[Locomotive Music; 2002]
Stepa’s self-titled debut is one of nu-metal’s most precious secrets. Passed around in .zip files and Google drives before finally making it to streaming services just this year, Stepa is an
Interscope bankrolled effort that ended up buried, its major label origins are revealed by songs as accessible as the genre’s most successful records while standing well outside of them. An extended psychedelic meditation on innocence close enough to taste but far enough away to be understood as gone, Stepa is filled with fantastical aquariums, Rubiks Cubes, and eye candy intermingling with LucasArts SFX and 7-string guitar. “Confusion, simple brain, stupid frown on a pretty face,” singer Blake Beckman ponders on “Free” like a child staring with open eyes at the adults around him. “When’s- it- my- turn- to explode / Ha ha ha!” Beckmann shrieks on “Mountain”. “I feel so happy I could… I feel so happy I could…” he repeats unfinished like a child whose second serving of mozzarella sticks just touched down. There’s trauma here too, rendered in packicky distant dream logic. “Spaceships and Airplanes,” another seemingly perfect pop-nu-metal glimmer that becomes darker with successive listens, is about the death of Beckmann’s brother in a car accident. “Let him go! Free and strong!” he wails through the breakdown before consoling himself, “I am with you wherever you are right now.” Trafficking real tragedy in the kind of innocent angst nu-metal provides, it’s a deeply touching moment, the beating heart at the center of Stepa’s curiosities.