Review Summary: Among the best albums from the nu-metal scene, Otep really deliver a shock to the system here
Formed in 2000 when nu-metal was popular through bands such as Slipknot and Korn and Papa Roach, Otep are a Los Angeles-based band that has garnered quite a following in the underground metal scene. The heart beat to this popularity would be the band's "Tribe", a group of hardcore followers who worship the ground the band walks on. At the opposite end of the scale however there are a large amount of people who should now be very happy that the band have released their supposed "final album" Hydra so that they never have to hear of them again. Otep are certainly a band that has polarized many people but something that should remain undisputed but rarely does is the quality of their early material.
No matter how bad Hydra was nor the fact that Smash The Control Machine should have been scrapped at the drawing board, the three album long run from Sevas Tra to Ascension are all solid albums with more than enough to enjoy about them. The sound of these albums is strikingly different from the mixture of garbage ambient noises and terrible, senseless spoken words that infested Hydra, and carries both a nostalgic charm to it and also a level of real talent. The band are a nu-metal band unlike any other with iconic vocalist Otep Shamraya employing a number of different vocal styles as well as some really complex and deep, thought-provoking lyrics to catch the listener's attention and hold it. Their debut, Sevas Tra, set the stage for what they would eventually achieve on their masterpiece Ascension as well as being a cool album in its own right.
The instrumental performance on Sevas Tra is one thing that is not going to set the world on fire, with it falling victim to the exact same criticisms as nearly every other nu-metal album out there. The guitarists tend to remain on the top string of their guitars and stick to merely open strings and the very top end of the fret board to create low tones that give this album a really heavy edge. The riffing may well not be the best out there but it is both catchy, intense and varied with a very groovy riff found at twenty eight seconds into Filthee, and the occasional tremolo picked line to spice up the flow of the album. The band has often been noted for having some death metal influence in their sound and this is not a viewpoint that is entirely unfounded due to the heavy as hell guitars and switches between power chords and tremolo picked segments.
The vocals and lyrics have always been the standouts of Otep albums and Sevas Tra is no different with some really great and varied vocals. From the Zach De La Rocha sounding rapping on T.R.I.C. to the grows and screams on Blood Pigs, this is a woman who has it all and every note is screamed, sung or rapped with confidence. There is a lot of energy and conviction behind the vocal performance on here and from the vocal patterns and tones she hits it is clear that Shamraya went to a real effort to make for an intense and aggressive album. Of all the underrated vocalists out there, Sevas Tra and, later, Ascension stand as testimony to why Otep Shamraya is one of the more criminally underrated vocalists out there.
The songs on this album are mostly great and also have a fun sound to them due to the sing-a-long nature of some sections. They are really varied with Menocide starting out soft before shifting into one of the most balls-out heavy songs in the band's discography, Filthee and T.R.I.C. are two rap-metal greats that show talentless bands like Limp Bizkit how it should be done. The opener to the album, Blood Pigs, is the best song on here with its catchy as hell vocal lines from the seductive whispers of "blood pigs" near the beginning through the semi-rapped screamed verses and the angry sounding chorus. Of all the nu-metal songs in existence this is probably one of the finest, easily toppling pretenders to the throne such as Slipknot's better songs and Linkin Park's earliest stuff. There is one song on here that really will annoy listeners and sounds like a precursor to the nonsense on Hydra and that is Thots which is just a load of ambient noise and Shamraya mumbling some senseless lyrics over the top.
For those who are impartial to nu-metal with some death influences, this is certainly recommended, but the same could be said for any listener to metal in general. Otep offer up a catchy, heavy as hell ass-kicker of an album that stands out as one of the best its genre has ever or will ever produce. The vocals are varied, the instrumentals catchy despite the simplicity and it is accessible but with some really intense moments that will make your hairs stand on end. This is an essential album.