The fact that the Metal genre as a whole tends to criticize society more than other music styles seems to be a theme that follows me this summer. After attending a discussion panel on the subject at this year’s Tuska Open Air Metal Festival, more and more I notice Metal musicians making strong political statements on stage, to the press, and in their lyrics. So it can’t be a mere coincidence, that this album came to me at such a time.
Not many musicians are as vocal and as literal as the Artist and activist Otep Shamaya, frontwoman and name-giver of the L.A.-based band OTEP. For the band’s eighth album called “Kult 45”, OTEP is even more eager to denounce the politics of their country, especially its 45th president and his followers, from which the album gains its name. A brutal punch to the throat that aims to wake people up and empower them to take back their nation, “Kult 45” is a strong, contemporary protest in Nu-Metal form.
OTEP’s “Kult 45” demands attention to the letter.
The whole album is flooded with a feeling of frustration and outrage, which fuels a positive desire for change in the face of not only a divided nation but a divided world, as white supremacy movements sprout all over the place. However, the album does have a very encouraging undertone that spikes up in certain songs. I was able to follow all the ideas expressed, for this is the first album I’ve received with lyrics included in the press material in years. The lyrics are rebelliously written in all caps, not caring about spelling and replacing many letters with numbers.
After the short intro song ‘Hail To The Thief’, the real album opener starts. ‘Halt Right’ is the catchiest one, encouraging US-Americans especially, to protest and fight back against right-winged extremism armed with heavy and at times groovy guitars, rocky drums and Otep‘s rap and growls – bonus points for the wordplay to “alt-right”. ‘Molotov’ is the third single as well as the third track on the record, thematically calling out white supremacists right at the beginning with a
“TH1S GOES OUT 2 ALL THE TA1NTED RAC1STS AND NAZI BEL1EVERS”.
‘Said The Snake’ deals with death and other human losses as the consequences of war – this is a personal topic for Shamaya, since she comes from a military family, as she stated in an interview with the MetalSucks Podcast. Musically, the album brings back Nu-Metal riffs and punching bass reminiscent of the early 2000s, which is intentional since OTEP produced the album themselves, using the equipment they used for their first album, “Sevas Tra” released in 2002.
Next up: ‘Undefeated’ reflects the weird times we’re living in, with OTEP mentioning the Stanford rapist and his very lenient sentence, police brutality against people of color in the U.S. and other outrageous occurences we see in today’s media and shake our heads in disbelief. The instruments take the back seat for a long re-telling of this recent history, then come back stronger to Otep‘s bridge “this is what democracy looks like” – what a way to stir up some rage we can use to protest. ‘Trigger Warning’ continues with the topic of rape, naming the powerful #metoo movement. It first paints a haunting scene of predator and prey, then uses victim blaming – the language of rape culture – to make the point. Unlike most stories on this topic, in this one, the victim avenges herself in the end. If it weren’t for the gruesome lyrics, this song could make a hit for sure.
Clearly influenced by 2000’s LIMP-BIZKIT, ‘Cross Contamination’ criticizes Christianity, while the album’s second single ‘Shelter In Place’ takes on the gun lobby with a clear
“HEY, HEY, NRA!!! HOW MANY KIDS DID YOU KILL TODAY?”.
‘Boss’ is somewhat self-aggrandizing – as rap tends to be – with a note of what seems to be Otep‘s feminism when she states that she’s been breaking the (glass) ceiling, breaking stereotypes, and challenging gender-roles for some time, then ending on a humble brag “yes, I’m blessed, but I earned this crown”. This song leans more to the hip-hop side of Nu-Metal, with lots of rapping and electronic elements. The album’s first single that has been out for two months, ‘ToThe Gallows’, is an outspoken death sentence to the “traitor” in the White House, on top of raging guitars and solid drums, with a catchy chorus.
After a spoken interlude named ‘Sirens Calling’, OTEP protest against Trump’s immigration policies with the song ‘Invisible People’, which sways between insulting the US-president and trying to reach the listener’s emotions by asking how many more people will be taken, all the while the listener feels powerless. An absolute highlight is the quiet piano ballad ‘Be Brave’, that combines Shamaya‘s lower voice in a whisper singing style that gives the track a romantic touch, encouraging the listener to be brave and resist. The album ends with the cover ‘Wake Up’, originally by RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, another very political band, now partly active as the PROPHETS OF RAGE that have also spoken out against the current US-president.
One could almost criticize the lyrics in “Kult 45” of calling on people to take justice in their own hands if it wasn’t for the normalizing of violence in media in general and for Shamaya never stating that literally. Bands like BODY COUNT have been accused of that in the past and still managed to express their ideas. The intended back-to-the-roots production gives the album extra strength in its musical mixture of many genres, just like we knew from the good old KORN, as well as the mentioned RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, BODY COUNT, and LIMP-BIZKIT. With “Kult 45”, Otep shouts and sings against homophobia, racism, corruption, gun violence, rape culture and all the bizarre things we still have to fight against nowadays. But OTEP still manage to give us hope and empower us to ‘Halt right’, stay ‘Undefeated“ and ‘Be Brave’ – and has my total recommendation, not only to listen but to pay attention and reflect about the album’s content.
You can order OTEP – “Kult 45” from EMP in Germany.
OTEP – “Kult 45” Tracklist:
- Hail To The Thief
- Halt Right
- Said The Snake
- Trigger Warning
- Cross Contamination
- Shelter In Place
- To The Gallows
- Sirens Calling
- Invisible People
- Be Brave
- Wake Up (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE-Cover)
Are you an OTEP fan? Are you looking forward to “Kult 45”? Tell us how you like the album in the comments!