Review Summary: Hydra showcases a step back from a band that were already on a slippery slope
Otep are a band that has been inconsistent throughout their career to say the least. The band formed initially as a nu-metal band during the period when that particular sub-genre was highly popular, the band has since branched out into more of a mainstream hard rock sound. They initially had a tremendous amount of underground success and had a huge following known as their "Tribe" but since then the band has imploded. Whilst Sevas Tra and Ascension were both good and interesting albums that at least showed off the best things about the band despite doing nothing revolutionary, Smash The Control Machine and their other albums were poor releases that were bland, uninteresting and really grated on many people. As such, the news that the band's driving force Otep Shamraya was in the process of writing an album that would be the band's final release came to a little fanfare. Finally this band that had plagued the metal genre with some atrocious recordings in recent years would be hanging up their boots. The real question was would this album be any good?
Fast forward to 2013 and the album's release and the answer is a resounding "no!" Hydra is a failure of a concept album that takes away any enjoyment that could have been gained from one or two tracks from their last couple of albums, and whittles away any light trapped within the cage of appalling tuneless noise the band has put forth recently. In its place this album uses almost exclusively spoken word vocals in the form of poetry that tells a story based on a graphics novel that Otep herself has been writing. The instrumental work is the similar low-end chugging that the band has utilized since their inception as a nu-metal band but even the little creativity that was found in that is completely gone from Hydra. It seems as though Otep intended to take away what little enjoyment could be scavenged from their more recent material and replace it with the most dull snooze-fest known to mankind. Right from the off this album really is a bad album with Rising proving that Otep should never attempt a whispered style of vocals over one of the most nonsensical instrumentals of all time.
Seduce And Destroy was a song that attempted to do things a little differently by being slightly slower and focusing more on creating a dark and unsettling atmosphere with creepy and evil sounding guitar work. This is the one song on the album that really feels as though the band are pushing themselves to create something worth listening to as the instrumental work is genuinely murky and eerie. Otep's vocals have always been the one thing about the band that nobody can complain about due to the fact she is multi-talented and can sing, scream and rap decently but on Hydra she is flat out dull and awful and threatens to even kill off this one decent song's credibility. Whilst on this song she uses a much larger percentage of growls and snarls and screams than on the other songs on Hydra, it feels out of place when taken within the context of this album and is one of the worst things about the album.
The one positive that can be taken from this release is that the lyrical content which has long since been one of the band's finest traits is as good as it has ever been. Otep Shamraya is also a part time poet and this definitely shows through her deep lyrics but a problem can be found in this as well. Whereas their past albums showcased a wide array of subject matter including personal acceptance and low self esteem and assaults on the Government, Hydra is limited to only the story that Otep crafted through her graphic novel. Only one song threatens to return to the style of the band's earlier material and that is Apex Predator with a return to the rapping that infested Sevas Tra. Instead of being a credit to Hydra, however, this song is actually among the worse things the band has ever done and feels like a toned down, poor rendition of their early material without any of the relevancy and has no place on an album like this.
If it proves to be true that Hydra is to be the final album by Otep then this should be seen as a blessing in disguise as it really is an awful note to go out on. There are a few good and interesting moments scattered throughout but they are too few and far in between and they are overwhelmed by the *** fest that the rest of the album is. This is an album that should carry a health warning sticker and a bottle of disinfectant just to touch it as it is anthrax in CD form and should not be approached by anyone.