Sound — 9
In her 2005 album, Emilie Autumn finally starts to develop a unique and eclectic sound. Opheliac takes the instrumentation of Schwarz Stein, the breaks of Mindless Self Indulgence, the voice of a more feminine Amy Lee, the mindset of Amanda Palmer, all set to the general mood of Malice Mizer. I know, it sounds a bit odd, but Emilie throws in enough of her own touches to make a very accessible and catchy album. There is definitely a 1980's darkwave influence. This can be seen best in the intro to Misery Loves Company. Emilie also does something almost unseen in any genre; she puts heavy distortion on her violin and shreds. I mean she really shreds. The sounds is somewhere between Jack White and Yngwie Malmsteen. Okay, now I'm really starting to sound crazy. But I'm serious. Take White's Digitech Whammy soloing and Malmsteen's neoclassical arpeggios. The best example of this is about 2:30 into Dead Is The New Alive. The instrument setup is very typical for a goth or darkwave album. Plenty of simple synths, drum loops, all layered below strings, harpsichords, and the occasional piano. There really isn't much more than that. The only things disappointed about the album is the production quality could be better. I'm not saying that it sounds like a bad recording. I just think that the recording should have been as dramatic as the music itself. For example, in the title song, the verses build up dramatically and climax into a screaming chorus. However, the chorus sounds like it was recorded at the same levels as the verse. It's not emphasized in any way; it's not any louder or powerful. Also in Shallot, hearing Emilie inhale between lines makes an otherwise balanced song seem almost amateur. I'm not trying to nitpick small details. There are good parts of the production, also. Some of the stereo effects make the album very different and very interesting in headphones.
Lyrics — 8
Opheliac is a concept album. Most of the songs revolve around the subjects of women, death, water, drowning, and literature. The title track gets its name from Ophelia, Hamlet's lover who drowned while picking flowers. Swallow follows the drowning theme, and the album becomes more varying after that. Shallot is based on the story of Elaine, The Lady of Shallot, who died while floating up the river Shallot towards Camelot due to a curse. The rest of the album rolls around death and dying to effectively create a gothic atmosphere. Of course, the lyrics won't be appealing to everybody. Don't listen to the album with high expectations of great elaborate lyrics. While Emilie's not always eloquent, she's effective at creating a dark, moody album. Emilie's voice accents her writing with a decent range. She occasionally throws something new in the mixture by screaming, shrieking, growling, scowling, or riding a falsetto. She gives the illusion of a vocalist gone completely insane.
Overall Impression — 9
There aren't many American goth artists left. Most have fallen and resorted to moving to emo, punk, rock, or just fading out due to lack of support. I would say that Emilie Autumn is one of the last goth musicians left. And she really makes up for the shortage with Opheliac. She never comes off as repetitive. Every song is unique and catchy. Even the most uneventful songs on the album, like God Help Me, have their hooks. In the case of God Help Me, it's a fast-paced Malice Mizer goes to the carnival harpsichord solo. Emilie's a very talented musician. Unlike what tends to happen when a guitarist or pianist writes a song, she doesn't stick to chord progressions. She makes her songs epic and dramatic. There isn't a single song on the album that isn't worth listening. However, each are unique for different reasons. Opheliac (the title song) shows off her experimental vocals, unique audio effects, and dramatic screaming. She brings it down with Swallow, a slower song with interesting pacing. Liar is her metal song, with a growling bridge and angry shouting. The Art of Suicide is elegant and flowing. I Want My Innocence Back reprises Liar's angry mood, backed by a house club beat. Misery Loves Company starts off sounding like an old Sega game, until the violins come in and create the baroque feel of the song. God Help Me just reminds me of Evanescence until the bridge. Shalott is, to me, the highlight of the album. The lyrics are a passionate retelling of The Lady Of Shallot aided by an epic structure. Gothic Lolita shows off Emilie's love for Japanese rock, with a glitchy intro leading into a dark song inspired by a good balance of the Harajuku elegant goth sound with Jpop-inspired backup vocals. Dead Is The New Alive is slower song with dark verses, bright choruses, and a crying violin intro and solo. One of the most unusual songs is I Know Where You Sleep, which sounds like a goth poem set to a march. She also throws in a baroque bridge before a break that makes me wonder if she's trying to sound like Mindless Self Indulgence. The album ends with what's probably the gothiest song on the album. The special edition two-disk adds in some more decent songs, such as the baroque Marry Me and the almost tongue-in-cheek Thank God I'm Pretty, in addition to some poetry (which isn't half bad) and some extra neat things. In all, this is a decent album. However, it will only appeal to some people. Opheliac is so unique, you shouldn't listen to it with any expectations or you'll be disappointed. Though if you're the type of person that hasn't bought a new album since Mana stopped crossdressing, then go online and buy Opheliac. You won't be let down.