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I have a habit of stumbling over bands that seem to play a mix of many genres but not really take on one particular genre as their primary influence. That's the case with Octavia Sperati, a normally simple blend of doom and gothic metal seemingly not being enough for them. So what have they done? Symphonic elements are thrown in, along with some prog and even a bit of drone find their way onto Grace Submerged. Maybe that doesn't sound that appealing, but the music is very accomplished and a very captivating listen.
If you've read my reviews before then you'll know that doom is something that I tend not to like. For a band like Octavia Sperati this is naturally going to be a setback, as doom is one of the most prominent elements in their music. Actually though, I find myself enjoying the doom elements more than many of the gothic parts (which is a turn up for the books, to say the least). It's generally when the doom elements enter that the music becomes heavy and powerful rather than light and entirely atmospheric, and that generally makes the music more exciting here.
The atmosphere is a big part of the band. The singer puts forward a very emotive performance right across Grace Submerged, and she's got some voice to go with the emotions she shows. She seems able to do everything, both high and low, both delicate and powerful. She's a very good asset for the rest of the band. Of course, it isn't entirely her that's putting out the atmosphere, what with the keyboards lacing a strangely happy (even if they switch to darker stuff at times) mood into the music very nicely with a subtle presence behind everything else. This contrasts harshly with the dark droning that comes from the guitars at the forefront, but for some reason it all works very well. It never feels like they're trying to put two polar opposites together, but in some ways they are.
Things that are missing? Well, there are points that I think growls could have worked better than the cleans that are used, but at the end of the day it wouldn't have changed that much. Sometimes I wish that the guitars were more creative, maybe stick a few inventive solo sections in there or something, but then they'd risk losing the unique atmosphere that exists here. It's a tough call, but I'd say that the band were probably better off playing it safe than doing something that ruins their otherwise excellent work.
I'm not a fan of the production though. I don't know what it is, but for some reason the guitars tend to wash everything else away when they're in full-swing. The vocals suddenly have to become those of a powerhouse to reach the front of the band, and the drumming ceases to exist altogether, the keyboards very nearly meeting the same fate. And that's not the only issue, as there are quite a few noticeable gaps in the guitars and at times they almost seem to be out of time with the rest of the band. It doesn't have too big an impact on the band's performance, but it is a little annoying.
I've commented previously on all (or mostly in this case) female metal bands and how they have to do something different from the norm to impress me. And Octavia Sperati have managed to do that here, with their unique take on atmospheric metal. Very well done and worth listening to for anyone who likes music with atmosphere.
Octavia Sperati was a melodic doomy metal band from Norway with predominately female members. Lead vocalist Silje Wergeland would eventually become the new singer of The Gathering, while guitarist Gyri Smørdal Losnegaard would also join Tristania, putting this band on an indefinite hiatus. Although those two aforementioned bands have a lot more notoriety and more acclaimed works under their belts, I think it's a shame that this project had to be put on ice as the members go on to greener pastures. Although the band has never had that much of a chance to become all that well-known, they have shown some great potential in their style. After gaining a little bit of positive attention with their Winter Enclosure album, Octavia Sperati came out with the equally impressive Grace Submerged before drifting into their hiatus.
I can't really name a reason why I chose to review this album over the band's first, as I find the two to be on par with each other. Perhaps it was because, after owning both albums for years, I decided to give it a play on my way to work the other day and thought "hey, this is pretty good, I can see why I liked this before". Before I knew it, I had repeated the album a good three or four times. With its catchy tunes, contagious energy, and generally pleasant atmosphere, it's hard not to get at least a little bit addicted to the band's groovy and doomy style of modern "gothic metal". I can't particularly say it's gothic, though it's not quite doom, symphonic, nor progressive metal. It just sort of is what it is, and whatever it is, I think it's done pretty well.
Although pianos are incorporated quite frequently, this is very guitar and vocal based music. The riffs range from Sabbathian doom riffs to soaring epic upbeat passages. Songs like 'Moonlit' and 'The Final Rest' demonstrate this diversity the best, as slow and gloomy paces build up to some intense climactic sections with slick guitar melodies and fast drumming patterns. It's been discussed that the band takes influences from classic heavy metal, stoner/doom, and even second wave black metal, and those subtle nuances really start to stand out with each listen. The band is good about stepping out of the comfort zone that a lot of melodic-sounding metal bands tend to confine themselves to, as they are inclusive of a heavy rhythm section, loud and thick sounding bass lines, and even some blastbeats here and there. This, of course, is mostly lightened by the soaring and crystal clear voice of Silje. Her mid-range voice is obviously akin to Anneke van Giersbergen, and it's pretty understandable why she later became her replacement. They both have powerful, emotional, non-operatic singing voices that flow gently like wine. No melodrama, grandiosity, or shrillness is to be found in the vocal department.
One aspect I find enjoyable about the music is how the pianos are incorporated into the chords. Although the usage of keyboards is nothing new in metal, Octavia Sperati use a tasteful amount of grand piano alongside the guitar harmonies, as opposed to immersing the music is cheesy faux-symphonies and organs. This brings me to mentioning the band's odd rendition of Thin Lizzy's song, Don't Believe a Word. Instead of composing a kickass recreation with heavy chords in slick sound quality, the band decided to turn the classic track into a quiet piano and violin ballad. The guitar melodies of the original song are removed entirely, leaving the focus on Silje's voice and the rhythm section being played on the piano. As a fan of the original, I have to say I didn't care for this cover, and find it to be the weakest track on the album. 'Dead End Poem', however, is a ballad done well, as a slow build up and a captivating atmosphere pull the quieter and simpler track off to avoid sounding stale and boring.
Though the comparison to The Gathering is just too easy, I find this to sound particularly close to Nighttime Birds in the best way possible; an atmospheric and ambiguous style of metal with melodic guitar lines, a wintry ambiance, and a lead singer whose voice is as soft as silk. Of course, this album is heavier and a bit more diverse, which keeps it sounding fresh and unique as opposed to a carbon copy. Some other modern bands who I feel have pulled off a similar style would include The Foreshadowing, Madder Mortem, and Ava Inferi, with the latter perhaps being the most comparable to this album. Overall, I find that the album is worthy of recommendation to those who enjoy melodic sounding doom and gothic metal with nice clean singing.
Octavia Sperati is a mostly all girl band from Norway. They play gothic metal with doom influences. The doom influences are all musical, preferring distorted guitars with slightly slower tempos and heavier riffs. No death growls on the album (might be that the only guy in the band is on drums) which if you are not fan (of death growls), is a positive. Personally I think maybe a couple songs with few lines that are growled would better influence the atmosphere of the album but that is me.
Overall the instrumentation is well done. They create a dark atmosphere of the winters in Norway (which was supposedly and influence on their song writing). They use keyboards and violins sparingly not allowing them to take the place of the guitars. One thing I enjoy best about the album is the heavy use of the guitars. Too often the guitars lose the melodies to symphonies or keyboards. Octavia Sperati does not allow that in there music. In fact it’s almost impossible to tell that there are keyboards (but they are there). As per the gothic metal genre there are almost no guitar solos but both guitarists demonstrate an ability to craft riffs and blend their guitars together really well. One production problem is the drums get dropped out a bit. It’s a bit hard to hear them over the guitars in some places. The bass work is solid and on par with the guitars in the band helping achieve the doomy sound on the album. The vocals are well done. Silje Wergeland has a darker voice but still does an excellent job in adding to the overall feel of the album.
The album opens a little weak with Guilty Am I. The guitars are heavily distorted but the main riff has more of a hard rock feel than a metal feel. Other note worthy songs includes the single released from the album (…And Then the World Froze) and the song that has a music video (Moonlight). These are two extremely well done songs. …And Then the World Froze utilizes an orchestra to create an atmosphere well the riffs carry the song forward. Moonlight is catchy and would probably be a much more solid opener for the album. Other high spots on the album include “Don’t Believe a Word”, a piano ballad with excellent vocals and “Dead End Poem”, also a ballad. The closing song is also rather pointless, with a short two minute symphony outro.
Octavia Sperati demonstrates excellent musical ability with the ability to craft heavy, dark songs but lighter piano ballads as well. Outside of the opening and closing tracks this album is solid. This is recommended to anyone that claims gothic metal as their favorite genre because no collection would be complete with out this album. Octavia Sperati are creative and innovative preferring to create their own sound with out jumping on board with the rest of female fronted goth metal bands.