Sound — 7
Otep, the new'ish metal goddess, and Victory Records, the mostly hardcore and emo label? Talk about strange bedfellows. It's certainly an odd pairing, but hey, whatever works for the artist and the label, as long as the music retains its integrity. On Smash the Control Machine, Otep (the vocalist) has reunited with former guitarist Rob Patterson, who is currently engaged to that tasty piece of eye candy Carmen Elektra, and drummer Moke, both of whom played on the band's 2002 debut, Sevas Tra. The return of this duo certainly strengthens the moody and metallic music on Smash the Control Machine, which is chunky metal with resonant riffery and thunderous rhythms. The title track is a cadenced anthem that'll carve out a space in your brain with its catchiness. Not much has changed since the band's humble beginnings, though. The music still has a nu metal cast to it and while in 2009, that terminology may equal a bad word to metal fans, especially the elitists, it's not a slag on the band. Smash the Control Machine is crunchy, mid-tempo metal fronted by a female. Rise Rebel Resist is another song with anthemic qualities; it sounds written with the sole purpose of being performed live. Otep herself strives to be artistic and she does achieve that goal, but her music certainly appeals to those just looking for something rambunctious and loud to help exorcise their emotional demons, as well. Some may consider this mookish, low tuned, I Hate My Dad rock, but Otep's much more evolved and advanced than that. This band has skeletons in its closet, thanks to its namesake frontwoman, who isn't afraid to peel back the skin and reveal all that's is festering and simmering underneath, no matter how infected.
Lyrics — 9
Music and members aside, Otep is the spark that makes this band go. It's her husky, smoky vocals she's often been deemed the Courtney Love of metal, in that she's got something to say and is fascinatingthat create the most friction within the music. Her raspy, throaty screams and her breathy, almost sexified spoken word parts certainly imbibe Smash the Control Machine with depth and layers. She rants against the government, society and other forces of oppression, but unlike so many of her male peers, Otep isn't just talking (or screaming) to hear herself talk (or scream). She's informed, intelligent and her lyrics go somewhere. It's not just f--k authority blanket statements; rather, she has done the research, has formed her opinions and has set them to melodies and to music. The title track, with its chorus of Work! Buy! Consume! Die, is a strong statement against the capitalism-driven rat race, while Head is a bit more personal and cerebral, with each syllable a warhead pointed at anyone who has hurt this vulnerable yet volatile vocalist. She's a livewire, whether she's bitching at the political system or anyone who's gotten in her way. She has almost a rap delivery at times, but that's only in the way the beats are delivered. Otep's closest metal kin would be Kittie's Morgan Lander, since both women know how to impart emotion over an electrifying riff, and both can bark like demons possessed. Where the River Ends and I Remember, the album's closing tracks, are a one-two tandem of some of the most disturbing things we've heard since Korn's Daddy, with Otep talking about damage that's been done over a repetitive, ominous riff.
Overall Impression — 8
Otep has a flair for the dramatic without shifting into overdrive and ultimately, into melodramatic territory, on Smash the Control Machine. Troubled young kids and those who might have a propensity for self-harm-as-therapy are well-served by listening to Smash the Control Machine. Otep is a figurehead for these disaffected kids and her music is something they can find comfort in. It's dark. It's honest. It's loud. It's rebellious. If you're not battling a lot of crap in your life, you may not easily connect with Smash the Control Machine on any sort of substantial level, even if you like the down low guitar work. But if you're living at home, are battling adolescents, have no money, get tormented by the popular kids and need a voice for your generation, Otep fits the bill.