Octavia Sperati - Winter Enclosure -Candlelight Records 2005
10 Songs
Running Time: 40:41

Octavia Sperati calls the frozen lands of Bergen, Norway home. The album is titled Winter Enclosure, despite its release date falling somewhere near the heart of summer. Black metal, right? Hardly. Instead of mining already-stripped "trv kvlt" mines of their homeland for the most "grimm" sounds imaginable, this six-piece ensemble wrap plodding doom in luxuriant soundscapes, much like Draconian Times-era Paradise Lost or even certain moments of Madder Mortem.

We enter the Winter Enclosure with the introduction track quickly giving way to 'Lifelines Of Depths'. Octavia Sperati brings a cold, forlorn feeling to the material and, beautiful though it is, there is an abiding loneliness in much of the material here. The production is thick and rich, allowing songs like 'Soundless' the space they need to stretch out and become quite expansive. The band injects a slight rock edge into 'Soundless' (and a few other songs), but it does nothing to deter the sadness inherent in this form of music. There's a cavernous depth to 'Icebound', but not in the wrist-slitting noose-tying style of the more funereal Scepticism and Tergothon. Octavia Sperati goes a long way in making the case that one need not immerse themselves in half-hour catatonia to know what it's like to ache. The piano/vocal duet that begins 'Hymn' is soon overtaken by a subdued, hypnotic riff that would pulverize if cranked to 11 in a live setting. As it is here, though, the leadwork is fluid and could almost be described as languid, were it not so skillfully executed. Shades of The Gathering's classic Mandylion colour Winter Enclosure now and again, but most noticeably in 'Hunting Eye', which shifts in mood like ocean tides on the shores of the Norwegian coastline. In songs like this, you can feel the water level rising with an uptempo rhythm, only to be pulled back out to sea on the slow, frozen tide of a guitar solo. Octavia Sperati make no secret of their reliance on synths to enhance (and sometimes drive) their music, but when they're done so tastefully, I have no complaint. 'Wasted On The Living' recalls My Dying Bride at times, but it's with two-part album closer 'Without Air' that the band really stretches themselves, and creates something magical. 'Without Air (Before)' shimmers (ableit darkly) with acoustic/vocal interplay, a solo piano joining the piece before a massive doom riff comes out of nowhere, crashing over you in waves of tears, turning in on itself and morphing seamlessly into 'Without Air (After)', which gives Winter Enclosure one of the most captivating endings I've heard thus far this year.

In a scene where nearly every band with a female vocalist wants to be the next Evanescence or Nightwish, Norway's Octavia Sperati have crafted an album that is non-confrontational yet original. Though I can see where the casual listener may write them off, Winter Enclosure is an album that grows on you with repeated - and deserved - exposure.


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