A cult against the 45th
The world is at the height of its bullshit right now, for numerous reasons. Those who turn to music for solace are looking towards their artistic heroes for guidance and relief amidst the chaos, though it’s been a tough battle to face with every passing day. With many artists standing up and speaking out in their own ways, there has always been one who has never wavered in their opinions or considerable radical stances. Otep Shamaya has been a voice of awareness and activism for two decades now, and with the release of Kult 45, Shamaya is keeping up with the faith of her outlook. Musically, the record stays with Otep’s established nu-meets-heavy metal persona. Where the album truly shines, however, is with the way it addresses current issues.
In a 20 minute documentary on the making of Kult 45, titled The Art of Dissent, Shamaya speaks on how she feels this is the most “authentic” record she and her band Otep have ever created. “Things needed to be said and songs needed to be written that reflect the times,” says Shamaya. “We weren’t under anyone else’s agenda, there was no pressure to create a ‘single’ or a song for radio, and the band was really able to shine.” The freedom Otep had creatively allowed them to touch on many current political follies with snark and wit; though Shamaya claims this isn’t a record that totally bashes Trump, there are many instances where his integrity is necessarily challenged.
“Halt Right” and “Molotov” speak specifically to the recent return of hate groups and alt-right factions in outward society, and how civilized beings need to do what’s needed to go against Trump’s allowance of their existence. “This goes out to all the tainted racists and Nazi believers/ Why don’t you go find a bunker/ And follow your fucking leader!” Shamaya shouts on “Molotov” with distinct disdain.
Shamaya also tackles immigration rights, or lack thereof, with “Invisible People,” while rape culture and the unjust verdict of the Brock Turner trial are angrily analyzed on “Trigger Warning.” One of the more important songs on the record, especially to Shamaya herself, is “Shelter in Place.” The song confronts school shootings and gun rights, in dedication to the Parkland students and how they started the March For Our Lives demonstration. “The song itself isn’t specifically anti-gun, but aimed at the hypocrisy of the NRA and certain belief systems that lose sight of what’s truly important — the lives of our children,” says Shamaya.
Kult 45 has a way of ending that solidifies its resonance. First, Otep covers Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up,” before ending with two bonus tracks. The last, “The Tribe Speaks,” features voicemails from fans professing how much the band’s music has positively affected their lives.
As a whole, whether you’re into nu-metal as a style or not, Kult 45 is powerful in its message. Shamaya’s fearless approach at lyrically discussing flagrant issues is needed and appreciated during a time when so many tiptoe around what’s important. If anything, it’s a record that makes those in the movement feel like they’re supported, and those going against it know there’s yet another person working in opposition of them.