Sounds Like Armageddon
OTEP is one of those band’s you either love or hate. Frontwoman Otep Shamaya is easily one of the most polarizing figures in heavy music and the Los Angeles band’s crunchy stop and start guitar and drum work and not-so-distant from rap rock vocals make them the last of the nu-metal genre to survive.
Sounds Like Armageddon is a testament to that survival as the band’s decade long career has been riddled with failed label relationships, lukewarm critical reception, and a small but rabid fanbase. This is the band’s first ever live album, which is surprising given the band’s explosive live show has always been their strong suit.
Sounds Like Armageddon has some great moments on it. The band offers both crowd pleasers and lead singles here, ranging from the pummeling ‘T.R.I.C.’ to ‘Battle Ready’ (the album’s opening track) to ‘Filthee’. All of these tunes shine and the crowd is obviously into them. The band’s cover of Nirvana’s (a band I would normally consider off limits for covers) ‘Breed’ is a spot on re-creation that makes me wonder what Otep Shamaya might do vocally if she played it straight and narrow. ‘Breed’ (originally from 1991’s Nevermind) suits her voice shockingly well. The other highlight is the crowd / band interaction on the pummeling anthem ‘Rise, Rebel, Resist’.
As usual, the quest for artistic freedom gets mightily in the way here. For as much as the crowd is into about half this album, there are certainly a few moments that they aren’t so outspokenly in love with. The spoken word, slow moving, chaotic sounds of ‘Blood Pigs’, ‘Crooked Spoons’ and ‘My Confession’ go nowhere and disrupt the high energy flow of the album. If there weren’t so much guitar fuzz, you could likely hear the crickets chirping in the background.
Perhaps the strangest thing is that only one song from the band’s 2011 album Atavist appears here, as it garnered more attention than any OTEP album since the debut. Atavist was a powerhouse of an album and I can’t imagine OTEP’s rabid fanbase wouldn’t have eaten up more of it, and feel like it should be better represented here.
Overall, I like OTEP as much now as I did when they debuted. The band are very good at what they do, but they never seem to evolve at all. They always just make lateral moves and their always controversial lyrics sound borderline juvenile a decade later. But with a new studio album, Hydra, due in early 2013, I’m still hoping for that giant leap that can make them into something more.
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