Otep is back with a new record, Generation Doom, that is due out April 15th (today). Vocalist Otep Shamaya had claimed that she was “done” with music after touring for her 2013 album “Hydra”. I am sure that left the nu-metal masses in a wave of angsty depression over the last couple years, but fear not! Otep is back! The time off has filled her with Fred Durst-ey rapping, Jonathan Davis-ey crying, and well, Otep-ey screaming rage!
I’ve always looked at nu-metal as the Jehovah’s Witnesses of metal. It’s not afraid to just go right up to someone’s front door and say “hey, we are nice, we like to have fun! Look at our matching outfits! Want to be our friend and come hang out with us?” Some people just politely smile and say “get off my porch before I shoot you in the face”; others take all those copies of the Watchtower and dive in headfirst: spending their life going deeper and deeper into it. For those of us that were already indoctrinated into the more underground reaches of metal, nu-metal may seem silly, gimicky, or too “poppy”, but many respected underground metal musicians first saw the light (or, er, darkness) of metal through the testimony of Korn, Slipknot, or the like. That being said, I have never really heard anyone say much of anything about Otep; other than the billion times she has been interviewed by Metalsucks. If you are like me, you may be amazed to find out that Otep has actually been going hard since The Ascension came out in 2007. Surprise! Generation Doom is actually Otep’s seventh studio record, and in my opinion, it is her “best”. I listened to snippets of these other records when writing this so you didn’t have to. Please don’t unless you completely love mediocre nu-metal with awful rapping and spoken words and terrible lyrics.
Otep refers to itself (herself?) as “ARTCORE”. I don’t know what that means or what they think it means but Otep is not afraid to show the band’s influences. When first listening to the album, I was like “Ok, this is a Korn song, this is an early Slipknot song, this is a new Slipknot song, this is Motionless in White, this is Slayer, this is Drowning Pool, and this is a terrible new Linkin Park ballad.” It is obvious for each part of every song exactly what Otep was going for, but I don’t want to say that that in anyway takes away from the songs themselves. The production and the musicianship on Generation Doom at times surpasses that of the bands that paved the way for Otep to find their sound. The guitar riffs are as low and tough as a semi-conscious hippo charging through a pool of muddy water. The blast beats sound like overproduced, pro-tools canons, and I would go so far as to say that some of the drumming on this album is even (slightly) interesting (for nu-metal). Otep’s vocals are on point. The nu-rapping sounds silly but come on, have you ever heard Fred Durst do it? Otep’s screaming vocals are much more ferocious and aggressive than the bands listed above (when she wants them to be).
Generation Doom has some of the fastest and most metal tracks that Otep has ever done. “Zero” kicks off the album and just blasts away. The bouncy rap choruses aren’t even that awful as far as nu-metal goes. “Zero” sticks with mostly blast beats, “God is a Gun” chooses the way of thrash, and “Generation Doom” alternates awkwardly between D-beat riffs and blasts. The most surprising to me was the obvious Pantera worship for the last half of “Generation Doom”, but Otep sound way less drunkenly racist than their Southern counterparts.
“In Cold Blood”, “Lie”, and “On the Shore” showcase the softer, more vulnerable side of Otep. Some of the melodies in these songs don’t make me want to fill my ears with hornets to drown out the sound. “On the Shore” features slightly bluesy, soulful verses from Otep, or about as “soulful” as one gets when sitting in Popeyes. Honestly, if she started a new band and further explored a bluesier sound (with infinitely better lyrics and songwriting) it probably would be decent, and I would give it a few spins.
“Royals” is complete garbage. I apologize, I don’t have the capacity to even try to examine this track and discuss it reasonably. This is a cover of Lorde’s 2013 breakout hit. I use “cover” very loosely here as it sounds like Otep & friends took Lorde’s tasteful pop hit and just smeared a mixture of Faygo and feces all over it. If it was not a cover, it would be one of the blandest nu-metal songs in history. As a cover, it is a complete and total atrocity.
“Down” and “No Color” are obvious radio hits in the making. For those that listen to their local alternative radio station to get their “metal” fix, you will most likely be hearing these songs over and over for the next 15 years. I will be groaning in your passenger seat for the next 15 years.
The cream of the crop though, is “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts”. This song is one part “coming out” confession, one part call for equal rights for the LGBT community, and one part Otep wagging her d**k in the face of misogynistic dudes. With lines like “I’ll always get more p***y than you” and “Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not”, it’s not hard to tell what messages Otep was trying to get across.
When listening to the album, it became clear that I was listening to not just a voice of our generation, but THE voice of humanity. You can tell that the lyrics mean a lot to Otep because she says that she’s “like Mark Twain” and “Poetry is my religion”. She speaks on huge, relevant issues like gun control, #BlackLivesMatter, LGBT rights, suicide, war, feminism, and questioning the existence of God. There are so many lines that are so deeply moving that I just had to draw attention to them:
Something’s wrong with me. Something’s right with you
All I love is hate.
I seen more spine in jellyfish. That’s an invertebrate… google that.
In the emotional rubix cube of “Zero”, Otep tells us that she “Doesn’t give a f***” and goes on to say that “I don’t give a f***. F***. F***. Zero f***s.” This Pandora’s box of prose is much too complicated for a simple writer/musician like myself to comprehend, so I have to assume that she is referring to the fact that she is not giving us any F-words (heefff-werryrrds) which is not true. She gives us 39 “f***s” in this song alone. I think it was 39. I tried to count a couple times, but I couldn’t focus on the lyrics for more than 10 seconds at a time before they made my tiny brain hurt too much and I had to take a break. Anyway. She says she gives us zero of them and the song is called “Zero”, so maybe the song is really about how she is giving us zero truth. Who can know? I’m sure that Otep’s manuscripts will eventually be compiled into some form of “bible”. “The Gospel of Otep: According to Otep”, written by Otep. Maybe centuries from now, we may begin to scratch the surface of her philosophical genius.
Honestly, in 2016, I cannot believe that nu-metal is still a thing. It is a genre that put out a couple good records out of hundreds of God-awful attempts at recreating those few, select records. As long as Americans continue to be as stupid and lazy with listening to metal, nu-metal will keep polluting airwaves and sweaty, drunken summer festivals. I appreciate that Generation Doom may be a mild gateway drug to lure young listeners into the icy grasp of metal, and it may make a few of the rest of us nostalgic for our JNCO-wearing highschool days. If Otep is your thing, then this will be your favorite of her records. If Otep is not your thing, this record will not change that fact. It is definitely worth the listen for the lyrics alone if you are a jagoff (like me) and enjoy laughing at other people’s “art”. Like what you like, and I’ll like what I like.
– Josh Thieler
PS: Otep, please don’t beat me up and then rap about me and gross things about my wife. Thanks!