Singer Otep Shamaya is well-known for her honest lyrics and no-nonsense view on social injustice. You could say she forged herself a career in political activism—set to music, of course. Given the current political climate, now seems like a fitting time for her band OTEP to release their eighth studio album, Kult 45. Shamaya describes it as a “total mutiny of the senses”, with a raw passion that harkens back to the group's roots. It could be the most honest release since their debut album Sevas Tra.
OTEP chose to produce the album themselves, rather than enlisting someone else. Something that was necessary to get the message across the way it was intended. “It's important to me that I'm sending a clear and concise message to the Resistance—the people out there bending the barricades and fighting for justice in this country” Shamaya explains. “We had the freedom to be able to write, record and exist within the songs…” Various musical styles were also considered and incorporated. “Musically, we explore different genres – we’re trying to reach everyone.”
In that respect, Kult 45 accomplishes its mission. Supercharged with a spectrum of news topping issues that are prevalent in our current government. It brings gun violence, the incline of rape being reported in the media, and the escalating immigrant situation to the forefront. It stands up to fanatical religious hypocrisy and fights gender boundaries. One look at the cover photo and you’ll know exactly what to expect. Nothing screams 'anti-establishment' like a rifle-carrying, scantily-dressed woman wearing a blood-splattered Statue of Liberty mask. No, this isn’t the soundtrack to The Purge: Election Day, but I can see where you’d make that connection.
As you might have guess, this is no light scratch on the surface. It digs deep into the heart of each matter, casting a bright light on the dark side of our new American way. Each breath is a firestorm against those in power. Quick and biting lines like “Hey, hey NRA / How many kids did you kill today” (from “Shelter in Place”) abound. There are smart daggers like “moral laryngitis”. Shamaya even suggests that if Jesus Christ was an immigrant, he would likely be a target for ICE. The cherry on top comes in a shot taken directly at President Trump, calling him an “orange whore” in the song “Undefeated." In contrast with that fist-pounding activism, “Be Brave” shines like a gem among rocks. It’s a beautiful and hauntingly melodic track, demonstrating the true talent and diversity of Shamaya’s voice.
Sadly, “Be Brave” feels gravely misplaced, providing the only true breath of fresh air here. Due to the amount of emphasis behind the message of Kult 45, OTEP actually seems to have left it lacking musically. Of course, it’s a strong rally call to change our society’s injustices. However, words can only get you so far. Consequently, the soapbox prose becomes monotonous without something melodic behind it. If you can even get halfway through without feeling like you’re listening to bread going stale, that’s something. Therefore, there is not enough here to satiate—at least for this listener. If you’re as opposed to politics in general as I am, you also won’t find this album worth your while.
Kult 45 comes out July 27th on Napalm Records.