Considering the roots of speed and thrash metal can be traced back to the UK with bands like Venom and Motörhead, it was the American and European acts that enjoyed the most success during the mid-late eighties. The Big Four were selling records by the bucketload, Germany had its very own “Teutonic Trio” (which would itself eventually expand to a foursome), and even Canada and South America were producing top-quality acts.
OTEP, led by vocalist, poet, actor, author, and activist Otep Shamaya, will embark on its first headline tour in nearly three years this spring. The Sermons of Fire tour will celebrate their debut album Sevas Tra (Capitol Records) which turned 20 years old in 2022, as well as Hydra (Victory Records), turning 10 this year. Otep has recently completed a new album, expect to release this year as well. All dates announced so far are on sale at the links below.
Otep has a new album out titled Generation Doom (Napalm Records). As a longtime Otep fan, I’m always well chuffed when they release new music. Music of course being a derivative term as what Otep does is more art for the ears than anything. The first thing I noticed with Otep’s Generation Doom is that it’s heavy! Generation Doom is a heavy metal album. You can head bang and thrash about the living room whilst listening to this album. The album opens with the track ‘Zero’. It doesn’t take long before you are screaming the refrain “I don’t give a fuck!” along with lead singer Otep Shamaya. The guitars are just gobsmackingly amazing. The drumming is heavy and thumptastic.
‘Lords of War’ was one of the first singles released. It is political in nature without beating you over the head. Otep raps above some dark and heavy backing tracks. But again, you end up singing along with her by the chorus. Another song that tugs at your heart-strings is ‘In Cold Blood’. It’s angsty for all the right reasons. ‘Lie’ is another intensely personal song that breaks your heart. All the anger and frustration at having to deal with a love that lies to you is embedded in ‘Lie’. The song strips you bear and says everything you wish you could say. Otep Shamaya’s writing style on Generation Doom is a thing of beauty as she can articulate the feelings and concepts most of us stumble over. In addition, her vocals range from the haunting to the guttural and it’s her vocal range that make the songs on Generation Doom an epic album. For me, the best part of the album is that it’s sing-along-able. In direct opposition to Otep’s last album Hydra, Generation Doom is a musical album. By that I mean that it’s less art and more music in a traditional sense. Each song is a bitchin’ collection of lyrics and metal arrangements. Generation Doom will please strict metal fans and longtime Otep fans alike.
Poppy, bit more symphonic than I was expecting. Went down a storm at Wembley with Within Temptation too.
DEVIN – Dark Matters
Aka Ziltoid 2. The heavier, more symphonic, more metally of the two parts of the double album. I like it, just a bit too much monkeying around at the expense of the songs, for me.
DRAGONFORCE – Maximum Overload
Not quite as good as ‘The Power Within’ but still proving they write better songs since changing vocalists. Some belters on here, tbf.
ENGEL – Raven Kings
Like In Flames, but heavier guitars and catchier choruses. I like this one (well, I like them all on here, or they wouldn’t be on here, but this surprised me). Wrote about it, too. https://ghostcultmag.com/engel-raven-kings/
Took me by surprise this one. Adding a large dose of Ulcerate to their sound, but all the better for it. Rather than rattle clattering through a load of sterile overly tight DM/core, they wrote some (very) heavy songs, too.
Interesting album, this one. Don’t think I’ve quite given it all the time it deserves, but another I’ve liked this year that doesn’t just sit in a box. It starts from Death Metal but doesn’t stay there.
OBITUARY – Inked In Blood
Really good comeback album. Big grooves. Big riffs. Great tunes. Well done. Best Obi’s album since ‘Cause of Death’ , for me.
ORIGIN – Omnipresent
This is a relentless fucker, this one. Love the aggression, love the riffing, love the technicality, love how much it just wants to punch you in the ear drums.
SLEEP OF MONSTERS – Produces Reason
Babylon Whores are one of my “hidden treasures”, probably the most underrated band of all time, always loved Ike’s vocals, too. He doesn’t quite hit it with his new outfit, but some cool gothy, dark/death rock going on. Grabbed this one for review as soon as it appeared in the inbox. https://ghostcultmag.com/sleep-of-monsters-produces-reason/
SLUGDGE – Gastronomicon
Only heard this once so far, but really impressed me on first go, will be getting a fair few listens going forward. Interesting modern melodic death metal.
2014 seems to have been the year that symphonic metallers Within Temptation proved their status as one of metal’s modern giants. Arena tour shows across the globe including in the notoriously difficult to tackle UK market (which sees very few bands of our world reach such heights, and still stumble), the announcement of their return to BloodstockOpen Air in 2015 as main stage headliners, and a new album in Hydra (BMG/Nuclear Blast) which epitomised their grandiosity (and even got songs onto Radio 2). This double live release is a showcase of what to expect from this special act.
The first half sees the long awaited release of their 15th anniversary show Elements (BMG) from Antwerp, with accompaniment from Il Novecentro Orchestra, whilst the second is taken from their Amsterdam show this year in support of Hydra (for clarity this review is based on the audio and not the video content). Both sets have significance for different reasons and it is commendable for this reason instead of a lazy release of near identikit sets. Encompassing and celebrating the band’s history, Elements proved a milestone show with a wealth of rarities and guest appearances from ex members such as Martjin Westerholt, plus a large chunk of their well received The Unforgiving (Roadrunner) album, which was released the previous year.
The accompanying orchestra adds an extra element of boldness to proceedings, making the likes of ‘Stand My Ground’ sound absolutely colossal. Not to mention that WT are always a reliably impressive live act; with Sharon den Adel showcasing her talismanic presence.
The second set may not have the gravitas of celebration of its predecessor but is still a huge statement of their strength as a live act. In support of their latest effort, this shares some set similarities but holds a significant chunk of Hydra (opener ‘Let Us Burn’ leaving no prisoners), particular highlight being ‘Dangerous’ with guest vocals by Howard Jones projected via video screen. Yes it would have been great to have the collaborators perform live, and the clumsy ‘And We Run’ could have been omitted from the set altogether, but this shows that even on a more standard booking, Within Temptation are a true live presence.
Fans will of course lap this up, and the uninterested will not have their minds changed, but nevertheless this is a fine exhibition of one of our worlds largest entities (whether you like it or not) in their natural environment.
Four listens. That’s all it took for nearly every song to stick in the brain, earworms wriggling around, squirming to the front of the consciousness and replaying chorus after verse after chorus after guitar-line. Four listens to go from “Yeah, this is alright” to sporting a big grin on my chops and belting out (awful tone-deaf) sing-a-longs to each track in my car.
Hydra (BMG) is the third release in the 10 years since Within Temptation shot to everyone’s attention with the symphonic metal masterpiece of Silent Force. Not as “metal” as Silent Force, nor as gothic as The Heart of Everything,Hydra sits as a more as bed-sister to 2011’s excellent The Unforgiving, which showcased a more uptempo, heavy rock bent.
With the exception of ‘And We Run’ (featuring Xzibit, which it’s fair to say is no ‘Bring The Noize’), Within Temptation bring the house down with a selection of great songs. Yes, actual songs. Really, really good ones. While the band themselves have promoted this as a diverse album, don’t be fooled, Hydra sits very comfortable inside the WT oeuvre, but what it does do is showcase the various sides of the band, each song focusing on one facet of their style, showing that they can do breathy William Orbit type pop (‘Edge of the World’), midtempo stomp ‘Let It Burn’ and melancholy and sincere (the excellent ‘The Whole World Is Watching’, featuring the distinctive David Pirner of Soul Asylum). But where Within Temptation really excel is when they let themselves go, and succumb to the joy of rocking out. ‘Silver Moonlight’ and ‘Roses’ are a great mid-album grin-prompting pairing, all fist-pumping and huge chorusing, while the album highlight ‘Paradise (What About Us)’ sees Sharon den Adel trading lines with Tarja Turunen.
Sonically Hydra is incredible; a superb vibrant production by long-term WT producer Daniel Gibson that screams “huge” while balancing the mix of vulnerability and power, and den Adel is in great form. But ultimately the star of the show is a raft of infectious, well-written songs. Hydra is packed full of anthems, and will stand tall as one of the most enjoyable albums of the year.