Most people don't think of the bass player as being integral to any band, especially when the band is named after the singer. When Otep, the namesake nu-metal group of vocalist Otep Shamaya, lost original bassist Jay "Evil J" McGuire last year, they lost the only remaining original member of the band besides Shamaya. That may not seem such a big deal, until you hear the latest Otep album, Atavist, which is the first not to feature McGuire's furiously deep, roiling bass lines. Shamaya's intensity is at an all-time high, both lyrically and vocally. "Demons making monsters / Inject them with the toxin," she sings on "Atom to Adam" before screaming, "Like Ishamel and the whale / Impale, impale, impale." Her roar is still immense, on par with any male metal singer out there, and her self-indulgent poetics are as dark and heady as ever. But musically, it sounds like the bottom fell out of Atavist. The guitar riffs are meaty and furious, but there's just not the same oomph or spring that there was on tracks featuring McGuire, like "Ghostflowers" (from 2007's The Ascension) and "Blood Pigs" (from Otep's 2002 debut, Sevas Tra). Simply put, Atavist is the least heavy of Otep's releases to date. Hopefully, Otep's set list will include a good mix of older, heavier songs, and go light on the newer, dreamier tracks like "We Dream Like Lions" and spoken-word meanderings like "Baby's Breath" and "Bible Belt." — Niki D'Andrea
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