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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.