“Ascension” by Otep

Artist: Otep
Title: “Ascension”
Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: 3/20/2007
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 3.5/5

California’s own Otep have returned and continue their self-created brand of “Art-Metal” with “The Ascension”; an album that some might consider to be their most inspired effort to date. The album finds the band in top form and progresses well from their previous recording “House Of Secrets” (2004). I felt that there were levels of musical growth displayed here as they indulged the listener in their established formula while at the same time chose to reach for new areas of melody and technique. The effort begins with the blistering “March Of The Martyrs”, which is a track that pummels the speakers with blast beat drumming and razor sharp guitar runs before the lyrical poetry that singer Otep Shamaya is so known for even begins. I have to say that she is an interesting performer to say the least as she growls like Angela Gossow (from Arch Enemy) at most times then suddenly flips to the use of rhymes and poetic verse with a very melodic tonality at others. With “The Ascension”, there is a lot more use of the melodic side and I found this aspect gaining my interest a little more than they were able to capture before. Otep’s members are found endeavoring into some different ground and changing the way things are done as far as the usual expectations in their fans eyes are concerned here. While the sections that are heavy will brutalize you, there are also many unexpected surprises like in the song “Perfectly Flawed”. During this number, we find Otep singing in a purely melodic style on a song that was co-written by Grammy winning songwriter Holly Knight. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album and perhaps also the most out of place for its hard rocking vibe and essence totally lacks the growling and verse found on the other tracks and leads to single potential for the group and a wider demographic appeal.

The delve into tribute territory with a cover of Nirvana’s “Breed”, and of course it gets the requisite respect and props it deserves as well as a little Otep makeover by having a harder edge and an opening with spoken poetry. Shamaya explained that the cover was “a celebration of an inspiration that means so much to me”. Even with the slightly Metal twist, this is still a fine version of the late Cobain’s work. The CD drops right back into the normal flow of things with “Crooked Spoons”, a song that was composed with the assistance of Mudvayne’s Greg Tribbett. His influence on the track is the reason that there is such of a Mudvayne feel to it. Tribbett was also key to the creation of the albums other tracks “Invisible” and “Confrontation”, which is the bands protest anthem. The whole album presents a lot of power in the playing here as it just exudes the anger and aggression that houses the singer’s painful and often deeply political thoughts. Shamaya is skilled at presenting to the world her conflicts and beliefs via her poetry, which is then morphed into the songs that we find Otep delivering in the manner that only they master. The formula seems to have worked fine for these past few years and the group has come a long way since first being seen by Mrs. Ozzy and being offered the spot on the 2001 Ozzfest stages. There is some kickass bass playing from eVil J. who is the sole remaining original member of the band. He shows a real funky side at times and his riffs are deep. “The Ascension” finds Otep with two new members in guitarist Karma Cheema (formerly of American Head Charge) and drummer Brian Wolff (formerly of Synapse). Having heard the band before I can safely say that the pair seems the perfect fit and should easily enable the group not to lose any of the momentum they have worked so hard to build up. This is a good jumping on point for the casual listener.

Track Listing:
1. March Of The Martyrs
2. Confrontation
3. Perfectly Flawed
4. Crooked Spoons
5. Milk Of Regret
6. Noose And Nail
7. Ghostflowers
8. Breed
9. Eat The Children
10. invisible
11. Home Grown
12. Communion
13. Andrenochrome Dreams

Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/otepofficial

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