In this series we look back into the year 2013 by reviewing an album from this year every other week.
On January 22, 2013 – ten years before this article was posted – LA’s Nu and Alternative Metal released their sixth studio album „Hydra“ via Victory Records. Although being the least successful album by Otep since the 2002 debut „Sevas Tra“, „Hydra“ is an album worth revisiting.
„Hydra“ is a concept album that is based on Otep Shamaya’s novel „None Shall Sleep“. Novel and album present the story an anti-hero who calls herself Hydra. Ejected from society, the exiled protagonist gathers new strength by making revenge plans, and rising from her one ashes becoming the messiah of her own dark story.
The album contains several inserted pieces of the novel that are read by Otep mastermind Shamaya. The insertions add a deeply theatralic and cinematic aura to the heavily crushing soundscapes of the album. „Hydra“ thus becomes sort of a Nu Metal opera – musical drama for the hard-headed.
The sixth longplayer by Otep marks the end of the record deal with Victory Records and was thus the last album of the pre-Napalm Records era. The 72-minute Nu Metal narrative features Otep Shamaya on vocals and voices, Aristotle on guitars and programming, and Collyn McCoy on bass guitar. It was the only Otep album featuring a drum computer; Chase Brickenden left the band after „Sounds Like A Revolution“ and „Justin Kier“ joined after „Hydra“ was out.
Although, Otep Shamaya planned for „Hydra“ to be the final Otep album, the concept album’s story was a very personal one for the musician. Before the Napalm Records deal breathed new life into the creative process, Shamaya stated to be highly disillusioned with the status quo of the music industry in the mid-early 2010s. Seeing a severe decline om record sales in general and in the interest for musical niches in particular, Otep Shamaya felt like it was time to end her musical career. Nevertheless, she uttered a strong admiration for her protagonist Hydra. Whether the protagonist’s rise from the ashes was inspiration for the artist to go on can only be guessed.
The parts in which Shamaya reads from the novel let the listeners follow the narrative better. For those about to bang their heads only, this Mussorgski-like feature may be a little disruptive. But „Hydra“ is far from being a simple Nu Metal jackhammer anyways. Besides the thrilling storyline, Otep present a stunningly dystopian and sophisticatedly heavy soundscape. „Hydra“ combines the innovative approach to Nu Metal of (very) early KoRn with the savage brachiality of Gay For Johnny Depp (although less dynamic) and the sonorously stomping force of Kylesa. The sludgy elements especially make „Hydra“ stand out from the masses of Alternative and Nu Metal releases.
With ‚Apex Predator‘ as its absolute highlight, Otep’s „Hydra“ is a thrilling and cohesive concept album that is outrageously underrated.
Next up in this series: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II