In the current global market, a Norwegian band comprised entirely of good-looking women seems destined to have A&R executives tripping over their erections in a race to get their checkbooks out. OCTAVIA SPERATI has entered the scene in a low-key fashion so far, making noise at home for several years before finishing a proper debut album, but with the release of "Winter Enclosure", look for their melodic doom rock to turn quite a few heads.
The most immediate comparison upon hearing opener "Lifelines of Depths" would be "Mandylion"-era THE GATHERING. Vocalist Silje has a similar style and phrasing to Anneke van Giersbergen, and the band's music is stately, guitar-driven, slow and a little doomy, with rock undertones. But where THE GATHERING favored more simple, direct and hooky songs at that time, OCTAVIA take a more Goth approach, layering keyboards and making the hooks less obvious.
Songs like "Icebound" start out in hit-single territory, but attain a sonic density as they go that suggests a black metal influence. Listen to the guitar underneath the chorus of the ballad "Hunting Eye" for more proof of this – speed-picking where more commercial-minded bands would go for big open chords and the lowest common denominator. And check out the startling bit of blasting after the chorus of the otherwise rock-oriented "Future Is"!
Not that this is inaccessible music, by any means — its atmosphere and regal aura, and Silje's angelic vocal lines, will captivate most NIGHTWISH fans, as well as admirers of THE GATHERING (a band OCTAVIA is undoubtedly already sick of being compared to). It just fits, though – if that band had maintained a guitar-dominant, metallic sound, they may well have evolved into something just like this.
If there is a complaint about "Winter Enclosure", it is that the band's lack of focus makes the end result less than memorable – the sound is enjoyable, but the songs are lacking. For a debut, especially one this ambitious, it's a minor concern. OCTAVIA SPERATI establish themselves here as a formidable band, and lay a foundation for what should be quite an interesting evolution.