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Otep Live @ The Hifi Bar, Melbourne, Australia

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Overheard in the audience before Otep hit the stage was a seemingly innocent enough question: ‘Who do you reckon would win in a fight between Otep Shamaya and Maria Brink (In This Moment)?’ – The answer: riotous laughter, and rightly so. Otep Shamaya is the epitome of furious female rage, spitting venom with every word, covered in tattoos that look more like angry pages of a teenage diary than anything trendy and modern that would get her in tattoo magazine centrefolds. Her sexuality is rage, power and hate, and tonight she brought it in droves.

Tour support act and definite crowd favourites Darkc3ll looked exactly like they sounded, and sounded exactly like they looked. Clad in outfits that looked like they’d been dragged behind their tour bus, dreadlocks longer than their guitar straps and faces covered in grease, they played a tight, loud hybrid of Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Murderdolls and Rammstein. Their early 2000’s industrial party metal sound got the crowd off their feet and up against the barricades moshing, a fitting warm up for the onslaught to come.

Otep stormed onto the stage flanked by a bassist in an executioner’s hood and a guitarist looking more or less like Bane joined a metal band. Opener Eet The Children set the theme for the evening with her quiet, breathy little girl tone singing lullabies that segue into a ripping guttural scream. She poses the question: “Don’t they know I’m insane?!” with white contacts and eyes rolling back in her head, regressing to a troubled childhood one minute and roaring about capitalist greed the next, the resounding response was “Yes”.

Crooked Spoons showed Shamaya’s amazing crowd connection; regularly interacting with the audience between songs which presented her as an incredibly likeable and endearing character in spite of the passionate female rage she spat into the microphone. Apex Predator offered a stripped back groove, charismatic and infused with the trademark hip-hop phrasing she utilises in a way that still manages to keep them out of the cringeworthy nu-metal basket of acts better left unnamed. The dynamic vocals of WarHead started with raging roars emanating from the very pit of her belly, then kicked up a gear into a blood-curdling shriek denoting a world of pain in her past.

There’s no secret that Otep Shamaya really IS the band in this case, having recently replaced the entire backing band with members of Destrophy who, faceless and masked, seem to drive that point home. An incredibly tight and true-to-recording sound with punishing drums and deafening guitars blend seamlessly into the backing tracks that beef up their live sound. Although she interacts with them very little onstage, instead focusing entirely on the audience, they are at her beck and call. They race up to the front of the crowd and scream and yell in unison with her, pumping their fists whenever possible with an infectious enthusiasm that presents a truly united front.

The set was closed with a bezerk cover of Nirvana’s Breed as recorded on their 2007 album The Ascension, and in between shadow boxing and gracious Buddhist bows she thanked Sydney for being so awesome tonight. A resounding chant of “OTEP, OTEP, OTEP” called them back onstage after the shortest encore break ever, busting out crowd favourite of the evening Rise, Rebel, Resist.

Almost the second the house lights came up she was at the merch desk signing and meeting fans.

The energy Otep and her band bring to the stage is truly electrifying, and for Melbourne fans it’s been a long time coming for their debut Australian tour. All in all, an inspiring, energetic and aggressive night of metal that sounds and looks nothing like the words ‘female-fronted’ imply.

Photos By Nelli Scarlet

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