Emilie Autumn’s “Opheliac”

I found Emilie Autumn through Last.fm and the first album I bought was her classical/electronic violin album Laced~Unlaced. After listening to her original compositions, and her own renditions of classics such as ‘Largo’ it was obvious she was a very well accomplished classical musician. So what did I expect of Opheliac? Not this, that’s for sure!

It turns out that this album is pretty dark, and has elements of… well, I don’t know what of.  All I know that this album is one hell of a ride. Gone are her violin instrumentals, in with her vocals which range from beautiful, to bizarre, to down right terrible. Terrible in a good way. It appears that she doesn’t care much if she sounds good or not, rather, she just wants to get her point across. I should try to describe the sound to you. There is classical violin, acoustic violin, and electric violin, mixed in with heavy beats and electronic mixing. Any authentic sound is probably some form of a string instrument. She hasn’t the best singing voice in the world, but it’s hardly the point here, she can still sing okay, and she mostly sings straight, but she has some unique vocal techniques and interpretations too. It’s a dark but catchy album.

This album seems loosely based around the Victorian era and literature. Considering the connotations of the Victorian era you get gothic like literature, murder of prostitutes, repressed women, darkness, industrialisation, etc. It’s all here and it is pulled off well.

There are two discs. The first disc is consistently dark. It’s about madness, suicide, murder, rape, anger, alienation, paedophillia, death, stalking and the like. The one exception to this is the light-hearted ‘Swallow’ where you’ll be forgiven if you initially mistake it as an early 90’s Madonna record. It’s very oddly placed on this album, but you won’t regret it being on here. ‘The Art of Suicide’ is another one. It’s not that happy, but the music is a contrast to the lyrical content.

The highlights of the first disc are definitely ‘Opheliac’ (Ophelia was a character in Shakespeare‘s Hamlet and I think it basically means madness in this songs context), ‘Swallow’, ‘Liar’, ‘I Want My Innocence Back’, ‘Misery Loves Company’ and ‘Let The Record Show’. For ‘Opheliac’, you will hear a song quite unlike you have ever heard before. It’s repulsive yet appealing at the same time. She growls in the chorus, and I usually hate growls but it really works for that song. ‘I Want My Innocence Back’ is nothing short of terrifying, do not listen to alone in the dark. ‘Let The Record Show’ is sung from a point of view of a murdered prostitute. Although the content is dark, it’s mega catchy. Her vocals on the verse is genius. The chorus is proper jumping if you have it up loud.

Now for the second disc. There’s not a lot here (three songs, two violin, three spoken poems). Put aside ‘Largo’ and the three poems, which are all okay, I suppose, but not a great listening experience, you have the genius of ‘Dominant’, ‘306’, ‘Thank God I’m Pretty’ and the hilarious ‘Marry Me’. ‘Dominant’ is easily the best track on this disc. It’s an instrumental with the violin and electronic mixing, it sounds like it should be part of a dramatic film score. ‘306’ carries on from where ‘Dominant’ left off, it’s not as good though’. The next two songs are comical. ‘Thank God I’m Pretty’ is Emilie’s sarcastic gratitude for being pretty, it’s not laugh out loud, but will make you smirk. ‘Marry Me’ is absolutely brilliant. Not only does she sing really well in it, it’s also quite funny.  Not to mention that her vocals verge on operatic during the chorus.

The last thing I should mention about Emilie is that she does albums practically by herself. She doesn’t have a team of songwriters, musicians, mixers and a production team; she does it all herself. She writes, performs and produces everything. She is immensely talented, I hope she doesn’t stay in the shadow of obscurity for too much longer even though I understand why she does. I doubt an album like this could ever be widely accepted by a mass audience.

If you want to hear something different, you must buy this album, and do so with an open mind.

nb. This review was written in June 2007 for amazon when I had only just found Emilie, hence why all the gushing in this review for individuality and finding something completely new.  Also note that I hate this review and I have no idea why I am publishing it here.

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