Otep – The Ascension

Band: Otep
Album: The Ascension
Genre: Hard Rock
Label: Koch

1. Eet The Children
2. Crooked Spoons
3. Perfectly Flawed
4. Confrontation
5. Milk of Regret
6. Noose & Nail
7. Ghostflowers
8. Breed
9. March of the Martyrs
10. Invisible
11. Home Grown
12. Communion

“What?! My parents named me Otep? Arggggghhhh!!”

Okay, so that’s probably not the reason behind front-woman Otep Shamaya’s Alanis Morissette-esque angst, but something must have made her and her namesake band full of crazy nu metal rage. Nevertheless, the proclaimed “art rockers” returned after a three year break with their newest effort, the_Ascension.

The main influences I notice on Ascension are the fusion of straightforward Slipknot-sounding guitars and Shamaya’s screams that remind me of In This Moment, another band fronted by a female vocalist. However, Shamaya’s vocal talents extend far beyond her distorted screams. Long known for her vocal capabilities, Shamaya can build up to aggravated yells and then simmer down to whispered and spoken lyrics, which can range from poetic (Shamaya has released EP’s with just poetry) to downright disturbing and chilling. Although music is far removed from the shock rock era of Marilyn Manson, Shamaya’s lyrics and tortured spirit in many ways resemble Manson.

The main difference between Otep and other cliché angst-ridden bands is the heaviness of Aaron Nordstrom’s guitars. Indeed, Ascension contains way more metal than its dark and ambient predecessor, House of Secrets. “Crooked Spoons” progresses from a haunting goth verse to an overdriven down tuned-guitar onslaught for the chorus. The catchy “Confrontation” contains a good paced heavy verse riff with an almost sing-able chorus (you can’t say that for a majority for the album).

A lot of the songs, much like Shamaya, start quiet and slow and finish with over the top intensity. “Noose and Nail” almost lost me until after the second chorus where Shamaya’s repeated chant of “the remedy is worse than the disease” got the blood pumping. “Ghostflowers” is a cool song that progresses differently, building from a clean intro to a neat little bass part that develops into a unique riff, which eventually gives away to brutal distorted guitars.

However, Otep at some points does not maintain the brutal intensity they present in some songs. “Perfectly Flawed” starts out with an ominous piano driven entrance but turns into a lame ballad-like yawner, much like “Invisible.” The biggest disappointment of the album has to be the attempted cover of Nirvana’s “Breed.” Understandably, Shamaya’s vocal talents come nowhere near Cobain’s and any musician should know that you just don’t just cover Nirvana. The album just barely saves itself from dragging on in its back nine, and finishes up with one of those lame “secret” bonus tracks that contains one of Shamaya’s creepy extended spoken poems.

Overall, the album is definitely has a more aggressive and in-your-face metal attack, but as a quality listening album, it does not stack up to House of Secrets. Where House of Secrets contained plenty of dark ambiances to counteract the metal, Ascension doesn’t balance as well. Otep returns their creepy intros and outros to songs, but the album doesn’t leave the same emotional impact as Secrets. Metal lovers and Otep’s cult following may dig the new stuff, but to most the music may become old and repetitive. In Shamaya’s case, teen angst is a strange thing to have when you are approaching 30.

*Written By: Jacob Kanclerz*
GRADE: 6.5/10

James Shotwell
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