"Art is war," proclaims Otep Shamaya. The singer for the L.A.-based metal-fusion band Otep considers herself a revolutionary. She makes cathartic art via visceral screams and songs that sear the ears like hot grease. Her lyrics are laden with apocryphal poetics about religion, politics, love, and loathing. She's also a big fan of Jim Morrison, and his influence surfaces in lyrics like "Here in the serial-killer holy land/It's not over." Despite constant lineup changes (bassist eViL J is the only other remaining original member of the band) and a label switch (the group took its latest album, The_Ascension, from Capitol to Koch, which delayed its release for more than six months), Otep sounds better than ever. The_Ascension is filled with fierce, provocative songs (like the raging "Eat the Children" and the pummeling "Crooked Spoons"), but balanced with a few ornamented, sophisticated numbers — most notably the piano-laced power ballad "Perfectly Flawed." Shamaya refers to the band's live performances as "ritual," often incorporating severed baby-doll heads and decapitated pig craniums in the experience. Enjoy!