I’m going to start this review with a more general rant not specifically directed at Octavians, although they have fallen plague to one of my pet hates. Octavians define their genre as “alternative rock” and I’m never really sure what that means. In fact I’m pretty sure it means nothing. I understand that no-one wants to claim their music isn’t unique in some way and I figure the “alternative” label kind of justifies that, but it gives no clue as to what you’re about to hear! I’ve heard everything from pop, to indie, to techo, to metal all described as “alternative rock” and it confuses and irritates me… I’d give that genre a re-think guys.
Well with that out of the way, Octavians second EP Artless is a pretty solid effort from the Cardiff based 4-piece. They’re not doing anything you won’t have heard elsewhere before, but they’re doing it well and I assume having a good time doing it! It has a certain level of variety to offer that makes looking at each song individually worth it, so let’s do just that.
A wise man once told me, someone will make a decision about a band after 10 seconds of listening, so I think it was a risk to start the EP with an A cappella introduction. I’m unsure if it will pay off because you simply have to have some beautiful harmonies to get away with this. You might even put new listeners off with this, quite probably someone like myself.
This intro is followed by a catchy little guitar lick and then finally, When the drums kick in, it’s a complete turn around. And as if they’ve just realised what they’re here to do, the song immediately slaps you in the jowls with a bunch of attitude.
It’s a pretty standard “rock” song however, punctuated by the odd calm moments you’d expect from the genre. The one thing it lacks, for a band that clearly values vocals, are some solid hooks. On the whole though It’s actually a slightly plain introduction to a pretty good collection of songs.
Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I Don’t
I can tell why they picked this song for the music video, it’s got itself a much more ballsy intro. I’m subconciously head bopping a little bit by my second listen
through, so that’s a good sign! To me it would make a much more solid start the EP. We’ve got some really funky closure In Moscow-esque guitar and bass during the verses and the drums just sit where they need to. The chorus is much catchier as well, with some relatively memorable vocal melodies.
The mid song solo feels a bit forced and it starts to drag as it nears the minute mark. I actually prefer the percussion in this particular section, it gives off some Latino vibes that stop this dragging the rest of the song down with it.
As a side note, the little drag in the beat at 2:15 in is a neat little touch and a few more subtle nuances like this could really make the song (and the entire EP) that little bit more interesting
Fiction Into Motion
Hey, check out this sexy intro! They should have make this the featured song! …ahem, anyway.
The vocals start to make more sense to me here, with everything else grooving behind them nicely it all finally comes together. Stacato’s the name of the game and every instrument sits nicely on top the others. A slightly dull chorus in a song that needs a huge one to keep up with the really nice verses seems a shame to me. We get one last ounce of funk before the song cuts off and it works really well. It’s my personal highlight of the EP and definitely worth checking out.
Ah another EP/ Album named after “the calm track”. I mean, that’s all this song really is, the “chilled one”. It works, it suites their style and sits nicely in the track lineup, but it’s not gunna be the song that wins you over. Unless that’s your kind of thing of course. There’s still not much melody going on and it’s more about the singer cramming his thoughts in to each bar. Which is fine, it’s just a shame that this seems to kind of be poetically driven but the lyrics aren’t available on bandcamp, they all sort of fly by before I can catch a word of it. It does cascade in to a crescendo before trailing off at the end, making the song feel a little more worth while.
Joie de Vivre
This song is pretty comparable in style to Every Success and the two songs sandwich the album in to a sort of consistency, but again it’s not breaking in to any new territory. We’re led out of the album by some more catchy little guitar riffs and builds to a pretty straight up and strong outro.
I have to say that this kind of run of the mill generic rock isn’t exactly my cup of tea and they haven’t managed to generate that WOW factor where I just have to replay a song. I give it 3 apples and half a bunch of bananas out of a full fruit bowl. But I’m a tough egg to crack and they nearly had me with some strong material in the middle three tracks. I’d like to see them live to see if they can up their game and win me over 100%.
Words by Daniel Gibbon