Every era must come to an end. The beast must be killed, the princess must be rescued, and the bandits valiantly fought off. The strange thing is that some bands are more than content playing forever; they’ll be playing well into their 60’s while other bands fold after just two albums. Once it’s done, it’s done. Some however, keep coming back for the stick-it-to-the-fans-one-more-time-farewell-tour every two years. For the smart ones that decide to quit while they’re ahead are met with a bitter sweet departure. And after 13 years of playing some of the most extreme and angry music in the world, Otep is calling it quits after releasing Hydra. The sendoff is met with sadness as they celebrate the release of their 5th and final album and get ready for one last hurrah.
Pretty much topping the list of bands that you either get or you don’t, the sometimes rapping, sometimes spoken word, but always heavy Otep begin their assault in their own traditional way; a slow spoken word indicative of what is to come. If you’re not familiar with Otep, slow and often disturbing spoken word segments are regularly peppered throughout the albums. Without a doubt, this will bother some people, but for others this will serve to create the overall feeling of the album, it will set the feeling like a dimly lit mood light. It stands to reason that if you’ve picked up Otep‘s last album, you’re already familiar with the aforementioned segments, but in case you haven’t, be forewarned.
Hydra is a full-out cacophonic assault in every sense of the word; track after track you’re greeted with blistering guitars, pounding drums and harsh, sometimes distorted vocals. “Blowtorch Nightlight” kicks things off with a bang and before long, you’re following what could loosely be called a concept album; while there isn’t one main character in the album, reoccurring themes do pop in and “the hydra rising from the abyss” starts to make itself clear to you. Rather than be just one clear image, the hydra is somewhat of an amorphic figure; in some songs the hydra is a metaphor much for a rising feeling, something that can’t be defeated, like a phoenix. Other times it takes more of form of a hateful vengeance or a scorned obsessive love, uncontrollable and all consuming. It simply rises and the different songs illustrate how people command it or let it consume them.
Musically, the album can be compared to The Ascension, though a lot heavier. The same slow musical interludes are back and each track bleeds into one another, making it seem more like a heavy metal opera than anything else. And while the album has several heavy tracks like “Crush”, “Hag”, and “Feral Game” the album does suffer from pacing issues. While they serve to complete Otep Shamaya’s vision of the final Otep album, the spoken word interludes are not only longer, but in some instances bunched together, leaving long gaps in between songs. It’s not to say that spoken word tracks like “Livestock” and “Voyeur” don’t add anything; they definitely help the overall perverse nature and violent nature of the album. In fact, the combination of “Livestock” into “Hag” would make a phenomenal mini-movie music video much like Cattle Decapitation did with “Kingdom of Tyrants”. But, while trying to achieve some sort of mad vision of what Hydra is supposed to be, Otep got slightly carried away and forgot that most people are picking up their album for the music, not the poetry. While most fans of the band will definitely enjoy the spoken word interludes, there’s no doubt that people would enjoy more servings of songs like “Hag”.
In the end, Hydra does suffer from some problems, thankfully none of are musical; Otep are as tight and angry as they have ever been, maybe even more so now than ever before. And while they may have gotten carried away with the spoken word their last endeavor, Hydra is still a great addition next to House of Secrets and Seves Tra.