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'The_ Ascension' (Koch)

Review by Ryan Mavity

Otep Shamaya is one pissed off lady.

Listening to her band OTEP’s new album, the_Ascension, the first thing you notice is her intensity. Unlike most of today’s heavy metal frontwomen, Otep doesn’t rely on operatic vocals or an exotic look. Far from it, loaded for bear with a lip piercing and tattoos, Otep is no weeping willow. She can scream as well as any guy out there; in fact, there are moments on the_Ascension where if you didn’t know any better you wouldn’t even know she is a girl.

On the_Ascension, Otep and the band’s intensity save the album at times from descending into a morass of nu-metal cliches. Some tracks, like "Noose and Nail" and "Crooked Spoons," are nu-metal 101 but the band plays them with a ton of conviction. A song like "Confrontation" has about the most off-the-shelf lyrics you could ever get about revolution, but Otep sings them like she really believes it. The best moments on the_Ascension are the surprises: the slow ballad "Perfectly Flawed," which reveals a vulnerable side to Otep, and the Nirvana cover "Breed," which reveals Otep’s inner Riot Grrl. The Nirvana cover is fitting because Otep is clearly influenced by those early-1990s Riot Grrl acts like Hole, Babes in Toyland and especially L7. Other standout tracks on the album include "Ghostflowers," which shows Otep at her most poetic, "Eet the Children" and "March of the Martyrs," which shows her at her most disturbing. Otep is not afraid to tackle social issues in her lyrics, taking on topics like war, child abuse, feminine insecurity and domestic violence.

I guess if there’s a complaint to be had about the record, it's that I wish there were a few moments like "Perfectly Flawed" and "Invisible" It gives OTEP, both the band and the singer, another dimension. The latter track shows off both sides of OTEP, the rampaging heavy rock outfit and one that can slow down a little bit. I have no problem with a band playing heavy all the time, but OTEP’s intensity becomes a bit overwhelming after a while and tracks like "Home Grown," which tackles the issue of domestic violence, seem a bit off the shelf compared to what we’ve heard earlier.

Still, the world of metal could use more personalities like Otep. She’s clearly got a unique voice and a presence that not many frontwomen have been able to capture. She can truly stand up with the guys and do it on her own terms.