“Hydra is a concept album based on a graphic novel I have been writing for two years about a girl corrupted by the world, corrugated by evil, ripped away from the golden, molten elixir of creativity, and abandoned on the placid, jagged rocks of a cruel and barbaric island where rats poison themselves. This is a story of her personal alchemy of theophagy, revenge and righteousness. Her rise from the smoldering ash as a bruise that never heals transmuting, therianthropic, to the infinite, still-born messiah, a vigilante serial assassin, code name: HYDRA. This will be my last album,”
~ Otep Shamaya
Otep Shamaya literally roared onto the music scene in 2002 with the release of Sevas Tra. It didn’t take long for many to take notice of this exceptional artist. Her voice was one that offered an outlet for many who held back what needed to be said. She has also proven not to be a one trick pony as she has released several successful books of her poetry as well as becoming an accomplished painter. She is equal part artist and equal part activist.
Her fans are among the most faithful and dedicated of any band and have been deemed her “tribe.” I am sure that they were surprised to hear that Otep’s upcoming album Hydra would be her last studio album. Hydra is a follow-up to 2011’s Atavist, as well as her live album Sounds Like Armageddon, released in late 2012, and may just catch quite a few fans as well as critics off guard.
Otep has mentioned in press releases that this album is a concept album based on a graphic novel that she’s been working on. It’s a dark and personal album about acceptance. The aggressive, fast paced, in your face music of past albums seems to be missing for the most part on this release. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are tracks on here that are explosive and full of the Otep sound that fans are familiar with. Yet, for the most part, the foot has been taken off the metal gas pedal this last go around. The tempo is quite slower but just as powerful and emotional, if not more than ever before.
Opening with the short, dark spoken verse track “Rising,” it sets a tone for the listener – this is going to be something quite different from the band. When Otep speaks, “Tonight, the sermons I write will save my life and yours,” she quickly gets your attention. The band plugs in and accompanies her for the last minute of the song adding a bit of metal edge to the ending. “Blowtorch Nightlight” is a great example of the tempo on this album being slowed down while still maintaining the power that we have come to expect from the words of Otep.
“Seduce and Destroy” is one of several standout tracks with its dark, slow and grinding approach to its delivery. “Hematopia” is a short, yet powerful spoken word track in its dark lyrics that seem to cry out for help. “I’m never alone, but I’m lonely all the time” is a haunting and painful line in this somber and powerful number. “Voyeur” is a disturbing and dark selection of animal torture and role reversal where the torturer becomes the tortured. Revenge is sometimes a dark and painful thing. I think my favorite track on the album may have to be “Apex Predator” in all its lyrical brilliance and creative originality.
I will admit that I expected to hear a different type of offering from Otep before I even listened to the first track. I had read about it being a concept album for a novel she was writing, so I knew I was in for something special. When and if the graphic novel ever sees the light of day, it will be interesting to have this album playing as the book is being read. I am sure that the book will elevate the songs to yet another level.
I think this album is cohesively one of the strongest things that Otep has ever released. It’s dark and personal and it brings up even more questions as to how much of this may be written from her own personal experience. We may never know the answer to that question and maybe it’s best that way. Still, this is one powerful swan song in this chapter of her life that she is closing. This may be the last studio album from Otep, but I am pretty sure it’s not the last we will see or hear from her. An artist like her with such a creative vision and so much to say will not just roll over and disappear.
~ Johnny Price, Journalist – RockRevolt™Magazine
OTEP “APEX PREDATOR”