There is something to be said for going out on top. Album number six for Los Angeles art metallers OTEP will apparently be the last music from the band. In the decade plus years since emerging on the scene, OTEP SHAMAYA and the band that bears her name, has tried to break apart boundaries of what an intelligent band can create with heavy music. Straddling the uneasy space between the underground, high art, and mild popularity; they have continued to evolve and refine their style with each release. Many groups lose themselves in an attempt to gain wider appeal, which usually wipes out their integrity along the way. If it is indeed the end of the road for them as a band, they can rest easy knowing they maintained their soul and never sold out.
The album opens with the intro track “Rising”. Whisper-to-a-scream dynamics build up into a grinding, slow riff. It sounds like the perfect stage entrance song, and since OTEP shows are always theatrical experience, it works well. The buildup into the next track “Blowtorch Nightlight” is excellent. The song opens with a cool chromatic riff, but quickly slides into atmospheric verses. The shift between OTEP’s sung verses and shrill screams in the chorus makes for a great contrasts, and a big start to the album. “Seduce and Destroy” is very sultry sounding, calling to mind the song “Head” from Smash The Control Machine. It also has an almost trip-hop backing beat, coupled with the main riff making it very catchy. Even though the song ebbs and flows its way to the almost seven minute mark, I think this could be a break out hit for them. Coming right back with the more economical “Crush”, you get a more of a mid-tempo metal track. The production from Ulrich Wild (DETHKLOK, THE DEFTONES, PANTERA) is really crisp with a solid range in the lower frequencies, blending guitars and bass sounds together evenly. OTEP’s voice sits nicely in the pocket and is allowed to shine. The track grows into a nice crescendo of heaviness and should hopefully be included in the live set as well. The chilling “Hematopia” is one of several mood setting interludes in a row bleeding together. The band has taken this concept and funneled this into a mural for your ear, not unlike PINK FLOYD, TOOL or ROLLINS BAND might create. The next few tracks “Necromantic”, “Quarantine” and “Voyeur” all interlock, painting a grim story with sounds and words. Occasionally little micro-blasts of riffs and screams hit your ears, contrasting the spoken word and sound-scape sections. For some reason, this part of the album makes me think of the music from the FX show American Horror Story. “Apex Predator” is the next full track and the first single. Like a Fellini film set to music, it has interesting musical elements, clever lyrics and tons of groove. Many songs, such as as the rough and tumble “Feral Game” harkins back to the Sevas Tra and House of Secrets albums. In a way this album is almost like a greatest hits-type album, with all of the facets the band excels in, firing on all cylinders. A lot of credit needs to go to touring guitarist Ari Mihalopoulos (THE DESTROPHY) whose killer tones add a lot of the weight. Collyn McCoy appears again to provide expert bass tracks, as he did on Atavist. “Livestock” is another synaptic piece, featuring OTEP’s poetry, some toy piano and little else. “Hag” is the most brutal song on the album, and one of the the best in the bands’ history. Finally “Theophagy” closes the album out on very a weird, very strange, trippy bunch of beats and words. This final album comes to a close, much like OTEP has done for their entire career: on their own terms.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes