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I just heard of this band since The Gathering announced that Silje Wergeland was to be the new lead singer of my favorite Dutch band. So I decided to buy Octavia Sperati’s first album to see what I was in for.
To my pleasant surprise, I found an amazing female-fronted Goth metal band. Note that this band is not your generic band such as Epica, Within Temptation, etc. The band members all play important roles on Winter Exposure. Here we have interesting guitar riffs/leads, catchy synth and piano leads, deep doomy bass, varied drums and multi range vocals. Unlike other bands of this genre, OS are not one of those bands who play generic music that just supply background noise for the lead singer. Scattered through out the album, we have atmospheric synth sections, tremolo guitars, spoken words, etc
Winter Exposure has traces of black metal, Goth metal, and doom metal. This album sounds very close to what The Gathering created ten years before this release. Like The Gathering, the songs on Winter Exposure take a while to get into...that’s a good thing. We have songs with lots of depth, not radio friendly Lacuna Coil songs. Songs like Hunting Eye at first may see overwhelming because of the strange vocal performance at the chorus. Few listens later, you will understand its not overwhelming at all but fits the music perfectly.
Songs such as Future Is and Lifelines of Depths are nice rockers. Imagine songs like Strange Machines and Fear the Sea off of The Gathering’s Mandylion. Atmospheric songs such as Hunting Eye, Wasted on the Living, Without Air (Before & After) have a symphonic black metal/doom metal vibe to them.
Artwork is also worth the purchase. Nice ice filled landscapes and pictures of the band…who are very attractive women btw. Also, the colour white is very dominant in the artwork which is a nice change from the typical black graced in most metal album art. Also, some of the boys from Enslaved have ties to this album. I’ll leave that for you to find out.
Coming from out of nowhere this group comprised almost entirely of women managed to create one of the best Gothic/Doom Metal albums in many years. This to some isn't that impressive, to others on the other hand it is, especially considering it was their debut.
The production is sound and the musicianship is good. The guitars utilize a mixture of Doom, 70's Rock and Black Metal riffs into something highly original and incredibly unique. There are no solos but the leads are plentiful. There isn't much palm muting as the band have opted to use a more open chorded approach. The guitars also sound as though they are tuned to standard and if they are using only overdrive. They play off of each other and are very much rooted in the traditional lead and rhythm format.
The bass follows the guitars for the bulk of the recording only sometimes venturing out on her own. The drums are played by a male session musician and they are certainly getting their monies worth. He plays flawlessly throughout the entire album. He even floods in a few places as well. He adds even more depth to the already intense songs.
The keyboards are more in the background and used to add atmosphere and intros. For the most part there are no complaints here. The vocals are yet another unique aspect to this enigma. She doesn't sound trained in that she doesn't fly off the handle like the singers of 'After Forever' & 'Within Temptation'. She has a more average range and style somewhere between Christina Scabbia and Charlotte Wessels. She is a very passionate singer and you can feel her conviction in every note she sings.
The lyrics are about life and relationships and while not profound are considerably well written. The music is incredibly refreshing as it doesn't sound like your typical Gothic-whatever Metal. These women have REAL talent and some very fresh new ideas. There is an epic undertone to the sorrow within. The music is adventurous and intriguing. This is something that all Metallians should own.
Overtly distant and haunting melodies grace this chillingly atmospheric album, which is no bolt from the blue, being that these eleven frostbitten tracks were inspired by the bitter winter of Norway, a country that is dually known for producing both harsh, unforgiving winters and highly talented metal musicians.
Octavia Sperati is no exception, for they have honed their musical craft well. One must look no further than “Lifelines Of Depths” in order to uncover this fact. Glistening with a compellingly frigid majesty, this song successfully captures the essence of the group in fantastic fashion, its epic natured chorus ringing vastly, showing that these songstresses are a musical force that is not to be taken lightly. Vocalist Silje emits ethereal tones that substantially enhance the group’s dark melodies on “Icebound”, a track that is a muscular blast of frostbitten doom that will resonate deeply with fans of Candlemass and My Dying Bride.
Grandiose in scope, “Hunting Eye” commands the listener’s attention with impassioned vocalization, massive rhythms and a sound measure of heartfelt harmony. Offering a layered sound with attention to dramatic tempo shifts, the music of “Winter Enclosure” is an overall agreeable affair for any who choose to indulge in tuneful doom metal, with the aforementioned “Lifelines Of Depths”, “Hunting Eye” and the progressively assembled “Below Zero” being the most conspicuous cuts. This album nevertheless, is not centered on commercial singles and is best taken as a complete body of work. As an overall effort,
“Winter Enclosure” is an extremely sound artistic statement that offers listeners an intrepid musical passage through the moods and emotions of the coldest of seasons with a glistening sonic brilliance.
From "Weapons Of Mass Destruction" by Erin Fox - with permission
I've been listening to Octavia (their original name) on Gotham Radio since their 2002 demo entitled, "Guilty". The songs I heard there was the original version of Lifelines and Solictude. I found both to be fantastic and on completely opposite sides of the fence. Lifelines having a crunchy, dark, ethereal sound while Solictude was a song consisting only of Silje's vocals and a piano sounding purposely out of tune. Both were fantastic and had a dark quality and it was no doubt they'd get signed.
A Winter Enclosure is a fantastic signed debut from these girls. The album starts with a short into to Lifelines of Depths. Right away you're hit with an ambience generating keyboard note a bit reminiscent of old Sabbath and a creepy sounding guitar then Lifelines begins with the guitars and the double bass. Fantastic. The song is a bit progressive in texture and overall structure. You'll also be brought into Silje's vocals. While they are feminine, she rocks. I was trying to figure out what was up with her voice, but it took me some time to put my finger on it. She's got a bit of that Bruce Dickinson quality to her, but not in sound. Rather, it's that she's got tremendous range to her voice and she uses it from soaring highs to a bit of almost spoken word. Bruce will "adjust" the way he says the words to fit the music to an extreme degree rather than rewriting and Silje is no different. She also harmonizes and uses her voice to make vocal fills with the words.
Soundless comes next, a bit fun and punky in sound, but the heavy guitars and time changes prevail. Overall, it's an ok song. The drums are fantastic. I used to think girls and drums don't mix, but not here. I still can't really figure out if it was Silje R. or Hege and if the latter is a chick or not (damn Norwegian names), but regardless, the drum performance is fantastic. Hard hitting with imaginative fills, a progressive edge, and just overall fantastic musicianship coupled to a great tuning and recording job to bring it to life.
Icebound is another good one. A bit heavier, more grinding, and less melodic.
Hymn is a short intro with Silje's vocals and piano. Nothing too dark, but leads right into Hunting Eye. I guess these two are the give backs to the record company to bring up something more marketable as a single or something. Nothing bad in the least, and not an Evanescence knock-off or anything by any means, but if this was Candlemass, the record company wouldn't have asked them to play this. Regardless, it's a great song, it's just a bit too turned down compared to the rest of the album. Some clean guitars and once again, some great percussion. Tone's keys are right there, but there is some fill for ambience, but it's low in the mix.
Track seven is entitled "Future Is" and in my opinion, this is where the album really comes alive and showcases what these "pissed off chicks from Norway" can do. This track begins with a short melody and verse then BAM it goes right into the drums and guitars. This is a melodic track with different passages and even a mild blastbeat section followed by a "clearing" with Silje's voice coming into the forefront. While these girls don't really play speed metal, they speed it up to show they can with an ethereal vocal melody added on and then another build up with some great drum work. Now don't be fooled; I'm not saying these girls are Symphony X or Dream Theater at their instruments, but I think they're great songwriters and for doom, it works. Gyri and Bodil work really well together and use some pretty nicely contrasting sounds.
My personal favorite: Below Zero. This is the song I heard on Gotham that sold me on the album, the rest unheard. It starts off with a tribal drumming pattern, reminiscent of Sabbath and some heavy and evil guitar sounds. The whole song has not so much of a dark sound as it is evil. Silje's voice is clear and moved to the front and has a "soaring" quality to it. Awesome ambience generated by Tone's keyboards here coupled with Trine's bass.
Wasted on the Living- another fantastic one. The guitars start of the song with similar sounds as Below Zero and then feedback used for ambience leading into the song with some weird guitar sounds that remind me of Celtic Frost's Into the Pandemonium. Tom brought in guitarists that used old and one of a kind guitars to generate some of those weird sounds without synthesizers. They added that creepy and dark feel to the music. Some simulataneous piano and ambience sounds played together. Silje's vocals are turned a bit down and she winds into more of a speaking performance. Whatever she's doing here, it does fit. She truly uses her voice as an instrument, whereas too many others use it just for words.
Album closer: Without Air (Before) & Without Air (After). Before is a bit of a quiet, simple song that builds. The dual guitars + bass are simple and creepy I use creepy as opposed to dark, specifically. The mix goes down, leaving only one guitar and Silje's voice which was captured very well and leads into After, more of a crushing doom song than most of the rest. Percussion is fantastic in sound and there is a huge sound to the guitars. Silje's voice is processed on this one, but not to a huge degree. It still soars and gets louder with the music and just ends.
Overall, this is in my top ten albums of 2005, including many purchases from goth to prog to death. These girls made a fantastic showing their first time around and showed that girls can rock. They do a good job of making the doom sound exciting and fresh and not boring after the 100th listen, perhaps owing to a bit of a progressive flare I mentioned above. Not perfect, but the strengths outweigh the weaknesses by a large margin. I think there's a lot of potential here and hopefully they can find a new drummer that can match Hege's performance.
Ok, I was tempted to round the score up to an even 90, with the two points for being hot chicks that rock, but I'm going to be fair and that means leaving my sexist ways out of this.
I don't know if it is because I expected too much out of Octavia Sperati - all-female band, Norwegian, influenced by black metal bands, especially Ensvaled and Immortal - but I find this CD rather...boring. Disappointing and frustrating, almost.
The first song I heard off "Winter Enclosure" was "Lifelines of Depth" and I remember thinking instantly: "this is SO not what I had in mind". Silje, the vocalist, has an angelical and remarkable voice (certainly the best about Octavia alongside with the keyboards), but the guitars are just lame. I miss the fat, big chords - the riffs alone just WON'T do it this time.
I also believe that vocals should definitely be in a higher volume when the band plays gothic / doom metal, but here I don't think it's really that...fair. I'm not sure, though, if I get that impression because the "guitar work" isn't that good, but the first impression is that something is...missing.
Octavia shows their "mellow" songs from the middle part of this CD, which are much, much better than their "heavy" ones. "Hymn", for example, which is more of an intro to "Hunting Eye" (this one also a type of "ballad) and features just Silje's voice and Tone's pianos, is absolutely beautiful. I believe Octavia is a better band playing soft songs, or at least accepting that they, at this very moment (I can't say in the future, though), they are better playing lighter melodies.
I would recommend for anyone who is curious to listen to something by this band, to skip the first three tracks and do not pay mucch attention to "Future is", which begins amazing, but come on, the blast beat is just so teenager. I mean, there was no need for that, and if there's a huge necessity to show black metal roots, then first I would suggest Bodil and Gyri, the guitarists, to begin studying how to write riffs.
Technical details: although the CD cover is a little too minimalist for me, the booklet is very interesting and the art pleases the eye. The idea of photographing as if inside a huge cube of ice serves the CD name very well. Some lyrics can be real silly too (see "Soundless", for example: "I'm shivering, I'm cold / I'm alone for all time / I am surrounded by love / And endlessly warm / But they can't reach me / Cause I can't open") but in Silje's voice they can sound OK :)
Overall I would say this is a regular full-lenght album to begin your career with and I love the thought that these girls can evolve into something really interesting. What lacks is probably being mature.
Best songs: "Hunting Eye", "Wasted on the Living" and "Without Air (After)".