I had heard a lot of good things about “Winter Enclosure”, the debut of Norwegian all-girl band OCTAVIA SPERATI, even though I never managed to hear it for myself. Frodi had brought up comparisons to “Mandylion”-era THE GATHERING, some BLACK SABBATH and THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL, which are three bands that I enjoy quite a bit, so when “Grace Submerged” showed up in my mailbox, I was intrigued.
Supported by male drummer Ivar Alver, the sextet seems to be roughly continuing what they had started on their debut and I can understand why Frodi had a lot of kind words for the album, as the girls put the right priorities into their songs, with good heaviness, great melodies and nice atmosphere, convincing through the music alone, instead of trying to just play the girl card or standing out as anomaly. Silje Wergeland has a powerful voice, which is a far cry from the often fragile sopranos that haunt the scene, while the guitars add a nice brick, whereas the keyboards are mostly only used to accentuate the compositions, often used as piano, instead of lathering the songs with thick, lush carpets.
The band divides the stylistic duties well between the songs, putting the emphasis on Gothic here, Doom there and pure atmosphere in others, creating an emotional whole, while still maintaining distinct differences in-between the compositions. If I had to pick one example for each, then “Guilty I Am” would be Gothic, “Moonlit” Doom and “Dead End Poem” for atmosphere, so if you listen to these songs, you should get a pretty good impression of what OCTAVIA SPERATI are about. Together with “Guilty I Am” my personal favourite is “…And Then The World Froze” with its strong melodies and heavy guitars, while the THIN LIZZY cover version “Don’t Believe A Word” is hardly recognizable as such, as it only consists of piano and vocals, portraying a very introspective approach to the song.
Frodi’s main beef with the debut had been the production, as I said, I can’t compare, but “Grace Submerged” has a nicely voluminous and warm sound to highlight the shifts in emotions and the details, so my guess is that they addressed the problem adequately. Surely OCTAVIA SPERATI’s sound will need some getting used to, but overall the quality delivered is way too high to put them down as “just a girl band”, because this beats many male bands by miles!
(Online July 25, 2007)