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Otep - "The Ascension" (CD)

Otep - "The Ascension" CD cover image

"The Ascension" track listing:

1. Eet the Children (3:47)
2. Crooked Spoons (4:19)
3. Perfectly Flawed (3:48)
4. Confrontation (3:13)
5. Milk of Regret (6:00)
6. Noose and Nail (3:40)
7. Ghostflowers (4:23)
8. Breed (Nirvana Cover) (3:27)
9. March of the Martyrs (4:16)
10. Invisible (5:24)
11. Home Grown (4:20)
12. Communion (4:26)

Reviewed by on December 25, 2009

"'The Ascension' is quite possibly one of the worst albums I have ever heard in the almost ten years I've been listening to metal."

After listening to Otep’s third album, “The Ascension,” I can't help but feel the nostalgia of the sub-par artists and scene kids who made post-grunge and nu metal a trend of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In fact, this was just a temporary fad, and metal would return to its prestige in 2004 thanks to the explosion of mathcore and metalcore, which included bands such as Unearth, Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and Mastodon. Essentially, the bands saved metal by implementing more technical riffs, grooves, and eliminating the trend of the down-tuned guitars that made nu metal infamously dull and simple. We live in an age of metal music that experiments, progresses and is more technical than ever. Would there be a need to revisit the days when simplicity ruled the industry? Apparently Otep thinks so, because they really know how to party like its 1999. “The Ascension” is quite possibly one of the worst albums I have ever heard in the almost ten years I've been listening to metal.

To describe this band’s sound, think of Marilyn Manson with the lead singer as a woman. Combine this with other mainstream friendly radio bands such as Slipknot, tone down the catchy one line verses and you get Otep. The stigmatizing label of nu metal does not make this album incredibly distasteful, but there are so many complications that downright make me want to eject the album after the first couple of tracks. If the verses and guitars were as catchy as the old Slipknot and Korn, I would have no problem enjoying “The Ascension,” but unfortunately, they are not.

The first major and most noticeable problem with “The Ascension” is the production. This applies mostly to the lead singer, Otep Shamaya. You can tell right away by the constant reverberation of her voice that it was highly amplified. The production is overdone, giving a nasty mechanical overtone to Shamaya’s aggravating vocals. If a band is trying to amplify a voice, you must be able to successfully implement technology to enhance and heighten the sound, not completely distort it; a great example of a band that illuminates the voice without distorting the experience is nu metal/industrial band Marilyn Manson.

Complicating this album even more lies within the song structure itself. Forget about typical verse-chorus songs. This album redefines this already known criticism of metal by completely having one verse and a chorus without any noticeable transition. In essence, the songs not only lack originality, but are also incredibly long without much justification. An example of this would be in the song “Confrontation.” The verse “Stand up, speak up” gets to the point where it is annoying and blatantly obvious that the band is justifying the obnoxious one-liner in hopes of appeasing to the “mallcore” crowd.

Now you may be thinking that the songs are in between three and four minutes. When songs have one verse and chorus that repeat throughout its entirety, the band starts to trend on catchy one-line pop songs instead of pushing the extremity of metal by breaking this stereotyped habit. Songs that have this particular structural arrangements do not deserve to be over two minute; albeit, System of A Down executed this taboo brilliantly because most of their songs are less than this. If you listen to any songs off this album, you basically have heard the whole album because every song sounds the same- monotonous with no digression- from the obnoxious vocals to the amateur riffs by the guitar and bass.

You know that this album is in trouble when the first single is a cover (Nirvana's “Breed”). This song is not even a good cover because Shamaya completely butchers the vocals that were strictly made for a voice like Kurt Cobain. The one highlight of this album would be “Confrontation,” with its one catchy riff that is way too similar to White Zombie’s “Electric Head Pt. 1 (The Agony).” Whether or not this was intentional, the highlight of the album resembles something that has already been done, which is never a good aspect an artist wants to have on their album.

I would avoid this album at all costs. Even if you are a die-hard nu metal fan, I would still avoid this album. There is just way better music today. “The Ascension” is out of fashion and almost a decade too late.

Highs: The complete rip off the riff from White Zombie's classic "Electric Head Pt. 1 (The Agony)"

Lows: Almost every aspect of 'The Ascension" is egregious.

Bottom line: Even a bad album for all the nu metal fans out there. The sound is incredibly outdated.

Rated 0.5 out of 5 skulls
0.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)