Since its release last year, Otep's second CD, House Of Secrets, has been painted by the media as a politically charged album, to the dismay of singer Otep Shamaya. Much of that image stems from the scathingly anti-Bush single "Warhead," which attacks the current administration's policies on Iraq.
"There's only one song on the record that I think is of a political nature at all," Shamaya says of "Warhead." "People just sort of grazed over things and take along with them the quickest and easiest idea they can grab. ... Most fans, once they get past that and get into the other aspects of the record, know that it's much more of a personal album for me. It is my views, my opinions and my reflections on myself and the world around me. And that's all most art is. It's personal."
Personal history aside, one thing is clear: Shamaya is absolutely uncompromising when it comes to her art, its message, its sound and even musicians with whom she will collaborate.
The band is now on its third guitarist (Scotty CH) and second drummer (Doug Pellerin) since forming in the fall of 2000; along with Shamaya, only bassist eViL j can claim to be an original Otep member.
"It takes quite a bit to be in a band like this without killing each other," Shamaya says. "The aggression you hear on our records ... it's a true expression of who we are. It's hard to find people, I think, who are in music for the right reasons. Most people are in it for the celebrity or the notoriety or the money, the drugs or the girls. But none of that is what I started this band for."
On House Of Secrets, however, another kindred artistic spirit, producer Greg Wells, plays a key role. A veteran of sessions with the Deftones, Michelle Branch and famed metal producer Terry Date, Wells wrote the music to Shamaya's lyrics on six of the disc's 12 songs and shares writing credits on three additional tracks.
From all appearances, Wells may be part of the Otep creative team for some time to come.
"I'm not a musician," Shamaya says. "I can compose and arrange, but I can't play the instruments. I don't know that part of it. ... And what I got from working with him was just this subtle and amazing musicianship, because Greg is one of the most accomplished musicians that I've ever met or ever known. He brought this comfort level and this vulnerability to what I could do and there were no limits, no laws. The only law was there was no law."
Songs like "Sepsis," "Warhead" and "Hooks & Splinters" are roiling masses of barbed guitars, bludgeoning beats and screamed lyrics. Quiet interludes -- tense because of the lack of volume -- make the loud material seem that much more extreme. Clearly, this isn't the album to play if you want melodic hooks or pleasant background music.
Re-creating the fury and the radical shifts between eerie quiet and roaring rock in a live setting would seem to be a challenge. But Shamaya says Otep, if anything, delivers a more complete experience in concert.
"We are so focused on perfecting our live show so that we can master what you hear on the record," she says. "It will translate sometimes even better in the live show because you can actually see the emotions in our faces. You can feel the intensity within our bodies in a live performance, and you can actually see the buildup as opposed to just hearing it, because the record only really attacks one of the senses where the live show is a complete and total mutiny of all your senses."
-- Alan Sculley
The Mouth of Madness Tour featuring Otep
Navajo Hogan, 2817 N. Nevada Ave.
Sunday, May 22, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show; call 632-5490 for more.