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
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.