Otep’s latest record Hydra is both a first and a last for the band. It is their first concept album, but it shall be their last record. Hydra sees Otep unleash tales of horror on the listener. The story follows a girl who must fight inner demons, while battling abuse, rape, and mental hospitals, before she becomes a “vigilante serial assassin, codename: Hydra.”
Hydra is Otep’s most experimental record, and as a final album, boundaries have been pushed. Nothing is off limits. No subject matter too taboo. If it’s going to be the last record, might as well make it memorable, right? And Hydra certainly is memorable. Every song tells it’s own story, yet to completely appreciate and understand the journey the album is best listened to from start to finish in one setting. The entire tone of the record feels similar to that of their 2004 record House of Secrets.
When I first got Hydra I put my headphones on, got into bed and listened to the record with no distractions. Honestly, it was frightening. In that respect, Hydra is a great album. It does what it sets out to. It tells a story, it shocks the listener, and there are some great metal songs on there, but it’s not without its flaws.
For an album that is basically everyone’s worst nightmare put to music, there is a lot of groove here. It’s hard not to move your body to “Seduce and Destroy” with the instrumentation maintaining a steady groove, as Otep’s vocals take on an innocently sinister edge. The first single “Apex Predator” enters serious groove territory. Those familiar with Otep are aware of her penchant for rap vocals, “Apex Predator,” abandons the urban rap of tracks such as “T.R.I.C”, instead adopting a hip hop vocal melody, over a simple synth trip-hop beat. The heaviness of Otep returns in “Crush” – a love story with a twist, while “Hag” is the heaviest on the album, running along the same vein as “Crooked Spoons”, and “Ghostflowers” (The Ascension – 2007).
Never adhering to traditional genres, Otep has always included spoken word tracks on their records. Being the concept album that Hydra is, where it’s the lyrics that are the most important, as every note played, drum hit, sample used has the sole purpose of driving the story, giving the lyrics life, spoken word tracks are certainly not missing on this record. The problem with going down this road is that at times the instrumentation can get a little boring. I do enjoy Otep’s poetry, and find the spoken word tracks both beautiful and creepy; “Voyeur” being the epitome of that feeling. Although their purpose is understood, particularly on this record, they do tend to go on a bit long and almost break the flow of the record.
All in all though, Hydra is a great piece of work, one that we already know the Tribe loves. It’s not your typical metal album, but it’s not meant to be. It’s a story, a journey, horror come to life. Combine that with some amazing metal songs and Otep goes out with a bang…well, with a terrifying scream after 17-minutes of silence.