For most bands, it's not a good thing when your fans start thinking that you might be eating people and casting spells in your spare time. For Otep, an eponymous, female-fronted goth-metal outfit, those rumors won the band fans, Marilyn Manson's support, and an Ozzfest slot. Otep, in other words, is an intense experience. The band blends blast beats, occasional hip-hop elements, jazz flourishes, and spoken-word interludes into a background of harsh industrial soundscapes, gussied up by the Byzantine eddies of mystical, pseudo-occult lyrics and imagery.
Lead singer Otep Shamaya belts out a tortured combination of fairly adept growls and powerful bluesy vocals, like Chrissie Hynde channeling the Dark Lord. Matching this sonic dichotomy, Otep favors visuals that split its efforts between making her appear demonically possessed and like a hard-rock pinup girl. Such seeming incongruity should come as no surprise to fans. Even while she sings about torture, death, and angst, Shamaya champions many social causes, from LGBT rights and PETA to the self-esteem issues faced by young women. Lately, Otep has been softening just enough to keep things interesting, tossing the occasional semiballad and atmospheric piece into the band's usual mix of punishment and abuse.