Sound: October Tide lives once again in the shadows of Katatonia. Formed by Jonas Renkse and Fredrik Norrman in 1995, the project was only facilitated by a brief hiatus of the now-legendary Stockholm mopesters; they entered dormancy in 1999, with a self-imposed press embargo leaving the media with few traces of their presence. However, the name (and particularly that of the underground relic Rain Without End') has lived on thanks to the many successful ventures of its members you could probably click your way to any band in Sweden from their Metal Archives page and with Fredrik Norrman's departure from Katatonia last year, a window for October Tide to return presented itself.
It's good timing on Mr. Norrman's part. With the growing success of Swallow The Sun, Daylight Dies and, of course, Katatonia, the world's appetite for shiny, melodic death/doom has never been greater, but having been out of action for so long makes things sort of tough for October Tide. It's a challenge to stay true to the name and hold onto its relevance, especially when four of the five members are brand new. The first few hearings are pleasantly spent, lapping up waves of riffs as they come, but sooner or later you have to question where the real sense of doom is. It's not a question of genre, more a question of what's driving it; the mournful' leads resume their positions over aching' chord suspensions, but they seem to have spawned from necessity rather than emotion. Chronology be damned, they sound like Swallow The Sun here, and it's a similarity that's difficult to forget about. // 6
Lyrics: Grey Dawn', the band's sophomore effort, was not as warmly received as the band may have hoped. While they had a more than capable vocalist in Mrten Hansen (of melodic death legends A Canorous Quintet) the people wanted Jonas Renkse, who still played drums and guitars, to return to harsh vocals. This time around, Renkse plays no part whatsoever, but in his absence is Tobias Netzell, of In Mourning fame. He's suitably famous but, in the context of this album, suitably unspectacular. Lows or highs, the lyrics are difficult to decipher and that prevents them from adding any atmospheric contrast. // 5
Overall Impression: There are moments where the stars align - Blackness Devours' and Fragile', to be precise but these are great ideas that struggle to be heard, not ideas that raise the album's standard generally. Perhaps something's just been lost in translation. The performances are as good as you'd expect from the star-studded cast, but if there is honesty and heartache behind it all, it's not relayed to the listener as well as it could have been.
Since the 90s, younger bands have arrived on the scene, stricken with all manners of gloom, and they've played their hearts out to try and satiate the unquenchable thirst that musicians feel. The more-than-capable lineup has kept A Thin Shell' afloat but seems to have sacrificed passion and conviction to deal with the October Tide name, and all the unfinished business that came with it. // 6
- Duncan Geddes (c) 2010