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Otep - Hydra Review

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Otep - Hydra

Otep - Hydra

Victory Records
Otep Shamaya, the metal-mischief maker bent on confusing the line between her art and activism, wields little self-control on her new album, Hydra, which she claims is her last. Hydra comes with a garish cover depicting a bloody handprint on a field of black, fingers outspread. The five fingertips are marked by individual symbols, perhaps as poetic references to the things that Otep embraces in life.

Otep is a poet, a zealous gay-rights advocate, a graphic-novelist, a lead vocalist for Otep, the extreme metal band she named after herself, and if there was a sixth finger on that hand it would be symbolic of Otep, a musician who seems unconcerned about the she money she hopes her fans will spend for this half-album, half-misdemeanor.

Otep, the band, released a respectable live album Sounds Like Armageddon, which would’ve made a better farewell album than Hydra. Sounds Like Armageddon glistened with the sweat that made Otep the idol of untold numbers of female metal vocalists from frozen Nordic lands to the Halloween alleys of West L.A.

Hydra is a concept album with 13 erratic tracks, amongst which are buried three very good metal songs: “Blowtorch Nightlight,” “Seduce & Destroy” and “Apex Predator.” It’s an unusual move to unload a concept album as a final statement before detonating a band, but Otep seems more defiant then concerned over the fact that Hydra contains only three decent songs and a few teasing false-starts over its 72 minute run.

“Seduce & Destroy” is a solid metal anthem, the best thing on Hydra. It smacks of Kittie and Sonic Youth. “Crush” is an-over-the-top mess with great tribal drums and gut-level bass rumble. The vocals are all over the place on “Crush” but seem to support whatever Hydra claims in the contents on the side of the box.

There is an atmospheric sing-song patch of poetry called “Hematopia” where Otep uses harsh whispers to develop the killer, pun unintended, narrative. Hydra slithers into “Necromantic,” and then melds into “Quarantine” with its dueling vocals of madness and mock-religiosity. Otep pours on the poetry and lets the multi-tracking do the talking until the all the hissing momentum reaches the dreadful “Voyeur.”

“Voyeur” is six minutes long. It’s the best that can be said about it. “Feral Game” hammers on the symbolism of humans forced to live like beasts under the crushing weight of an evil society. Things get confusing here; evil is okay except when it isn’t.

“Livestock” is a legitimate poem. It gets a little cutesy with the wordplay of Cyclops and I. Get it… I, Cyclops…but it works fairly well. “Hag” is Hydra’s poisonous gas attack of hate metal and distorted shrieks, all too short and underdeveloped but way better than what follows. Hydra absolutely should have ended it here.

But Otep Shamaya chooses to end her last album with the 24 minute “Theophagy”. The track is a delusional spoken word epic that says little to anyone. No amount of chemical enhancement makes this sicko casserole palatable. It’s Dexter meets Otep daydreaming out loud about vengeance or being really mean or something. Hydra’s concept is a bit muddled, to say the least. Without spoiling anything, “Theophagy” goes completely silent for 15 straight minutes, expecting the listener to hold out until its surprise ending. Ironically, those 15 silent minutes pretty much say all that need be said about Hydra.

(released January 22, 2013 on Victory Records)

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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