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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Otep

House of Secrets

Review by Gary Hill

A lot of extreme heavy music these days has little to do with art. Otep certainly is flying in the face of that. You have to admire both Otep, the woman and Otep the band for creating a truly artistic work in a world that will probably be quite willing to misunderstand it. Seriously, much of this album is based on arty sorts of poetry readings, much like the weirder works of the Doors. I have to wonder how many extreme music fans will catch onto that. By the same token, the thrashy segments, and modern oh, so dark texture of the disc will probably make it seem completely off-limits to a lot of the poetry crowd and Doors fans. Still, if both of those groups were to give it a chance (this one takes more than a couple listenings to grow on you), they would find a treasure that is both unique and very valuable.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Requiem
With sounds, shrieks, tolling bells and other ambient effects, this is quite a creepy piece.
Warhead
A sharp contrast to the previous piece, this cut is frantic thrash. Death metal vocals run counter to the more "melodic" half screamed, half-spoken ones. The main riff here is quite powerful. After a time they slow the cut down to a plodding reworking of that main riff. Then the pace gradually moves up again.
buried Alive
Bass with whispered words starts this sedately. That doesn't continue long, though. Averse in a mellower, somewhat industrial mode comes in next, gradually building in intensity before the band screams out in a hardcore thrash style. It then drops back down to weird ambience moving back in the same basic direction. The thrash section returns and the band continues to alternate between these two styles.
Sepsis
This is another frantic speed thrash number, but it actually sets down a cool, somewhat funky riff at times. Chaos ends this.
House Of Secrets
Starting with the sound of screaming and a door shutting, followed by a screamed "shut up!"; this starts to become an actual song after that. It comes in as a somewhat weird, bluesy jam - a nice contrast to the frantic chaos before it. It says this way for quite some time, but eventually explodes into one of the coolest thrash riffs on the disc. This is very meaty. It stays her a far shorter time than it did the previous segment, though, running through only a few times. It then drops back to where it came from to end. This is definitely among the coolest tracks on the CD.
Hooks And Splinters
More frantic thrash, this one screams out very strongly and has a couple of killer riffs. It drops down to a mellow segment that at times feels like a twisted sort of Doors' Jim Morrison poetic journey. This section really feels a lot like a death metal take on that old artsy Doors sound.
Gutter
Sound effects start this, then Otep begins a spoken reading. It is a brief track that feels a lot like an intro to the next piece.
Autopsy Song
Starting with bass and spoken words, as it caries on, Otep begins half singing, half whispering over the bass, percussion making an occasional appearance. The cut continues much in this mode, gradually building on the thematic principles already presented. It then explodes into death metal fury, the chaos ensuing. The contrast between quiet and raucous is awesome. It then drops back to the original mellower sounds after this brief flash of fury. It's a weird, but very intriguing number.
Suicide Trees
Sound effects with flies start this. It is another where Otep's poetry reading calls to mind Morrison a bit, amidst total dark weirdness. Still quite quiet, this feels a lot like something the Doors man might do today if he were still around. Later a melody, if you can call it that, emerges. This is very cool strangeness. "I wasn't there, I'm not involved, I'm innocent, It's not my fault". Eventually it erupts into metallic fury with a very cool sound. This is arguably the most intriguing point on the album, and another where the loud fury is only a short segment.
Nein
This also begins with fairly quiet ambience and Morrisonish poetry reading over top. This mode continues with percussion coming in. It explodes out into metal power later with a very catchy and crunchy riff. Again, this stays only a short time, the track dropping back down. "My sanity wrote a suicide note, but one of us is illiterate and the other is blind". The cut alternates between the poetry segments and the death metal chorus.
Selfmade
Weird sounds with poetry readings make up the intro here. As the cut smashes into metallic frenzy the bass sounds a bit like Les Claypool at times. Later a new riff that is one of the meatiest I've heard in a while takes the number.
Shattered Pieces
This mellow poetry reading is dark and weird. "It began as all tragedies do, with pain and deception". If those words don't sound like something Mr. Morrison would write, I don't know what does. This is definitely unsettling and haunting, but very cool. When it ends the listener is really left wondering what has just happened. It's an emotional ride without any real "song" structure. This is high art.
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