid mentioning “the thousand children of death” around my grandmother.
You can hear the prevalence of the nu-metal sound in other tracks such as “Confrontation” as well, which has a distinct hip-hop influence that can be heard in the vocals. It isn’t exactly true rapping, but Shamaya delivers her lines in a fast-paced, aggressive way that somewhat reminds me of Corey Taylor’s work in Slipknot. And it an incredibly powerful song with a very catchy chorus. The roller coasterish delivery of the lines “Stand up / Speak out” really sticks in your head.
The one, minor thing that bothers me about The Ascension, and any other album that does this, is when there are spoken word sections or whispered singing with little to no musical accompaniment. Maybe this is just me, but I would rather have just plain ol’ music in my albums that isn’t interrupted by people talking or an overly dramatic change in mood. It’s almost like breaking the suspension of disbelief in that you’re really getting into the sound when all of a sudden it shifts to something completely different and then shifts back. Otep does this at the beginning of “Eet the Children” by starting off with a short lullaby and uses it as bookends for their cover of “Breed” by Nirvana where Shamaya defines the term “Nirvana” as a tribute to the band. Overall, these are very short segments and only exhibit a small annoyance of mine. I’m just glad they didn’t include a random answering machine message in The Ascension. Whenever I hear that in an album it annoys the hell out of me! I don’t understand why bands do that! Do they think it’s funny?
Anyway, do yourself a favor and get a copy of The Ascension. This album is like heroine: addictive. Plus, you gotta support the female fronted heavy metal bands. There’s so much testosterone in the genre that getting some really talented female contributors is a real nice change of pace, especially if they create as well as perform. And I have to say it, I love the name Otep Shamaya. So I guess they followed Strong Bad’s advice to come up with the band’s name.
Purchase The Ascension by Otep
Otep – Eet the Children
Otep – Confrontation
Otep – Ghostflowers
Oh yeah, I mentioned Mudvayne earlier. Well, I’ll give you something to look forward to, because I’ll be writing about their most recent album a post or two from now.