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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Octavia Sperati

Grace Submerged

Review by Gary Hill

Fans of Lacuna Coil should enjoy this CD, but this band is no clone of that one. Often times Octavia Sperati seems more influenced by Black Sabbath than anything else. Sure, the female vocals with a metal band – and rather epic approach – will probably always call to mind Lacuna, but this is a nearly completely different beast. There are moments that transcend metal and lean into progressive rock territory. One song (for my money they only real misstep of the disc) feels like a pure pop ballad. This group is very talented and have produced a great album. While not perfect, this one is not far from it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Guilty Am I
Dark, rather ambient tones lead this off. A killer, mid-paced riff enters and the band build this into a killer epic metal texture. This tends to have a lot more of an old-school metal riff than a lot of music of this type. In fact, there are some very Black Sabbath-like moments here. The slower paced segment late in the track in particular has Sab leanings. This is a smoking piece of music and a great way to start things off in style.
Moonlit
If the last track called to mind Sabbath, you have to hear this. The pounding slab of sound that opens this feels as if it could have come straight off of Volume IV or Master of Reality. They drop it back to a mysterious sounding, sedate segment for the verse, but the bass that drives through the backdrop here is still very much in line with Geezer Butler. When they power back up for tho soaring chorus it's back to that main riff with keys creating extra textures over the top. This alternating motif creates the bulk of the track. The first tune was a great way to lead off the disc, but this is stronger yet. They throw in an almost prog rock segment later and then power out into some seriously powerful territory that brings the song's central themes into some ferocious epic metal territory. This is simply incredible! The Sab returns after this.
Going North
I love the killer riff, again a bit Sabbath-like, that creates the main crux of this track. The vocals here remind me of L7 a bit for some reason. They weave lines of epic textures over the top of this and drop it back to a piano lead journey in the midst of the track. While this one is still strong it doesn't hold up to the first two.
Don't Believe A Word
It seemed like this would be the obvious slot for a ballad and as the piano began spelling out its melody, it seemed the band agreed. This is pretty, but also a bit too “poppy” for my tastes. It seems a waste of the band's talent. It also seems like most of the people who enjoy this disc will probably be reaching for the “next” button here.
...and Then the World Froze
An almost alternative rock mode leads this off. They move out into something that's almost prog rock. The vocals on this track remind me a bit of Edie Brickell for some reason – at least on the first verse. Once it hits the chorus they shift out more towards real metal. This is another cut that's good, but just not up to the level of some of the rest of the disc. For some reason parts of this remind me Kittie or even Hole.
Final Rest
Keys start things here and almost had me thinking we were headed into another ballad. They hold the track for a time, though, but give way to a more pure metal approach. While still fairly slow and plodding this is more in line with the sounds of Lacuna Coil and others. The faster paced riff on this reminds me a bit (musically anyway) of early Metallica and keeps this one from falling into pure mediocrity.
Deprivation
Bass guitar serves up the introduction on this one and holds the track for a time. Other elements enter timidly over the top before they move it out into a moody sort of mellow jam that has elements of blues and jazz in their structure. After the first verse they shift this out more towards metal, but still a warbly sound on the guitars lend a bit of a Chris Isaaks sound to the overtones here. It turns to more real steel later and this is actually both a great change up and another highlight of the album. They return to mellower sounds later in the cut, but not for long, jumping back up into the meat and potatoes.
Provenance of Hate
The main riff on this one is another that's a bit Sabbath-like, but I'd have to say that it's indirectly Sab-like, feeling closer to something by Candlemass to me. This is another powerhouse cut and while it includes some more prog metal moments works quite well. They include enough shifts and changes to keep it interesting, while still holding onto the tasty parts for enough time for them to properly sink in. I like the slower plodding jam a lot, too. This is another standout.
Dead End Poem
While this is essentially another keyboard dominated ballad, it doesn't suffer from the pop leanings of “Don't Believe a Word.” In fact, this is powerful and gets worked up in anthemic fashion as they move forward. It's actually another of the highlights of the disc, serving as a great example of the fact that this band has a lot of talent and ability to stretch out. There are some killer segments here and this is very evocative. I'd have to say that it could be equally at home on a progressive rock or progressive metal disc – nice work!
Submerged
This two minute piece (actually just under two minutes) closes the disc. Starting with some ambient sounds and a quick inhale, keys take over creating mysterious and melancholy tones. This is pretty, but yet there are signs of a dark twisted nature in the overlayers that enter. As they carry on that creepy tone becomes more and more prominent. This instrumental is quite cool and actually a strong way to end the disc – although I would have probably put a more metal cut before it. This is another that could find a home on a progressive rock CD.
 
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