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An odd atmosphere, but one that works - 90%

PorcupineOfDoom, March 1st, 2015

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.