Friday, June 24, 2011

October Tide - A Thin Shell (2010)

During a temporary Katatonia break-up, singer Jonas Renkse and guitarist Fredrik Norrman launched October Tide. After one album together, and a second which saw Renkse replaced on vocal duties, the group disbanded. But in 2010, they rose from the ashes, with Norrman as the sole founding member remaining. Surrounded by a new band, including two members of progressive death metal outfit In Mourning, October Tide has returned to unveil "A Thin Shell."

With the pacing of strong death/doom, "The Custodian Of Science" wastes no time getting your head moving. A low, raspy growl builds from the fog. Even when the music fades back, those screams continue at their deafening best. Distorted plucking and the repeated thud of a kick drums are the car, the distressed vocals are the driver. A short, ethereal interlude offers a breath of fresh air, before having it crushed from your lungs. The aggression does not fade in "Deplorable Request," with guitars taking a chugging route through the verse. Sometimes lost in the overwhelming distortion is the intricate chord work, which becomes more evident in the more delicate midsection and the rare solo. The screams range from the guttural to the abrasive, with thunderous drum beats giving support.

Changing things up, "A Nighttime Project" plays to the more restrained side, allowing some of that impressive writing to shine through in a brilliant dual guitar intro. One plays an acoustic progression, the other whines over the top. The light tapping of drums enters, creating a noticeable groove. The beauty fades, and "Darkness Devours" begins, which is definitely a fitting flow. The slow, deliberate chugging returns, and the vocal abuse takes a hold of you. There is a detectable pain in the lyrics, delivered in a powerful manner here. The music explodes as the chorus begins. The violent pairing of screams and growls draws you in, while scaring you senseless.

The tempo increases on "The Dividing Line," letting the guitar drive the music forward. The drumming is rock solid, but never wavers from the pattern. Only an occasional roll or fill stands out from the rest. The vocals seem to grow more deafening with each passing track. Some blistering solo work sets "Fragile" in motion,  a track that is anything but. Even during the lighter portions, there is nothing delicate about this. Guitars chug through with distortion, but are not restricted to the lower registers. Smooth bass work gets a starring roll during down times, while guitars command attention.

The closing track, "Scorned" is death/doom at it's core. The drum beat is slow, almost crawling along. Kick, snare, cymbal combinations are all you need. The guitars are dreary, sucking the emotion out of you with each note. Vocals enter, every bit as draining to hear as they are to deliver. These are not songs of happiness and life. These are songs of depression, songs of loss and pain. And delivery is key to conveying that. It is a down tempo, torturous style. And "Scorned" embodies all of those things. Bang your head, but not for pleasure.

It is certainly possible to read the history of this band, and think you will be getting a Katatonia clone. But that could not be farther from reality. With Norrman no longer in Katatonia, and Renkse no longer in October Tide, the similarities are simply nonexistent. With this album, the band have entered the death/doom fray, one that seems to be growing in popularity. And among the titans of the genre, they may seem to fall short. But, I hope, we can crack through "A Thin Shell" and be treated to something more substantial.


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