Before dismissing Otep as just another band that’s caught in the tentacles of the dysfunctional nu-metal post goth/metal family—an analysis is of the utmost importance. Consider the following (Otep has): raspy female-fronted vocals in artsy poetic verse, an emphasis on driven bass-fronted metal, a firm idea of what having dynamics actually means and an ultra fan-friendly listener-determined marketing campaign designed specifically for ultimate inclusion.
Sound good and dare I say…ingenious? Yes and YES. Check this out about last year’s tour—according to their bio: (fans) determined tour routes, venues, helped with set-lists and had a contest to create their recent “Ghostflowers” video. Whether considered an over-reliance on fan participation or not, it hints at brilliance.
Now when it comes to the music, Otep is like a relationship that possesses all qualities you look for, but something is just a little off. It looks great on the surface, but inside the pains of wrongness gnaw and churn slowly until no more can be had.
On their third full length, The Ascension, Otep continues where 2004s House of Secrets left off—good but…not-so-much. Too often Otep, even with all the good things mentioned above—strong chick vocals, aggressive bass-first driven metal, a varied and powerful attack with solid musicianship—the group falls just short with a oft-predictable, pedestrian and almost dull post nu-metal sound that does not advance their music.
It’s a bit confounding since foundering members, vocalist Otep Shamaya and bassist eViL j (Jason McGuire), have such a good grasp on what they want to do and with exceptional talents to match. They started strong on their 2002 debut Sevas Tra with their heavy-as-fuck sound that drew comparisons to Slipknot and Mudvayne, combined with Shamaya’s intense, almost frightening vocal delivery that catapulted them quickly into the modern metal elite.
Unfortunately, they have advanced little since then, despite the concerted effort by Otep to avoid the cliché classifications that metal bands, both new and old. But that isn’t to say The Ascension is without merit. “Crooked Spoons,” “Perfectly Flawed,” and “Noose and Nail” ignite the senses, as does the slamming “March of the Martyrs” and the cascading closer “Communion.”
These tracks, plus the excellent Nirvana cover “Bleed,” present Otep at its best and do come across as explosive excursions of dynamic and passionate metal that challenge simple definition and classification. But the rest of The Ascension comes across as the boring, common, and adequately played-out garden variety of nu-metal bullshit that the listeners are listlessly put to sleep by.