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Otep: The Ascension

California's own Otep have returned and continue their self-created brand of "Art-Metal" with The Ascension; an album that some might consider to be their most inspired effort to date. The album finds the band in top form and progresses well from their previous recording House Of Secrets (2004). I felt that there were levels of musical growth displayed here as they indulged the listener in their established formula while at the same time chose to reach for new areas of melody and technique. The effort begins with the blistering "March Of The Martyrs", which is a track that pummels the speakers with blast beat drumming and razor sharp guitar runs before the lyrical poetry that singer Otep Shamaya is so known for even begins. I have to say that she is an interesting performer to say the least as she growls like Angela Gossow (from Arch Enemy) at most times then suddenly flips to the use of rhymes and poetic verse with a very melodic tonality at others. With The Ascension, there is a lot more use of the melodic side and I found this aspect gaining my interest a little more than they were able to capture before. Otep's members are found endeavoring into some different ground and changing the way things are done as far as the usual expectations in their fans eyes are concerned here. While the sections that are heavy will brutalize you, there are also many unexpected surprises like in the song "Perfectly Flawed". During this number, we find Otep singing in a purely melodic style on a song that was co-written by Grammy winning songwriter Holly Knight. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album and perhaps also the most out of place for its hard rocking vibe and essence totally lacks the growling and verse found on the other tracks and leads to single potential for the group and a wider demographic appeal.

The delve into tribute territory with a cover of Nirvana's "Breed", and of course it gets the requisite respect and props it deserves as well as a little Otep makeover by having a harder edge and an opening with spoken poetry. Shamaya explained that the cover was "a celebration of an inspiration that means so much to me". Even with the slightly Metal twist, this is still a fine version of the late Cobain's work. The CD drops right back into the normal flow of things with "Crooked Spoons", a song that was composed with the assistance of Mudvayne's Greg Tribbett. His influence on the track is the reason that there is such of a Mudvayne feel to it. Tribbett was also key to the creation of the albums other tracks "Invisible" and "Confrontation", which is the bands protest anthem. The whole album presents a lot of power in the playing here as it just exudes the anger and aggression that houses the singer's painful and often deeply political thoughts. Shamaya is skilled at presenting to the world her conflicts and beliefs via her poetry, which is then morphed into the songs that we find Otep delivering in the manner that only they master. The formula seems to have worked fine for these past few years and the group has come a long way since first being seen by Mrs. Ozzy and being offered the spot on the 2001 Ozzfest stages. There is some kickass bass playing from eVil J. who is the sole remaining original member of the band. He shows a real funky side at times and his riffs are deep. The Ascension finds Otep with two new members in guitarist Karma Cheema (formerly of American Head Charge) and drummer Brian Wolff (formerly of Synapse). Having heard the band before I can safely say that the pair seems the perfect fit and should easily enable the group not to lose any of the momentum they have worked so hard to build up. This is a good jumping on point for the casual listener.

Track Listing
  1. March Of The Martyrs
  2. Confrontation
  3. Perfectly Flawed
  4. Crooked Spoons
  5. Milk Of Regret
  6. Noose And Nail
  7. Ghostflowers
  8. Breed
  9. Eat The Children
  10. invisible
  11. Home Grown
  12. Communion
  13. Andrenochrome Dreams

Added: February 13th 2007
Reviewer: Ken Pierce
Related Link: Otep Website
Hits: 4080
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Otep: The Ascension
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-02-13 20:39:12
My Score:

The Ascension is somewhat of a puzzling listen. On one hand, Otep seem to still be living in the nu-metal world of the late 90's, as they mix funky grooves with metal riffs, and a combination of screams, shouts, and sedated raps. Lead singer Otep though seems to have discovered the gothic genre in recent years, as there are plenty of darker influences creeping into the music here on The Ascension that could signal a positive spin for the band. Not that they are lacking in popularity-this band has had a pretty high profile for a few years, especially after playing at OZZFEST a few years ago. The thing is this band has yet to really hit the big one, and while there are some songs here that could really click with the fans, for the most part the album lacks focus and is really all over the map. "Home Grown" sees the singer drop in some inspiring death metal and clean vocals, and the arrangment is pretty heavy with lots of groove, but on the same token their take on the Nirvana classic "Breed" is pretty pointless. "March of the Martyrs" might have the best riffs and the most alluring grooves on the CD, but Otep's vocals are too schiztophrenic, a pattern that follows on "Confrontation" as well. The lovely "Perfectly Flawed" however sees them entering into Evanescence territory, with lush piano and keyboards, and Otep conjuring up plenty of gothic imagery.

Elsewhere, there's lots of upbeat metal that will have you pumping your fist in the air and jumping up and down, as well as darker, gothic offerings, but for the most part it sounds so 1999 that it's hard to really imagine what kind of impact the music will have with the fans here in 2007. Give Otep credit for sticking to this formula despite an ever changing musical landscape, and their adding in some new elements to their sound just might open up some doors for additional listeners.

» Reader Comments:

Otep: The Ascension
Posted by Anonymous on 2007-08-19 17:05:29
My Score:

Comparing Otep with Evanescence is highly unlikely. Being fan of both and having the chance to listen to The Ascension I feel like Otep is growing more and more as an artist and giving her fans something different rather than same nu-metal side with "Invisible" and "Perfectly Flawed" that she has done Sevas Tra and House of Secrets
Seems to me like she is showing her fans a smoother side to her music while adding the same nu-metalness in The Ascension. However, not a perfect album but a great one from Otep. The album and the music within has completely blown me away.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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