Sound: Over the years, Otep has proven to be an intriguing commodity in the metal market. This album, "Hydra", is Otep Shamaya's last with the band, according to her.
The record gives the feel of a concept album, though it may not be, due to how the music accommodates the dark poetry as the album progresses and how the songs excellently blend into each other. While the songs don't feel progressive at all, they are interestingly wrapped around the lyrics that tell dark tales, exploring the side of humans that we tend not to touch except when listening to music, giving the listener an uncomfortable feeling throughout the album, which I feel is a plus.
Overall, I would describe this album as sound bites to a horror movie, with Shamaya playing the role of a tortured, drugged, abused girl, a role that manifests itself in many ways from peaking screams to quiet whispers to raspy diatribes to creepy descriptions that make my hair stand on edge.
The guitars attack and pull back at opportune times, increasing the feel of the dynamics that the drums set at the beginning of the song but never change during it (most of the time). The guitars utilize standard thrash-like riffage while holding back at points to just mere sound effects to allow Otep Shamaya's vocals to shine through as the guiding force that separates the songs as well as the sections within them. "Hag" is the most guitar heavy song on the album, featuring a few turning riffs that define the song, though for me the screams define the song because I think that they are mostly unwarranted on this song.
As I've mentioned before, the guitars and drums set the scene for the vocals, sometimes in unconventional ways, like on "Rising" where I am finding it hard to discern a time signature. The song is less of a song and more of a backdrop for hurt, tortured Shamaya. On this one, while there are only two parts to the whole song that are separated by Shamaya's vocals, it sets the scene for the album as its first track. This is also alike "Voyeur" where there is only poetry to explain the meaning of the song.
Songs like these are contrasted by other, more traditionally musical offerings, such as "Apex Predator" and "Blowtorch Nightlight" while others such as "Hag" and "Feral Game" rely on screams for the most part to convey the message while also relying more heavily on the musicality that strolls around this record but rarely exposes itself to its true potential.
I also sincerely think that this album was under-produced. I think considering how the music sets a scene, some clever effects and automated panning could be used to enhance the experience, but they were non-existent. // 7
Lyrics: The vocals are set to sound like a poet speaking to an eerie backdrop, a poetic purgatory if you will. If the metal riffs along with the drum beats were removed, Otep Shamaya could make a decent existence as a straight poet, though I could probably only handle a few doses off this poetry because the album, in an almost genuine way, makes me think twice before shutting my eyes at night, either keeping me worried about the truths of our far too imperfect world or scaring me so that beasts would wake me in the middle of the night.
Then of course are the guttural screams and growls that pierce the songs, but the real great part about this album is the way that Shamaya can seem to change personalities, yet they are all under the same aura, leading me to believe that the characters are all the same person.
Constant lyrics are given on many songs, leading me to believe that this is a concept album. The phrases that are repeated are "feed it, f*** it, breed it, repeat it" and "rising like a hydra".
Here is some of the best poetry from "Theopahagy":
"I was raped by orderlies, gnawed on by rats, given to the (?), have drowned in ice baths. They tried to break me, erase me, disgrace me. The mental sodomy." // 10
Overall Impression: Otep has a nice variety of songs on their final album, the soundtrack to a bizarre horror film, or so it seems. They know when to attack and when to lay back, when to hit you over the head with sludgy riffs and when to let Shamaya's vocals pierce your insides all on their own.
Overall, my favorite song was "Theophagy" because it maintained an interestingly eerie vibe throughout along with Shamaya's best poetry on the album.
My musical spectrum is mostly on the lighter side of things, so if I lost this album, I wouldn't buy it again because while it was a surreal experience for the most part, it was a once in a lifetime one for me. This is because I prefer not to delve into the topics that Shamaya does in the ways that she does only because I like to think of the world as a good place, and not one of torture and anguish. // 8
- Parker Abt (c) 2013