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Epic and Aggressive Melodic Metal - 80%

TheUnhinged, February 11th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Candlelight Records (Enhanced)

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.