Otep - the Ascension
OTEP: The Ascension
By Barb Fara
President and CEO of MusicIncider.com
Otep Shamaya: vocals (2000-)
“Evil" J. McGuire: bass/backing Vocals (2000-)
Aaron Nordstrom: guitars (2007-)
Brian "Haggis" Wolff: drums (2006-)
“Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History”-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (and on a bumper sticker on the side of Otep's can she stands, jumps, and growls on)
The fucking reviews about this ABSOLUTE masterpiece has gotten me pissed off. One website went so far as to say 'painful crooning.' I dare you to say fucking painful crooning about Corey Taylor or Jonathan Davis-does Otep's lack of a penis leave her out of the boys club? (AND powerful vocals do not necessarily mean pissed off.) Should we put her in a flowery little dress and have her singing about being so sick with five boys dressed in white praying to Jesus? I know! Let's have Amy Lee write her a bunch of whiny Goth songs that sound exactly alike. Oh, better yet-let's have all of her tattoos removed and put her on the cover of Maxim in a tiny little diva dress, hire her a big Manhattan PR firm and put her on tour with Mariah Carey. Wouldn't that be just another nail in the coffin? And Greg Tribbett did guitar work and contributed to the CD-that DOES NOT make this CD sound like fucking Mudvayne. I love Chad Gray, but I would put Otep up against his melodic growling any day of the week-and with all due respect, Mudvayne sometimes lacks the poetic and political presence and message that Otep brings to the stage. -What we have in Otep is a powerful band, fronted by a powerful woman-and her Legion loves her for that. She defies the norm-and that is at the center of the musical message of the band. We have five current, female power voices in the metal community-Otep, Doro Pesch, Morgan Landers of Kittie, Tarrie B of My Ruin, and Angela Gossow. Gossow, the other Scorpio on the list, fronts Arch Enemy-a death metal band. Pesch is just classic, I have never gotten my hands on Tarrie B, and Landers is evolving. Death metal does confront things that we are afraid to look at, and gives the listener a sense of power. Otep's brand of metal confronts EVERYTHING we are afraid to look at with a melodic and powerful presence that rivals the almighty Kurt Cobain-another musical genius we took for granted. Kurt took chances with what his music put out there-for example, Polly was told from the point of a rapist. Kurt was a poet as well as a songwriter/storyteller; the same can be said for Jim Morrison. In Otep, we have the metal version-even though she refuses to be pigeonholed as metal (BTW-metal is metal and we need you to be metal). Great art reflects the times that we live in and tells a story. Music is an art form and a craft. - So much of what hits my fucking mailbox sounds so overproduced and EXACTLY alike, so it is fucking RARE when something stands out. -Remember when Angus Young could come out on stage and play one string and everybody knew what the song was? Or how Dave Mustaine did it on his CD's? The Ascension delivers this old school feel with a bitch slap to your ears. -How can I compare Otep's voice? I can't. I think she should Otep-up a Johnny Cash cover album-because she has that same deep, dark representation of the common man that Johnny Cash did. She tells your story, my story, and her story with brutal honesty. Look out-she is coming to your city (maybe I should give Big Kenny of Big&Rich a call and warn them). -Evil J (Jason, as in Jason Macguire? Who went to Berkeley like Steve Vai did? But the devil Vai only takes guitar players-Vai's bass players have to be holy, like Billy Sheenan-The Cosmic Troubador.) is her partner in crime and an amazingly melodic bass player. I love his backing vocals and I think he knows it. I will compare him to nobody-and I will give him credit for the thunder in the rhythm section along with Brian Wolff. The guitar work is par excellence and just as hard as anything I have ever heard backing any man. -What more can I possibly say? Otep represents everything my little webzine believes in-honesty, brutality, storytelling, and strength. The band put out an album that is actually worth buying.
How is an Otep audience different? Well, it isn't what is commonly referred to as a sausage festival. What does that mean? It isn't all guys at the show. The audience is split-half guys, half chicks. Meaning Otep's particular brand of 'angry nu-metal' has gender crossover appeal. It wasn't like going to see The Donnas and listening to the crowd of guys scream about each Donna they want to fuck-and listening to the Donnas scream about how they fuck. It was more like the musicians being in concert with the audience-yes, I am quoting the Springsteen/Doors experience here. The band does not create a distance with the audience, but a gathering. The music has a message and allows the listener to touch that place inside that is angry and express it-it doesn't scream MALENESS (yeah, I am borrowing this from Amy Ray-the maleness thing. I think, in her fucking heart of hearts-that Ray has always wanted to plug in, ride the lightening, and be metal.) like Rage Against The Machine (so this does not get taken the wrong way-I love Rage). It doesn't scream self-pity; it screams power without gender bias-it is just about the music. It empowers people to speak, draw, scream, and create-in other words-it does everything it is supposed to do. Think Annie Lennox with Slipknot, Jesus needing his prescription filled, and a poet with a big voice. You may begin to have a picture. Otep Shamaya and her band are a pack of traveling evangelicals preaching the message of ‘know yourself and fuck them if they don't understand you’. -The Ascension will have them same success as Shinedown's Us and Them. Why? It is about us and fuck them.
Let’s look at the tracks.
Eet The Children-We are scared shitless of teenagers as a general rule-case in point-My Chemical Romance's epic Teenagers has one line that says teenagers scare the living shit out of me. But how do teenagers get so fucking scary? That's where this song goes. Society wants people to conform and act a certain way, but what if that's not you? -Eet The Children puts the family on trial for not listening and creating a body count. -As a side note, have you ever noticed that most serial killers come from the Midwest? The Midwest is the heart of America, now isn't it.
Crooked Spoons-This song is featured in a movie called On The Doll with Brittany Snow. On The Doll was directed by Thomas Mignone-the director of various Danzig, Megadeth, and System Of A Down videos. So, basic plot, you have a fucked up childhood and you can become a fucked up adult. What is interesting about that? -Films that explore the direct correlation between abuse and adulthood aren't being made for this generation. -Enough of the historical shit, oh and relevant shit---it is a kickass song and the world is full of diseased sick fucks that use people and hurt them. If you take everything from somebody, what is left? What do you do when nothing is left? I guess you should just knock whoever is trying to hurt you down and punch them in the face.
Perfectly Flawed-***GASP*** A radio friendly Otep song? A song that says it is okay to be just who and how you are. A song that says everybody hurts, and to just hang in there (ala REM)?!?!? What happened to torture them before they torture you? -With all due respect, it shows off the more melodic side of Otep's vocal range as well as the band. It is a pretty song and a witty song and so delightfully GAY (yup, I said it motherfuckers-self-acceptance is a fucking theme), and it allows the listener to connect with the band in a place that is more than angry.
Confrontation-The reviews of this song have been vastly unfair. Let me make my fucking point-WARHEAD (it was one of the first heavily anti-war songs to come out and nobody labeled Warhead as generic) came out nearly seven years ago, and at the time it was labeled as being harder than Slipknot. WARHEAD is political, tough, and in your face—so is Confrontation. Confrontation just tackles the issue in a different way. -Not everybody can be Otep Shamaya and make a video-but both the video and the song illustrate what one determined individual can do on a street corner with a megaphone. -The lyrics are criticized as being as 'off the shelf anti-war' as you can possibly get. What the lyrics are is obvious. There is no room at all for misinterpretation. It is a rich man's war and it is the poor that die.
Milk of Regret-Okay, somebody broke her heart-but this somebody could be anybody. Parents-lover-the music industry. It paints a picture and allows whoever is listening to it to insert whoever fucked them over directly into it. I especially like the way this song ends-your whole world is burning down. It reminds me of Shooter in Secret Window when he is confronting Mort Rainey. -Everybody has regrets, and revenge can be so much fun. Look at me, I can write special letters to Special Pets and review music.
Noose & Nail-I wonder if porn star Mary Carey catches the line about being a junkie messiah in this one. Is Otep working with Dr. Drew Pinsky and Celebrity Rehab or against it? It could be some sort of covert anti-rehab song, because rehab is for quitters.
Listen to that one line-the remedy is worse than the disease. -We could dedicate this one to the almighty Nikki Sixx and The Heroin Diaries-because he did say coming off smack was like being crucified. -Krishna is rolling on X...cool shit.
Ghostflowers-This is a goddamn deep song. There is a me, and a me inside of me that wants to be known...sort of Megadeth-y in that respect. -The visuals of fallen angels and broken halos though-that’s so not Mustaine. -To me, this is the psychic song. Realizing you are psychic is about like being on fire. Picking ghostflowers from your soul is like channeling the dead. I love the video with Karma from American Head Charge-He looks like the devil and she looks like an angel.
Breed-'Nirvana means freedom from pain, suffering, and the external world.' -Kurt Cobain. -The CD absolutely needed this. The Ascension is all about suffering and pain, and at some point one spoken word line from Shamaya offers hope. -Otep pays the song respect but still owns this version of it. Treading in Nirvana land is dangerous for any band, but is pulled off beautifully here. -On a sidenote, the scumbag that stole Kurt's ashes should be shot.
March of the Martyrs-A martyr is supposed to be a witness for Christ. Back in the dark ages, the early church though suffering for Jesus was a great idea-so society has this underlying thing that it is indeed a good thing to suffer. And it is even better to have somebody suffer so you don't. -So this song blends facets of domestic abuse and religion.
In fact, to be a martyr makes you Christ.
Invisible-This one is about longing, the longing to be seen and heard. Everyone wants to be an individual-it is a part of the human experience. -But listen; Dress like we do, think like we do, obey...so we have this dramatic buildup in the music that climaxes in always hurting the ones you love and dying on a cross. But what can save your life? Your pain, baby. Secrets kill with silent smiles in the night.
Home Grown-Home sweet home-this one puts the fun back in dysfunctional. -The kid tries to protect her mother and siblings. -He hurts me because he cares, and it's all my fault. Welcome to the family. -I love the way this song switches faults. It starts with a victim, and ends in power. The hero in the story of this one gives us a clear path from being a victim. I respect anything that goes from getting the shit kicked out of you to kicking the shit out of someone.
Communion-This song is a multi-layered indictment of religion and being trapped by convention. We are the crucified and we are the shadowmen in the background-both good and evil. The shadowmen are the underground and the only hope for those who want to escape, and sometimes you have to embrace the darkness in order to see the light.
-To quote Full Metal Jacket, “I believe it has something to do with the duality of man-the Jungian thing, Sir.”
Adenochrome Dreams (Bonus Track)- Rows and rows of executioners-fuck that is a scary dream. With masks made of human skin-what is more metal than that? And she runs the gauntlet. Then she drowns in rodents. And it goes on-she should sell this one to Gossow and Arch Enemy. -I am not going to ruin the ending, but it pretty fucking cool for a spoken word piece. ...It ties the album together and directly points to the inspiration behind The Ascension. The Legion should fucking love it.
So, this CD has themes children. Rebellion is the one you need to hear. Every track is relevant for different reasons. Who stands up for you and says ENOUGH?! Otep does, but the music isn't there to fight back for you-you have to do it for yourself. The band is providing an experience for you throughout this CD. It is a transformation-a rise from the depths of hell to standing on your own two feet. I expect it to be misunderstood, because 98% like to be spoon fed their music. This CD is not for them, it is for the thinking people-and if you are reading this, it is for you.