Review: October Tide “A Thin Shell” [Candlelight Records]

Review: October Tide “A Thin Shell” [Candlelight Records]

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Some bands are best off as side-projects and in hindsight, October Tide are one of the best examples why. From the legendary Rain Without End to the already less-inspired Grey Dawn, the band dwelled in gloomy landscapes for a few years before splitting up; leaving one wondering what could have been.

A Thin Shell marks the band’s comeback and to start off with; October Tide’s identity hasn’t been lost completely. Newcomer Tobias Netzell sounds slightly better than his predecessor with a grounded lower grunt – even if his style sounds fairly identical. Several acoustic passages here and there resemble the band’s earlier works, too and although they’re not necessarily executed as brilliant as before, I’m fine with them in general. The big issue comes down to Fredrik Norrman’s riffs; or lack therefor. Norrman made Rain Without End special with his subtle take on doom/death metal of incredible textures and evocative features. Grey Dawn still had some things going on; even if it already saw the rhythm guitars taking steps back and had several classy leads to intervene. A Thin Shell sees Fredrik Norrman limiting himself by mostly playing snooze-driven power chords that are anything but powerful and occasionally, he’ll just throw a magic lead out of nowhere; it should go without saying that his weak role damages the band’s core.

Since A Thin Shell sounds like a void that’s in desperate need for riffs – or even stronger hooks in general, you end up with an album that you’d expect from October Tide-inspired bands and not October Tide themselves. See, at one point this style of melodic doom/death metal became too sugary and harmless and while some folks might enjoy that take because of its atmosphere, I’m having a hard time sitting through this album. ‘The Custodian of Science’ sums the band’s issues up right away; opening up with some emotional leads that are hopeful, yet melancholic… but once they vanish into air, the metallic features consist of chords plodding their way towards the finish with no sign of vitality whatsoever (and no, that dull chugging around the four minute mark doesn’t cut it, either). Given its length, it’s not hard to imagine that this quickly becomes a test of patience, but the same could be said about the four minute long ‘A Nighttime Project’. Since it’s an instrumental, it could have been something of a pleasant surprise. Instead, it hardly does anything, as has no sense of direction in sight; minimalistic leads that wouldn’t even impress a beginner guitarist move their way around an awful acoustic passage with no climax of any sorts to lead towards and the whole thing ends up sounding longer than it is – just wonderful, isn’t it?

Somehow A Thin Shell tries to better itself once the record progresses, but the results remain fairly weak. ‘The Dividing Line’ bounces back and forth with a crunchy, if generic rhythmic attack, only to show brief signs of redemption with some throbbing chords around the three minute mark. ‘Scorned’ ends the album on a grim note, with an eerie ambiance of sludgy guitars and hypnotic main motif and yet, the track becomes a bit of a bore halfway through. Only ‘Fragile’ stands out for real, as it sounds like a throwback to the Grey Dawn era. It’s a moving piece that owes its victory to nostalgic leads, thick, yet moving riffs and an energetic drum performance that adds some extra spice to the tune.

At the end of the day, A Thin Shell remains one of those countless uninspired comebacks that shouldn’t have been and none of the band’s following albums have managed to leave a good impression behind, either. Perhaps Jonas Renkse was an important figure of the band after all and while you could argue that Katatonia hasn’t been the most exciting band since many years now… guess what; neither has October Tide.

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