hydraOtep describe themselves as an “artcore collective,” I think that says it all.

It is difficult to talk about this band without becoming sarcastic. I heard some songs on 2009’s Smash the Control Machine, which struck me as activism-obsessed liberal mallcore, heavily influenced by Slipknot and Hed(pe), with an annoying female vocalist. But it was music. When you pressed play, loud noise boomed around the place.

When you press play on this, the only loud noise booming around the place is the sound of your uncontrollable laughter. Hydra is practically a spoken word album. It’s 70 minutes long, with at least 50 of those minutes being angsty mutterings, ambient noise, or silence. What a retarded idea. Who the fuck wants to listen to this?

Finding good songs on STCM required a bit of dumpster diving. On Hydra there are very few songs at all, let alone good ones, so all you can do is enjoy the occasional inspired moment. “Hag” has these Nile-sounding blastbeats. “Blowtorch Nightlight” gets really uptempo and fun in the last 40 seconds. Other tracks like “Seduce and Destroy” have heavy guitars but are just utterly boring and limp along like Captain Ahab and Professor X in a three-legged race.

The rest of the album is just a book on tape with a few fragments of metal riffs and keyboard melodies. Otep Shamaya’s voice is the only consistent factor: it is consistently annoying. Whisper… BLAAARGGHHHHH… whiiiiiine…

In general I’m wary of bands with political or socially conscious lyrics, no matter what those lyrics are. When you have (hypothetically) catchy, entertaining music, write lyrics about Iraq, and fill a thundering stadium with fans…are so you deluded to think that your political views are the reason they bought tickets? Do you think that you’re now the leader of a social movement? Henry Rollins is the classic example of a guy crossing his urine streams in such a way. He keeps trying to reinvent himself as some kind of poet/activist, when all anybody truly cares about is a punk rock album he made thirty years ago.

Otep is a bit behind the eightball (they haven’t made a great album yet) but the principle is the same. In general, the bands that become famous for political lyrics do so because of novelty, not because the lyrics themselves are that compelling. In an ocean of brainless Ramones soundalikes, The Clash’s lyrics stood out. In an ocean of brainless speed metal bands, Metallica’s lyrics stood out. If The Clash or Metallica had submitted their political views to an op-ed piece, they would have sunk without a trace. Even in “seen it all” 2013, it’s not ridiculously common for metal bands to address political issues (I’m talking about actual, in-depth commentary, not “fuck the system!” or “support the troops!”), and when you’ve got a female vegetarian lesbian as the singer of your band, then you have more novelty value than most. But that’s all it is: novelty. If you’re a metal band famous for political lyrics, it’s not your brilliant opinions people are noticing. They notice you because you are like a dog that has learned to walk on its hind legs.

The long-ass closing track “Theophagy” just goes on and on forever, repeating itself like a broken record. Recurrent lyric: “I will rise like a Hydra / from the ash.” I assume she’s talking about a phoenix. The Hydra doesn’t rise from the ash. Fire is how you kill it (or at least Hercules did), so ash is the last place you’d expect a Hydra to rise from. And “Hydra” is a proper noun. It refers to a specific, singular monster. Saying “I will rise like a Hydra” is like saying “I will bike through France with a needle in my butt like a Lance Armstrong.”

If you like this band, get a life.

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