With Jonas Renkse no longer handling the vocals and musically not quite up to par with Rain Without End, I used to believe that Grey Dawn wasn’t awful by any means, but had too little lasting power on its own. Of course, opinions are like assholes; meaning that we clean them on a regular basis and nowadays I can safely say Grey Dawn is actually quite alright… as long as you can separate it from the majestic gloom that its predecessor possesses.
In terms of musicianship, October Tide no longer function as a powerhouse of a band at this point and it’s clear right from the start. New vocalist Mårten Hansen sounds more like a melodic death metal vocalist, even if he certainly tries his best; as his vocals range from comprehensive growls to dramatic shrieks and although I couldn’t fault him for not trying, his performance isn’t as soulful as that of Jonas Renkse (who’d ironically sound a lot more convincing, regardless of his laid back vocal delivery). Generally, his performance is plausible enough, though – the only exception being ‘Heart of the Dead’ with that ‘’happily scream along’’ kind of crappy chorus. My bigger issue has to do with Fredrik Norrman and although the guitars remain relevant enough to keep me hooked from time to time, his finest hour this is not. Leads still sparkle with life (often notable right off each track), but the riffs occasionally dumbed-down; meaning that we’re dealing with a fair amount semi-directionless power chords and a variety of empty chugging sections making their way between far better-executed sections. Just listen to ‘Into Deep Sleep’, which features enough leads that are both trilling and dramatic enough in their delivery, but once that worthless riff chugs along with no substance whatsoever, it becomes clear that we’re not dealing with another ’12 Days of Rain’ or ‘Blue Gallery’ by any means.
As I had already mentioned, the key to enjoying Grey Dawn for what is it remains fairly simple; if one could judge it as an individual album that you could separate from its superior predecessor, then it’s actually fine for what it is. You might say that this is common knowledge, but how often do we not judge albums (partially) on how they relate to other albums of bands? Either way, Grey Dawn contains some songs that are actually quite worthy and realizing this has obviously changed my listening experience for the best. The title track introduces some brisk walk-paced melodic death metal verses mixed with the band’s usual aesthetic gloomy tendencies (especially notable with that moody solo in between, which sounds pretty damn fantastic). It’s a decent tune to start things off with, but the real highlights appear afterwards. ‘October Insight’ sounds dramatic and foreboding in the lead guitar department, but also gets supported by some engaged rhythms that swing pretty hard. ‘Sweetness Dies’ kicks off with a hint of hope and once those elegant guitars vibrantly move around with charm, things turn less morose, but not less superb. Interestingly enough, I think that clean break in between has more in common with early Katatonia than October Tide, but given my love for the former, that’s hardly an issue. ‘Floating’ is a slow sailing hymn with Fredrik Norrman’s beautiful leads descending into a river of gloom and with its creepy chorus, it’s yet another winner. I’m also fond of ‘Lost in the Dark’, which has guitars slowly wailing out with fright. I preferred a shorter acoustic break to interrupt the sour mood just slightly and Jonas Renkse’s emotionally engaged growls would have made somewhat of a difference, but it’s a proper tune when all is said and done.
Grey Dawn may not portray vivid images of never-ending rain, but it’s no album that you’d spin during summer, either; something which is certainly a good thing in this case.
Score: 70/100 – Last pair of raindrops descend
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