Sunday, February 21, 2010

Heavy Band 002: OT3P

This is my second installment in my series of examinations of hard rocking bands.

Formed in 2000, Otep has been one of the heaviest bands of the past decade. Otep takes its name from its female lead singer Otep Shamaya, who I will hence call "Shamaya" in order to avoid confusion. Most metal bands with a female lead singer tend to play melodic metal. This is not the case with Otep. Shamaya's singing ranges from subtle to overpowering, from vulnerable to vicious, from weak and whimpering to an empowered guttural growl. Her lyrics are at times ironic and comical, at other times horrific and personal.
The only other constant member of the group is "Evil" J. McGuire, whose bass playing can sometimes sound bouncy like Les Claypool's and other times driving and distorted like Geezer Butler's. He occasionally sings on songs, and the combination of his and Shamaya's growls creates an illusion of being swallowed into the bowels of Hell.
Otep's first release, the EP Jihad was released the summer of 2001. It featured five tracks, four of which that would be reworked for their first full length album Sevas Tra (the phrase Art Saves backwards). The song The Lord Is My Weapon features elements of hip hop and death metal with lyrics that call for an end to religious hypocrisies. The songs Possession and Germ sound like incantations to summon spirits.
Otep's second full length album House of Secrets opens with the song Requiem which puts you in the right mindset to listen to the album. Requiem features the sounds of Tibetan style gongs over sounds of horrific torture culminating in the voice of the victim saying an incantation to a dark goddess calling for vengeance. Requiem leads into Warhead, an indictment of the USA's leaders and lifestyle for getting us into a war in Iraq over oil. Warhead ends with a call to "Break Free!" The third song on House of Secrets is Buried Alive, which begins calmly with the lyrics: "I speak in verses, prophecies, and curses." From there the song slowly grows into a testament of rage. The title track of House of Secrets is haunting and bluesy, anchoring the whole album to a liberation for the victims of abuse.
Otep's third full length album The Ascension is somewhat softer and it has more humor in it that the prior two albums. Though the first song Eet the Children evokes the imagery of the victim, it also contains the lyrics: "Operators are standing by, Some restrictions may apply, Side effects could include, We'll steal the life right out of you." The song Crooked Spoons contains the line: "Take me down... Where the baptized drown." The song Perfectly Flawed is almost a ballad. The song Confrontation brings back the pious rage against the wealthy in their high towers sending impoverished pawns to battle. Though The Ascension contains some softer songs, there is still plenty of heavy songs to get your blood pumping.
Otep's latest album Smash the Control Machine opens with the driving Rise, Rebel, Resist. Smash the Control Machine is Otep's most political album. The album's title track is an outright indictment of capitalism and complacent consumerism. It questions why the quality of life divide between wealthy and poor is becoming so great, and it urges us to wake up and rise up against they who would exploit us. The song Kisses and Kerosene again evokes the images of the victim of abuse's wishes to have vengeance upon her abuser.
Otep is definitely one of the heaviest bands in rock today, which is due to the thrash of their instruments, the dark subject matter that they choose to cover, and their charismatic frontwoman who is equally at home singing a ballad as she is shrieking, growling, whimpering, or reciting ominous passages. Long may they continue to rock in the way that I've come to love them, ever changing and uncompromising.

Om SHAnti SHAnti SHAnti


Anonymous said...

i agree with you totally! LOVE OTEP!

Tashia said...

Right on!

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Heavy Metal Yogi by Nick Matthaes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.