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Otep Shamaya rising with new album, `The Ascension'.

Byline: Scott McLennan

Musician and writer Otep Shamaya put a literary spin on the way her namesake band Otep works.

"Not every chapter in a book is the same, but is somehow important to the story. If every chapter was the same, the book would be pretty boring," Shamaya explained.

Keeping to her way of thinking, it is fair to say that Otep's new album "The Ascension" is a climactic chapter in the tale of her band. Shelved for months as the band wrangled out of one record contract and into another, "The Ascension" was finally released in October by Koch Records. Playing out as Otep's most diverse project to date, "The Ascension" made good on its suspenseful buildup.

"We're proud of this album. It was tough waiting for it to come out. But patience paid off," Shamaya said. "This album is where we fully figured out how to experiment with a true fusion of music. We are not a traditional rock band, or a traditional metal band, or a traditional grunge band, or a traditional punk band. But all those kinds of music are important to us."

Expect plenty of those ingredients to be part of Otep's show tomorrow at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester, when the band opens for Hellyeah (the new band featuring Pantera/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul with members of Mudvayne and Nothingface. The show begins at 8 p.m. and also features Bloodsimple and Provocate.

Otep took on a variety of song stylings for "The Ascension," overcoming its nu-metal branding with tunes such as the slower-paced "Perfectly Flawed," clever interpretation of Nirvana's "Breed," and the furious political flow of "Confrontation." The band also included plenty of its patented aggro-metal on the new disc, with songs such as "Eet the Children" and "Noose & Nail" standing out. The critical response to the record has been good, with the more artistic side of Otep finally coming through as clearly as its more obviously brutal aspects.

Shamaya and bassist Evil J. McGuire have held together the band since 2000. Her fiery and frantic performance style matched up with his menacing and studied approach to the music gives Otep a nice balance of forces. Guitarist Karma Cheema and drummer Brian Wolff are the newest members.

Otep got its break when Sharon Osbourne liked what she saw in the band and invited it to be part of the Ozzfest tour in 2001, which was before the band even had record-label backing, much less an album out.

The group eventually landed on Capitol Records and put out the EP "Jihad" and full-length debut "Sevas Tra."

The charismatic singer promoted her band at every level, reaching out directly to fans via the Web where she sparked dialogs about how to get help for depression, domestic violence and sexual harassment - all troubling touchstones that inspire some of her own writing.

While getting plenty of feedback from its audience, Otep does not necessarily use that as a compass for its work.

"We change and evolve naturally with every record," Shamaya said. "I guess we put the question to the fans and see if they will follow us."

Otep kept its momentum going through additional appearances at Ozzfest in 2002 and 2004 and with the release of "House of Secrets."

While the business end of the band was turning ugly ahead of the release of "The Ascension," it did yield one good idea for the record. The band's former management wanted Otep to record a cover song, something the band never wanted to do.

"Our old management browbeat us for a cover song. They'd yell at us, `Japan wants a cover song for a single.' We said OK, but we weren't going to do a song just because it was popular. It had to be a song that meant something to me," Shamaya said.

The choices came down to The Doors' "Not to Touch the Earth" and Nirvana's "Breed." Shamaya settled on "Breed" and retooled the songs in such fashion that Kurt Cobain's lyrics seem all the sharper given her more full-bodied treatment of them.

"When you do something like that, you have to put your own stamp on it," she said.

And the breadth of that stamp can be found across the rest of "The Ascension."

Scott McLennan can be reached at tgmusic1@yahoo.com

Hellyeah, Otep and others

When: 8 p.m. tomorrow

Where: The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester

How much: $25 in advance, $27 at the door

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Otep Shamaya and friends will set the stage for Hellyeah tomorrow at The Palladium.

PHOTOG: SAM THORNE
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 6, 2007
Words:766
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