Since making her way onto the metal scene as one of the first Ozzfest performers in the early 2000s after being discovered by Sharon Osbourne, vocalist Otep Shamaya hasn't been lacking on three forefronts:
- Providing heavy, empowering music
- Being outspoken about the world we live in
- Thrusting herself into controversy
Otep's eighth studio album Kult 45 ratchets up the discussion points as she targets the current presidential administration in less-than-flattering terms, school shootings, family-dividing immigration policies and rape culture. Released on July 27, Shamaya brought her self-titled band nine days later to The Rock Box on Sunday to unleash a live version of her outspokenness.
Prior to the performance, Shamaya graciously went 1-on-1 with Alamo True Metal to discuss a variety of political topics plus her homosexuality within the confines of the metal scene and industry. Watch Part 1 of our discussion below and the brief Part 2 conclusion here.
Two days after the gig, Otep unveiled a video for "Shelter in Place," the new song that aims at gun violence in schools featuring the warcry, "Hey, hey, NRA. How many kids did you kill today?" (Watch here). As part of her one hour, 16-minute concert, she played it live, pointing a makeshift revolver at a toy doll with "Traitor" branded across its forehead and a "Where are the children" sign around its neck (ATM Facebook Live footage here). "As you can imagine," Shamaya said at the tune's end, "that song has caused quite a lot of controversy. They say I made the NRA's enemy list. Do you know how many fucks I give? Zero!"
And with that, Shamaya charged into the opening track off her 2016 album Generation Doom.
Also offering up tunes such as "Battle Ready," "Lords of War," "Apex Predator" and new Rage Against The Machine cover "Wake Up," Shamaya and guitarist/bodyguard Aristotle, bassist Drewski Barnes and drummer Justin Kier performed 99 percent of their set in photographer-dreaded red stage lighting that nevertheless was apropos for the lyrical mood and imagery of blood and violence conjured up by their music and messages.
During the interview, Shamaya recounted a tour Otep did with Judas Priest after Rob Halford came out as a gay man in the mid-'90s. Shamaya described how an encounter with a stranger questioning her lesbianism and gender in Hawaii influenced 2016 track "Equal Rights, Equal Lefts." Shamaya had a similar introduction when she played it Sunday: "This song is dedicated to all of those who believe in equality," she said. "It's also a big 'fuck you' to Vice President Mike Pence."
Frequently encouraging the crowd to "throw your fists high in the sky," Shamaya saved her most telling act for last. She placed a makeshift head of Donald Trump on a stump, its mouth covered with an "Impeach Trump" bumper sticker. Spinning it on a swivel, Shamaya introduced "Confrontation" by spitting on the head and flipping it off. She eventually smacked it off the stand and sent it flying (ATM footage here).
All of that still may not be considered by some as volatile as Gwar literally ripping out Trump's heart at last year's Vans Warped Tour (coverage here). But her actions more than made their points. Like her or hate her, agree with her or not, Otep Shamaya is not one to shy away from controversy in the name of standing up for what she believes in while encouraging others to do the same.
And that's what heavy metal is all about.