Otep – [Album]

Friday, 25 January 2013

Anytime a new Otep album comes out, I cringe a little bit before I start to listen to it because I don’t know if I’m ready to descend into the chasms of dark emotions which get opened up before me when I listen. I can’t listen to Otep all the time. I don’t need to – but I do need to hear them every once in awhile in order to open up the places where those deep, dark emotions lay in hiding and give them some air because its in these places where I bury the real feelings that I cannot share with the world. It’s where I submerge my unexpressed anger, and it’s where the pool of tears that I’m unable to shed collects. Otep takes me into a place where those emotions can best be triggered for me to fantasize about releasing them.

That sense of release is what I think makes this album so important. If Hydra, (proclaimed to be the band’s last) is left to be analyzed by music impresarios, the point of it will be lost; the rat-racing fiends will belittle Hydra as not being as technically tight or solid as earlier albums in the band's history because they'll fail to recognize the cathartic measure it is supposed to express. This album is an intimate farewell – almost like a prayer and a love song at some points – full of Shamalya’s spirit to meet the needs and desires of her most devoted followers. There are hordes of of Shamalya's devotees who will cling to every last breath that she draws here as if they were her last. That's the kind of dedication Otep has inspired in their fans.

I can’t help but keep referring to this band as Otep Shamaya’s band. I don't see it as an assemblage of performers which make up the band, I can't stop myself from placing the focus on her. It might be wrong, but I view the other players in this band as only a soundscape for her to be able to channel the energy up from the earth (and hell) to ignite this form of ecstatic healing into her fans and listeners through. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Whatever melange of studio performers she has gathered to make this newest and last album with her, it doesn’t really matter because it’s just her whispers, growls, shouts, yells, poetry, confused utterances and secrets that we need to hear to set us alive and on fire and put us into trance states where we’ll touch our own pain to let it out.

Going a little deeper in my own analysis of the purpose and meaning of Hydra, it’s title, the song names, the lyrics, I find that I’m perhaps just as confused as some of the other reviewers are. The cover art shows the word H -Y-D-R-A spelled out on the palm of a bloody red hand print against a black background. This could easily be the poster for a slasher film as the letters also look like knife blades with the fingers of the hand depicting knife handles. Is this supposed to be the soundtrack for a horror film that someone is working on?

Opening track “Rising” leads us to believe that Shamalya is the hydra and that she is the creature that will devour us and lead us to freedom in the underworld which she guards. “Blowtorch Nightlight” brings on a whole host of provocative images as the song locks into the style of shouting verses and whispering choruses that Shamalya is so beloved for. The imagery created here of violence and destruction is on par with what you’d find in a horror film’s screenplay.

“Seduce & Destroy” actually reminds me of the opening to a Metallica song but it’s not “Seek and Destroy” and it does not continue on like a Metallica song either. It’s not similar in any way to Iggy’s “Search & Destroy,” but just serves to propel the hydra along in it’s search for victims. Sadly, "Crush" does not change much in tempo or lyrical structure but just continues to build up the tension we feel as the encounter with Shamalya, our Mother Hydra further entrances us.

“Hematopia” and “Necromantic” create a quiet descent into the mind space of the beast where she confesses that she is as hurt as we are, and was weak like we are, but that it’s the evil between us that unites us.

The track “Quarantine” goes the most hypnotically and psychedelically into a miasmic confusion of sounds that someone would hear in a nightmare. Not a song whose lyrics could be sung along with, unless you activated your own trance-like nightmare where your spirit could sing in sync with hers.

And so it goes on and on. I don’t want to spell out my take on all of the songs, but let me just mention not to get hung up on “Voyeur.” It’s gonna seem weird, out of place, and disturbing. The pictures you’ll get in your mind may be even more disturbing than usual because they are of something that you could picture happening in your own neighborhood. Or not. 

Do you kind of get the idea of how you could listen to this and make your own sense out of it? Everyone that is bitten by the spell of their music will study this album as if it were a high concept masterpiece and find their own senses of redemption in it. Each and every lyric, hidden behind layers and shadows of sound and mystery, listen to them over and over again until you get the meaning that Shamalya has put into them to set your own soul free. The power is here to do it. 

I’ve only listened to this album twice so far and it’s already my favorite album of the year.



Hydra is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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