Monday, March 11, 2013

Otep - Smash the Control Machine

With their first three albums, Otep left their mark as one of the most notable nu metal bands of the 21st century. Musically, Otep had nowhere to go but up. The much more mature sound that Otep expressed with The Ascension means that they’re more than capable of writing a larger variety of sounds as well as just being better musicians. Something that each of the band’s first four records did was catch people’s attention; each album attracting more than its predecessor. Now we have the band’s fourth release, titled Smash the Control Machine. This album in particular has received mixed views. And to be honest, this album has just as many positives as it does negatives. Are the negatives things that have always been present? Actually, most of the negative aspects of this album are new, whereas the positives are not only things that have always been present, but also things that were either lacking or missing in The Ascension.

Your final opinion of Smash the Control Machine is almost completely dependent on what you want out of Otep. The thing that most of Otep’s fans out there wanted was something heavier (something like their first two albums). But, regardless of what people wanted or didn’t want, the album proved to be their biggest success yet, selling roughly 10,400 copies in its first week. I remember going to one of my “local” CD stores to pick up the (at the time) new Suicide Silence and Dying Fetus albums (both of which are fantastic) and seeing posters EVERYWHERE in the store and seeing a huge stack of Smash the Control Machine CDs at the front desk. Although I decided not to buy the album due to my limited financials, seeing that caused me to not be surprised at the album’s quick success. Now that I actually have it, I can say that this is one of Otep’s best releases yet.

Is it another Sevas Tra? Unfortunately, it’s not. And it appears that the band won’t be going back to the sound of that album. Otep used The Ascension as an opportunity to refine their sound and improve their skills to keep their options for future releases as open as possible. Two things that have been brought back from the Sevas Tra days are the heaviness and the hip-hop influence. You can hear the obvious hip-hop influence in all of the songs due to the bouncy tempo and the rapping done by the vocalist. This increased heaviness and hip-hop influence has been brought back with the increased amount of energy in the music itself. The Ascension was lacking in energy, which was the very biggest issue I have with it. The energy that Smash the Control Machine brings back to the table helps re-awaken the monster that was created by Sevas Tra. Is this monster the same as she was back then? Not no, but hell no.

With the increased amount of energy Smash the Control Machine has (I can’t stress that point enough, it’s a huge part of this album), Otep have some fun exploring more musical styles and ideas. How fucking obvious is this? Well, if you listen to the album straight through, the third track will bring you something you’ve NEVER heard out of these guys before. Otep use the title track to play around with the different sounds of rock n’ roll. The title track takes a simpler and more basic approach on rock, whereas other songs like Numb and Dumb and Run for Cover take a much less traditional approach on rock. Is Otep’s attempt at playing rock n’ roll any good? It’s alright, there’s not really anything special about it; it actually sounds a little bland and the band sounds a bit unsure of itself. But regardless, they didn’t bomb the attempt and they are expanding their repertoire.

Smash the Control Machine is one of Otep’s greatest releases yet, in fact, I would consider it to be the best album they’ve put out since Sevas Tra. The energy is back, the brutality is back, the catchiness is back, and Otep are moving forward as a band and progressing their sound. My two favorite tracks off the album are polar opposites. The ever-popular Rise, Rebel, Resist has an unforgettable groove and is bursting with anger and creativity. The other song (it’s not exactly an actual “song”), titled Kisses and Kerosene, delivers one of the darkest, most disturbing, most emotional poems the world has ever heard. I would give Smash the Control Machine a score of 16/20.