Otep Sevas Tra

I truly believe that the female death metal vocalist requires a skill above and beyond that of her male counterparts. Los Angeles-based Otep are my evidence for this theory. Their debut CD, Sevas Tra, is a beautiful balance of poetic and painful lyrics, deep rhythms from the bass and drum combo, courtesy of eVILj and Moke, and death-rooted rap, but the real story of the band is in lead vocalist Otep Shamaya. She takes a highly feminine voice, which is obvious from the breathy song intros and spoken word segments, and slices it up into a raspy bark that stands on the same platform as any of its death metal cousins. But this album is also unabashedly deeper than others in the genre. Shamaya's lyrics tell intricate and sometimes well-detailed stories, particularly in "Battle Ready" and "Possession," that reveal her level of intelligence. The band, which also includes Rob on guitars, creates the hard base that supports Shamaya's art like a frame. Not interfering but very present, it rocks on the edge of progressive while still staying true to the metal roots. Sevas Tra is an abstract album with stunning packaging. (EMI)