Gildan's Guide to Good Music: Octavia Sperati - Grace Submerged

Gildan's Guide to Good Music

The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.

As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives[1], most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!

What I aim to accomplish with these articles is to showcase quality albums from bands you've[2] never heard of, in the hopes that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews has found them useful[3].

Tonight I'll be examining a band that's something of a rarity in the field of Metal - read on to see what I mean!



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Octavia Sperati

Grace Submerged

Musical Genre: Gothic Rock/Metal, Doom Metal (sort of, it's complicated)
Running Time: 37 minutes
# of Tracks: 10
Particularly noteworthy songs: Guilty Am I, The Final Rest

It's no great secret that Metal is, for the most part, a genre mostly comprised of men. Sure, there are more than a few female-fronted groups, many of which are among my favorite metal acts as they also tend to fall somewhere in the symphonic metal category and I adore symphonic music, but the existence of female-fronted metal acts doesn't really do as much to temper the testosterone fest that is Metal as you might think, because the following broad generalization is almost always completely accurate:

If a metal band includes members of both genders, there will be just one woman and she's their vocalist - it's like a rule or something.

As you might have gathered from my tangent about demographics, Octavia Sperati's lineup doesn't conform to those trends - they were an all-female band from Norway. I say "were" because lineup changes over the years have introduced a single male member (on drums) - as far as I'm aware the band still exists, though they've been on hiatus since the release of their second album (which is this one).

So apart from the whole "they're mostly women" thing, how would I describe their sound? That's actually kind of tricky - I listed a couple of genres but Octavia Sperati aren't really any of those things: they're too heavy to be Gothic Rock, but not heavy enough to be Gothic Metal, and they're definitely not a Doom Metal band, even though the music press would probably refer to them as such. What they are is a band that mixes ethereal female vocals with Black Sabbath-influenced guitars (which is where the Doom Metal miss-classification comes from), preserving the general tone and lyrical content typical of the Gothic sub-genre while abandoning the Black Metal influences that other Gothic Metal bands usually employ to some degree.

Their vocalist Silje Wergeland has a voice that reminds me more than a little of Anneke van Giersbergen, former lead singer of the Dutch Ambient Metal band The Gathering, which I suppose is rather fitting, as Silje has in fact joined The Gathering as Anneke's replacement[4]. With the exception of Don't Believe A Word, a quiet ballad (and Thin Lizzy cover) where the keyboard comes to the fore alongside Silje, and Submerged, the closing instrumental track, the songs on this album are a contrast in dynamics between two extremes - wistful introspective female vocals, and the down-tuned roar of the 3 guitars (2 conventional, one bass). The percussion is invariably audible (but understated), but the keyboard provides quiet accompaniment that you could be forgiven for missing entirely on most of the tracks - it's easy to understand why the band gets labeled (incorrectly) as a Doom Metal outfit given the prominence and style of the guitars.

The end result is a mixture I find quite compelling, though I'm under no illusions that everyone else will share my viewpoint, and for good reason: this is not a happy album. It's not a particularly sad one either mind you, but the somber tone and pervasive melancholic vibe will probably put some people off (upbeat catchy radio-friendly fare this is not). Conversely, fans of more 'brooding' music may find Octavia Sperati to be almost minimalistic in their approach when compared to the more elaborate and bombastic tone many ostensibly similar bands have, and therefore write them off - which would be a mistake, as there's a certain purity to their guitar-heavy tunes that sets them apart. In a genre where adding full choirs/guest orchestras/you name it is practically the default, it's actually rather refreshing to hear a group playing complicated radio-unfriendly fare with an almost elegant simplicity.

Looking back at what I just wrote, I've concluded that I'm apparently terrible at explaining this, so I'll make one last ditch effort before shutting up and letting you make your own darn conclusions by listening to it for yourself: Take a good look at the album artwork - how does it make you feel? Well that's what Octavia Sperati sounds like, but probably with more chugging guitars (yes I know that doesn't make a lot of sense).


If you're anything like me, you probably enjoyed that - my only real complaint with the album is that it's just too darn short, heh (like this "review")[5]. Whether you liked them or not though, thanks for reading the only guide to music that is written by a fellow calling himself Gildan - accept no substitutes or imitations!

Other entries in Gildan's Guide to Good Music

Orphaned Land - The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR
Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day
Ride The Sky - New Protection
Karmakanic - Who's The Boss In The Factory?
The Romanovs - ...And The Moon Was Hungry...
Penumbra - Seclusion
Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything
Virgin Black - Requiem - Mezzo Forte
Allen/Lande - The Battle
Devin Townsend Project - Addicted
Todesbonden - Sleep Now, Quiet Forest
Beyond Twilight - Section X
Katatonia - Night Is The New Day
After Forever - After Forever
The 69 Eyes - Back In Blood
Red Circuit - Homeland
Hurt - Vol. 1
Myrath - Desert Call
Ayreon - The Human Equation
Nocturnal Rites - The 8th Sin
Witchbreed - Heretic Rapture
Arjen A. Lucassen's Star One - Victims Of The Modern Age
Agua de Annique - Pure Air
Joe Bonamassa - The Ballad of John Henry
Taal - Skymind

Want to be notified whenever I post a new Guide to Good Music article? Well now you can join the Guide to Good Music notification service group, and receive a notification whenever I post a new Guide to Good Music article! Huzzah.

[1] In which case it is certainly good music, but you don't really need me to tell you about it, now do you?
[2] Certainly true of the average person on the street, but there's always the possibility that as a member of The Escapist you have indeed heard of some of the various bands I review, in which case you get a (metaphorical) high five.
[3] Whether that's always the case is debatable, as these articles of mine generally don't receive a great deal of comments or views - but that's okay, since I write mainly to amuse myself. Feedback, while nice, is merely an optional extra.
[4] What this will mean for the future of Octavia Sperati is uncertain.
[5] Short by Metal standards anyways, conventional Rock albums often clock somewhere around the 40 minute mark or less

This review seemed a bit short this time around, there was only about 3 paragraphs of actual review. Pick out a few songs and talk about them for a while. That usually works well for me.

Stranger of Sorts:
This review seemed a bit short this time around, there was only about 3 paragraphs of actual review.

Well it is a short album, so it makes sense that it would be a short review, wouldn't it? No? Not buying that explanation eh?

Okay, fair enough, I made it longer - turns out I'd omitted an entire paragraph I had planned out in my head but then skipped over when actually typing it up, plus I clarified a couple of points - I hope you're happy!

Also now I'm curious what you thought of the music itself.

Gildan Bladeborn:

Stranger of Sorts:
This review seemed a bit short this time around, there was only about 3 paragraphs of actual review.

Well it is a short album, so it makes sense that it would be a short review, wouldn't it? No? Not buying that explanation eh?

Okay, fair enough, I made it longer - turns out I'd omitted an entire paragraph I had planned out in my head but then skipped over when actually typing it up, plus I clarified a couple of points - I hope your happy!

Also now I'm curious what you thought of the music itself.

Much better. Ah I'm afraid I'm not too much of a fan, I can understand why you think otherwise as the song you've given me is pretty good. The problem I have is that there isn't enough variation; there is one part where it slows down a bit but it is neither long enough nor particularly well done.

Stranger of Sorts:
Ah I'm afraid I'm not too much of a fan, I can understand why you think otherwise as the song you've given me is pretty good. The problem I have is that there isn't enough variation; there is one part where it slows down a bit but it is neither long enough nor particularly well done.

Well technically I gave you three songs, I just put the other two in a spoiler tag, but fair enough - as I pointed out, it's not really music I expect would be widely liked if only a wider audience knew they existed.

 

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