Opheliac - Emilie Autumn

reviewed by lec** | Sunday, November 16 2008 @ 18:58:43 GMT        

Cover art

Opheliac

Release date: September 22, 2006
Length: 85:41
Genre: Dark Cabaret, Industrial

Tracklist
  1. Opheliac
  2. Swallow
  3. Liar
  4. The Art of Suicide
  5. I Want My Innocence Back
  6. Misery Loves Company
  7. God Help Me
  8. Shalott
  9. Gothic Lolita
  10. Dead is the New Alive
  11. I Know Where You Sleep
  12. Let the Record Show
7/10
superb
Reviews » Music

Your rating: [n/a]

Emilie Autumn is a Californian violinist and singer-songwriter known for her wide range of musical styles, particularly her use of theatrics. I'm uncertain as to who Autumn's listeners are, but her dramatic dark cabaret/classical and industrial blend of music is pretty appealing. The album I'm about to review is not a recent release, so as usual I'm doing it solely because I find it worth reviewing.

Autumn is unmistakably a creative, unique and fascinating composer. Whether you like her music depends greatly on whether you have a natural affinity for drama and theatrics, and Victorian, baroque and renaissance music. This more classical streak is mixed with a darker, industrial/darkwave influence, together realised in an environment of synthpop. Emilie Autumn's style isn't heavy listening at all, her music is frilly and lacy and quite content-sounding mostly, something juxtaposed with the mysterious, dark and threatening bursts of high-pitched electronic-industrial sounds and bass. Among her more recent and more popular releases is Opheliac, released on September 22, 2006, an album that combines industrial and dance beats, harpsichord and Autumn's trademark distorted violin with a unique classical approach, dramatic screaming and singing. The album is immersed in a palpable gothic feel, and could be among the top albums to feature such a powerful presence of the gothic aesthetic. It has its imperfections though. Some are more severe and potentially detrimental than others, yet the good aspects adequately compensate the less favourable - this album is more than enjoyable.

Among the best songs on this album is the first track, which shares the name of the album, Opheliac. Right away, Miss Autumn will draw you into her music, immediately displaying her more classically-influenced side with a minute-long harpsichord intro, after which the music kicks off into the domain of dance and industrial. Opheliac might not be my recommendation for a first listener, because her musical execution of the chorus (by screaming) may put off a number of listeners. However, judging by the cover art, no one would buy this album and not expect to hear something akin to it (a friend once noted she looked emo - thought I would note that as a possible first impression, though it is incorrect). Not long into the song, you will hear a violin, and Emilie Autumn's characteristic Victorian feel will become obvious. Apart from this, the bass line and the recurring high-pitched electronic clicks are very appealing to me. The song is childishly dramatic, a trait that is prominent in practically the whole album, and a good one in my opinion.

The sixth song in line, Misery Loves Company is probably the great highlight of the entire album, and a personal favourite. It's a superb piece of its genre, fusing the best elements of Emilie's music - violin, harpsichord and synth, pockmarked by what I consider to be ever-cool electronic effects. This was the first Emilie Autumn song I heard, and the chorus was what especially made me realise the value of her music. The transitions in key are just unusual enough to keep you off balance, interesting enough to make you want to hear it again. This track, like several others, has a characteristic of being happy and sad at the same time, skippy and dramatic. The tune is highly catchy and original, the verses being a fierce call-and-response between Emilie and herself which flow smoothly into the slower and more creamy chorus. The other songs are also very good, so here's something about each:

Swallow, which is the second song of the album, is more pop-influenced - refreshing after the drama in the prior song - and again laden with electronic pulses and plenty of violin. It's a solid, typical Emile Autumn song, yet perhaps a bit too long (6:13) which doesn't get boring, but the many repeats just seem unnecessary.

Number three, Liar, is a song I usually skip when I listen to this album. It is pretty noisy and industrial sounding, but it can get a bit boring, in particular in the chorus where Emilie just repeats "liar" over and over. The "are you suffering?" part is cheesy and angsty enough to make me never include it in a playlist I'm listening to with someone (and wince if I ever play it in solitude). All in all, the distortions are cool and the goth/industrial feel is prominent, but far from the best song on the album.

The Art of Suicide is another great song. It's a depressed, classical-sounding song which has enough of Emilie Autumn's musical "skippiness" in it to stop it being a ballad. "Why live a life that's painted with pity and sadness and strife? Why dream a dream that's tainted with trouble and less than it seems?" sings Emilie. The subtle electronic touches (high-pitched pops and clicks) are wicked, though the song is long enough to become monotonous, but still is enjoyable and free of too much drama (which is distributed across the album in precisely the right measure).

I Want My Innocence Back, being the 5th song, is too repetitive and flat to have been included in an otherwise great album. This is probably my least favourite song, despite its gothy feel. Another skip-happy track.

Track seven, God Help Me, starts with a jumpy staccato-rich jazzy piano intro backed with violin, and later a great deep electronic beat. Despite the religious context (which actually isn't as bad as it sounds right away) the song is actually quite good, at least at the start. Unfortunately, it is overly repetitive and devoid of any expected twists, but being another "situational piece", it's a neat song.

Shallot (track number eight), is another great classically-influenced song, apparently telling the tale of some maiden locked in some tower. It's moderately fast, ballad-like and greatly improved by electronic effects. One of the jewels of this album, alongside Opheliac and Misery Loves Company.

Gothic Lolita, the ninth track, is significantly more dramatic that the song before it. Gothic Lolita starts with a really cool sweet-sounding tune (after the intro harpsichord) that at the same time could be what death itself sounds like. Though it engages the listener in an experience that lasts over 6 minutes, it manages to stay interesting enough even with the the constantly repeating sections.

By the time you get to track 10, you may be tired from the numerous repeats present in the songs, and this may sound like another one of them. Though it's not a very innovative song in regards to the rest of the album, it features a freaking awesome violin solo worthy of something from heavy metal right in the middle. Otherwise, it's more of a filler song than anything you'll single out as your favourite.

Nearing the end, you will have the opportunity to hear the penultimate song of the album, I know where you sleep. It's angry, it's dark and it's very fast. Also very experimental in respect to the album as a whole. It puts together a whole lot of Emilie's wicked fast singing with something resembling sing-song like chanting. Strange and unnerving throughout, it ends rather abruptly. The extremely chaotic nature may not appeal to all, but it's among my favourites for being so original.

Finally, Let The Record Show, the last song. Again, it's fast-paced and a good ending to a good album. It could be a bit on the generic side, but I like it for its catchy tune.

The album in whole is appealing, but contains enough mediocre tracks distributed across it not to make it a favourite. It makes for good listening and you'll enjoy it if you accept the drama and "confessional" approach as a conscious feature instead of an annoying drawback. Also, I consider the frilly, light and fluffy atmosphere to be a major appeal factor, especially contrasted with the darker and meaner emotions, something that Emilie (again) does very well. The album actually comes as double disc release, with disc one being what I've just reviewed, and disc two containing some extra tracks, read poems and several bonus video clips.

Finally...
A very enjoyable album, despite imperfections (a lot of repetition, and some parts where the dramatic note is overemphasised) which may be more noticeable if you're not into the genre.

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