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OTEP – Generation Doom Review

Released by: Napalm Records

Release Date: April 15, 2016

Genre: Hard Rock/ARTcore

Links: https://www.facebook.com/otepofficial/

http://otepsaves.me/

 

Line-up:

Otep Shamaya – vocals

Ari Mihalopoulos – guitar

Justin Kier – drums

Andrew Barnes – touring bass

 

Tracklisting

1. Zero

2. Feeding Frenzy

3. Lords of War

4. Royals

5. In Cold Blood

6. Down

7. God is a Gun

8. Equal Rights, Equal Lefts

9. No Color

10. Lie

11. Generation Doom

12. On the Shore

 

Otep has never shied away from spitting venom at the people or subjects she doesn’t agree with.

She has always been lyrically vocal with her disdain for religion, the government, predatory men, poverty and sexual abuse. And when it comes to her music, she has maintained a strong credible aggression even at the low points in her discography. But her biggest strength has always been her volcanic, Karen Crisis-esque growly shriek vocals.  So when she mixes these things effectively with pop sensible songwriting hooks, her best albums always manage to cook a combustible heavy metal stew and she brings this mercurial recipe to her latest release, Generation Doom, with some of her finest song writing to date.

A shout out should be given to her recent band lineup, Ari Mihalopoulos on guitar, drummer Justin Kier, and bassist Andrew Barnes, who she has credited in interviews as having helped her refocus and find the strength in her music again, which was either lacking or unconvincing on her last couple of albums.

“I don’t give a FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!!” is the albums opening salvo on the first track, “Zero”, with Otep pulling the tension in her vocal chords to a breaking point and producing that radioactive bellow that has always been unique to her. When you hear Otep, you never mistakenly believe that you’re listening to the new Halestorm album.

The album then plows forward into the short, but mosh-pit ready, “Feeding Frenzy” which chugs along at a steady pace, keeping the album’s momentum strong, even if it is a little repetitive.

The sound then dips low and quiet for the beginning of “Lords of War”, and if you have any common sense at all, you know that the song’s deceptive restraint is only leading to a burst of fury once the chorus kicks in. She pounds the listener’s ears with the anthemic “I’d rather be in battle, than at peace/I’d rather be a wolf than a sheep”, giving off a strange self-help, believe-in-yourself type sentiment that will make you want to pick up arms and declare war on all of the challenges of your day.

Then there is the strange-but completely appropriate-cover of Lorde’s “Royals” and it is a pleasant surprise.

A lot of Otep’s themes have revolved around a blue-collar struggle, so to hear her shriek, “We will never be royals!!…You can call me Queen Bee!!” she really makes the song her own, without sacrificing the message of the original. It works really well.

When the album comes around to “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts”, things falter a bit.

A song that angrily protests homosexual discrimination, “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts” starts off well enough, wrangling a decent head-nodding beat overlaid with a synth sound that would be comfortable in a Terminator film. As it starts to feel like it’s going somewhere a little different-maybe a recitation of one of her dark poems-she then starts to rap…and her lyrics are devoured by the predator of ham fistedness, dragging the album back into Nu-metal, circa Limp Bizkit 1998.

“I can make you famous too/

but you tremble at/

the thought of that/

I’ve seen more spine in jellyfish/

that’s an invertebrate/

Google that.”

Yeesh.

Also, “Get one thing straight/I’m not.”

Yep. That’s an actual lyric in this song.

I do think that it’s commendable Otep is trying to make a battle cry for the lesbian community to fight back against discrimination, but that sentiment is blast cratered by frat boy lines like “I’ll always get more pussy than you!”

Thankfully, she brings things back to a pleasant, thunderous reality with “Generation Doom”, which is probably one of the best tracks she has ever made. It is completely devoid of the hip-hop sensibilities that leak into a lot of her catalogue in favor of a straightforward thrash and doom aesthetic. It gallops along angrily before dipping the listener deep into the ether of Drop Z tuning for a middle that is cripplingly doom flavored. This was strange to hear on an Otep album, but worked astonishingly well and made me hope that in the future they will explore this sound more. Frankly, it’s my favorite track on the album.

The album closes with the chilly, but catchy “On The Shore” and seems to bring the album to a close on a solid note. Unfortunately, Otep is still a slave to the old trope of having a “hidden track” buried under 10 minutes of silence, and here, after ending things nicely, she recites one of her coffeehouse poems she has put onto each of her albums. I’ve never been a fan of these, as they always seemed to be more free-association-college-angst than actual poetry, but if it tickles your pickle, you will enjoy this one as much as any of her others. And now that I’ve heard it, I’ll just skip it from now on and jump back to the beginning to take this uneven, but very enjoyable, ride all over again.

 

Written by: David Locklear

Rating: David  7/10

 

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