Otep @ Blender Theater at Gramercy (8/18/2009)

Otep was back in New York City, and celebrating the release of a brand new album on their new label. The band’s gig coincided with the Victory Records debut of their music on “Smash The Control Machine” and they would deliver a rousing set for their regional fans. The show also featured local Prog-Death artisans Hung, along with Seven Year Existence and Destrophy and we made sure to cover every single moment of the show.

Logo - Otep

Artist: Otep
Venue: Blender Theater at Gramercy (New York, NY)
Opener: Destrophy, Seven Year Existence, Hung
Date: 8/18/2009
Label: Victory Records

It’s been awhile since I have caught Otep in concert, and I think that the last time that I did was when she and her band mates did a gig down at the now closed NYC Knitting Factory. I should actually correct myself and inform the readers about how the club now resides in Brooklyn as opposed to Manhattan for those who might have been alarmed by the statement. As a group I’ve generally found Otep to be intriguing based on the way that she delivers her Metal. She blends the absolute heaviest shit on earth with poetic verse and a strong social conscience and she takes a defiant stand on domestic abuse. Clearly there is a lot to absorb when it comes to this Metal lady and tonight she would be bringing all of this out in force to the Blender Theater with special guest openers Hung from NYC, Seven Year Existence from Champaign, IL and Destrophy. Having never seen any of these openers before I made sure to get inside the venue early enough to enjoy them all. Here is how the night transpired for those who might be curious. Hung would come up first and according to reports were a last minute, albeit pleasant addition to the proceedings.

Hung: I reviewed the latest CD by Hung entitled “Progeny” and I was so impressed by its content that I had hoped that time would lead me to a live so I might enjoy them in person on the stage where it counts the most. Lucky for the bands area fans and I they would be a surprise addition to the Otep show tonight. On the CD they prove to be a musical tour de force but like many other bands of this kind they are really better or shall I say “properly” absorbed by seeing how they do it in the live sense. Let’s face it, how many bands have you blasted on your stereo at intolerable volumes only to find out that they suck numerous levels of ass in concert when you finally get to see them. A band of this kind really needs to present themselves as worthy in the live sense no atter how good a CD is to people’s ears when they blast it on stereos, music players or their computers. Fortunately for everyone involved tonight, the band would prove to the assembled Metal fans that they were not some flash in the pan outfit. Tight as a drum and melodic as all get out, the group that was formed by and named after violinist Lyris Hung, would deliver an infectious albeit short set. If you are someone who leans to the Progressive Metal side but you hunger ravenously for the Death Metal vibe, then Hung is for you. These two unique genres are blended almost effortlessly together with a distinct classical twist. The five piece band finds Lyris (violin), Sam Roon (bass), Kenny (drums), Jon (guitar) and Dmitry (vocals) all working together as a unit and showing themselves as a band capable of the headlining spot themselves. Sadly they would only play four songs which presented “Maria”, “Progeny”, “Evil Tsar” and “Sediment Of War”, and while that might appear to be rather beat, the fact that these numbers are lengthy as well as technically involved, it gave us all a fantastic taste of what we should expect when we see them next time for a longer set. Nice work Hung, you definitely made some new fans tonight. Sever Year Existence was up next.

Seven Year Existence: These guys hail from Champaign, Il and their sound was a cool blend of Hard Rock with a wee bit of Thrash thrown in for good measure by my assumption. Having little background in them prior to the gig I was content to just watch from the sidelines as they delivered the goods to the crowd who was showing that they were very receptive to the opening bands as opposed to hissing and booing them. Sadly I have seen this be the case at some shows, so was finding tonight’s audience to be a cool change of pace for me. That’s good for the Metal community as a whole if you ask me. Their sound was overall very heavy and this was a different sounding band from the just performed Hung and I liked how so far each band was giving us something different. Fronted by Luke Heppe who handles guitar and vocals, the band also features Jason Ellet, Phil Solgard and Wenis and I am thinking that if your deal is the crushing and heavy stuff that you might enjoy them the most. I was digging it and saw that they were selling their latest CD down at the merchandise booth entitled “I Of God”. They also had the one before it and each appeared to be popular when the fans came down between the sets. They mentioned how this was their first national tour as a band and I am pretty sure that they had never been in New York City before this show. I could be wrong about that of course. I would catch them again and hope this gig is not too long apart from their own return. Destrophy was up next and was another new band to witness in action.

Destrophy: My third band in a row to have never caught live before came via the guys in Destrophy who really came onto the stage with a commanding presence that one seldom sees in the opener or direct support as this would be the case. The four piece group was super energetic and was meeting the fans head on with a collision of Hard Rock that had a strong melodic sense and drive to it. They have just recently signed to Victory Records and are now the label mates of Otep and bands like Carnifex and Sister Sin; however, I was finding them to be more of a straight ahead kind of outfit than any of their label peers. They are fronted by Ari who also plays guitar and he was doing his best to rally the audience to attention with each and every number. It was impressive and had you walked in not knowing who was the main band and caught this set, you would have thought that they were the main act tonight. At the time of this writing I was unsure as to whether or not their album is yet available, but if it is, I surely will be looking into it based on just how powerful their stuff was coming across tonight. Signing this band was a good move for Victory Records to say the least and I am sure we shall see great things from them in the near future. Looking upon this bands recent touring itinerary found me thinking that I was among the minority in not knowing much about them as they had recently opened up on tours with the likes of Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold and Drowning Pool to name a few. That’s not a bad run of tours and I am sure that those bands fans also got themselves into what Destrophy was doing without any difficulty. Now it was time for Otep, and the stage was prepared quick for her New York City return.

Otep: As I mentioned earlier, tonight would be the second time that I had ever caught Otep in concert and this evening would be one of celebration as the band would be releasing their brand new album “Smash The Control Machine”. As I also said, Otep herself is a dynamo on stage and one of the more interesting performers that we have ever seen in the genre. I used to feel that the band was a close copy of Arch Enemy back a couple of years ago, but as time and my musical efforts on both of their behalf grew I realized that I was rather off. The crowd was mostly girls for the show by my observation and they had set up a very cool looking stage with a platform for Otep to stand on to better address her public and on her microphone stand were a wide assortment of things that included a gas mask and some sort of doll. Otep’s new CD comes courtesy of her new label which is Victory Records and I think that this might be a proper home for her work based on the label peers she now has. A performer with music like hers might be lost on a super conglomerate label where it can be fostered and developed here. She hit the stage to a raucous amount of applause and the screams of approval were almost deafening from my perspective. When she walked out she was sporting devil horns but she tossed them aside after the first number and would periodically grab some new prop or visual enhancement to better present her message. When she asked the audience if they wanted to hear some new music they roared approval and this led her to pick up a hammer and deliver the albums title track “Smash The Control Machine”. I liked how the new material sounded from this one and felt that she was giving us a little more of a conventional Metal tune with it. Of course the new release had only come out several hours before she hit the stage so I had not yet heard the whole thing. Lucky for the fans in the crowd tonight, the band had two versions of this CD with them at the merch booth. One regular edition and one with a bonus DVD of some kind.

The night of celebrating was not going to end easily because while the new album was the largest bit of news, Otep was also welcoming back into the bands recording process two members who had been gone for awhile. On drums we had the percussive talents of Mark Bistany while on guitar we once again would find Rob Patterson. It’s always a good thing when the band manages to get that kind of participation once again and I am sure that the fans eat it up. Of course these chaps would not be touring with the group for this show and instead we found Steve Barbola on guitar and Dave Gentry on the drums. From the looks on their faces they were happy to be a part of the action for Otep’s fans. Steve was mugging it up from the front while Dave was hammering and absolutely killer drum kit. I also had to give a lot of kudos to bassist Evil J. who is a monster player and was doing things on the bass that reminded me a lot of the style that Mudvayne’s bassist plays in. He is dishing out some really heavy riffs but his playing showed a strong technical depth to it that was very, very impressive. The set was nothing less than dramatic and time to time Otep would deliver some of her poetry which is not your typical flowery kind of stuff but sometimes full of informative anger. She did one piece were she looked as if she was beating herself and while one would hope she was not really hitting herself on the stage in front of the fans, the visual was very intense and had many people rooted to their space. She then made a point to say how “if someone says they love you and they hurt you and tell you its your fault” to not take it. I know she was directing this to the young ladies in an effort to make her stand on abusive relationships but perhaps she hit home with some of the guys who were present as well. I definitely say that her words are to be remembered and I hope that no one around me was in such a relationship. Truly this was a different kind of show from the others I had seen over the last few days.

As the night started to draw to a close she told everyone that this had been one of the most memorable nights on the tour and the audience loved to hear that. She also would dedicate a tune to the late great Kurt Cobain as the band delivered Nirvana’s “Breed”. They really made it work in their own fashion I will give them that. She ended with “Serv Asat” as their encore and left everyone hungry for more. I know that the band will return in a few months as the direct support for Five Finger Death Punch who I saw last year and was blown away by, so I know already that this will be a Metal show for the record books. This was a great night of Metal which offered me a lot of surprises and enjoyable bands that I will be looking more into as the time allows. Being in NYC also offers a person a lot of surprises and I was pleased to see the members of the band Hate In The Box all present for Otep and to support their friends in the band Hung who kicked off the whole night. Make note of that you up and coming independent bands, go to see your friends groups play if you can. It’s always networking in the end and shows a truer belief in your own scene. Be sure to check out Otep’s new recording “Smash The Control Machine” on Victory Records to be better prepared for their return. In the end I had to say that this particular Otep show was ranked much higher than the time that I saw them back at the Knitting Factory.

Otep Set List:
1. Battle Ready
2. Crooked Spoons
3. Smash the Control Machine
4. Blood Pigs
5. Ghost Flowers
6. My Confession
7. Confrontation
8. Rise, Rebel, Resist
9. Homegrown
10. Breed (Nirvana)
11. Serv Asat (encore)

Considering how Hung is a New York based band, they were able to bring out a healthy support structure as well and this featured several musicians.  One such person making her way to the Metal red carpet was Hate In The Box’s own Rainbow Blight.

Rainbow Blight Sporting The Horns

She always looks different when we see her so it was great to have the camera ready to go.  Here is another one as she gives us a little Metal “raar”.

The Sultry Rainbow Blight

We’ve reviewed a couple of HITB’s performances on the site and taken a lot of photos.  Feel free to search about for them.  Now onto some candid shots down at the merchandise booth.

The band Hung from NYC

We were happy to snare a relatively calm shot of this Progressive Death Metal outfit at their merchandise table.  Sadly, their logo sign was not hanging higher as that would have made this a killer shot.  Still a nice one though.  Pictured is the whole band who from left to right are Sam Roon, Dmitry Kostitsyn, Kenny Grohowski, Lyris Hung, & Evil Jon.

Official Website: http://www.otepsaves.com
Official Website: http://www.myspace.com/sevenyearexistence
Official Website: http://www.hungrocks.com
Official Website: http://www.destrophy.com



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