Release Date: April 26th, 2011
Metal’s reigning artcore messiah, Otep has returned with its/her fifth album, Atavist. With the departure of longtime bandmate, bassist, and writing conspirator, EviL J. McGuire, Otep Shamaya truly stands as a one person storm of rage, poetry, and message all wrapped in a cacophonous shroud of potent metal. Then again, assigning a label to anything Otep does defies her personal values for expression of freedom.
While I can readily admit that I’m not a personal fan of her politics, her devout passion for her beliefs and people in general is inspiring and admirable. She carries that intensity straight into her music, and that is no different on the band’s fifth record, Atavist.
Upon first listen to Atavist, one can understand the album’s title, as Otep draws on some of her earlier stylistic approaches for this record. Not since the band’s first two albums, Sevas Tra and House of Secrets has Otep sounded as beautifully raw and brutal as Atavist.
After a disturbingly eerie intro, the pummeling begins in earnest on “Atom To Adam”. This is followed by “Drunk On The Blood of Saints” which offers up healthy doses of groove and grind, while Shamaya moves from her raspy gutteral growls, to her plaintive and angsty clear vocals.
“Remember To Forget” is one of the album’s catchier and anthemic moments, and kicks off with Shamaya’s darkly seductive vocals.
There isn’t a real chance to catch your breath until track six, on “We Dream Like Lions”, which is sandwiched between two of the album’s standout and most crushing tracks, “Skin of the Master” and “I, Alone”.
On “We Dream Like Lions”, Shamaya gets into a ballad that musically recalls Bob Ezrin era Alice Cooper. Shamaya’s vocals are filled with dispair, and perhaps pain. The track is at times discordant, which adds to the atmospheric mood it evokes.
After the brutal smackdown of “I, Alone”, Otep completely changes direction with the spoken word track “Baby’s Breath”. This is a trademark of Shamaya’s artistic and poetic expression. At seven plus minutes this is the album’s longest track, and depicts murder in disturbing fashion. For traditional metalheads, this track would be a disruption and glaring weakness. However, for fans of Otep, this diversity in sound and style is what makes Otep viable and unique. Atavist features two such spoken word tracks, the other comes in the form of “Bible Belt”.
The breathy aural seduction returns on “Fists Fall” where Shamaya takes us through most of her vocal arsenal, and the energy returns in mass.
For sheer creepiness dial in the unsettling bowls-of-hell masterpiece, “Stay”.
The album closes out with an intriguing cover of The Doors “Not To Touch The Earth”. And who better to pay tribute to than Jim Morrison, another arguably disturbed and often misunderstood, dark poet?
Otep uses her fury to propel her music and aural poetry, and once again she’s concocted a feral and frequently disturbing mix of sonic rage. On Atavist you not only hear the music, but you feel the emotional complexities which drive Shamaya’s acrimony.
I must admit it scares me to think of what her dreams must be like, then again, perhaps that’s exactly what we’re listening to.