October Tide
Tunnel of No Light

It’s hard to believe that the origin of October Tide dates back almost two decades now. Jonas Renkse and Fred Norrman started the project during Katatonia’s brief break-up in ‘94 and released two now-classic albums before disbanding in ‘99. Norrman eventually resurrected the moniker in ‘09 after his departure from Katatonia. The decade-long hiatus, lack of Renkse, and addition of several new members make it feel like a much younger band. And, like a young act, it’s taking them a little time to find their footing. The comeback album, A Thin Shell, had too much bounce and not enough gloom. Thankfully, Tunnel of No Light is a step in the right direction with some influence from their darkened past.

Their tradition of using a different vocalist for each album remains unbroken here. This time, it’s Alexander Högbom of Volturyon and Spasmodic. His high to low growls will come as no surprise, but they’re more expressive than most and fit the music well. Just don’t expect any clean crooning like you often get with this style. This album also sees the addition of Norrman’s younger brother, Mattias, on bass, though the firstborn still handles most of the songwriting.

“Of Wounds to Come” kicks off the proceedings with a downcast swagger that obviously comes from Norrman’s many years with Katatonia. The aura of his former band’s mid-period permeates the entire album, making it feel like what Katatonia could’ve sounded like if they hadn’t abandoned their deathly origins during that time. Even the Emil Alstermark-penned “Emptiness Fulfilled” has a strong Last Fair Deal Gone Down feel to it, albeit interspersed with some My Dying Bride-like guitar weeping, a welcome addition to their sound. However, the album is not without some references to the project’s own past as “Our Constellation,” “Caught in Silence,” and “Watching the Drowners” would’ve fit in nicely on Grey Dawn. They stumble a little when “The Day I Dissolved” degenerates into a slow march to nowhere, although the remaining tracks will make you forget all about that. “In Hopeless Pursuit” contains some memorable riffs reminiscent of modern Paradise Lost and the fragile chords of “Adoring Ashes” are some of the most moving of the album.

Even though I would describe the music as melodic, there really aren’t many full-blown melodies to stick in your head. The songs are mostly composed of ever-shifting melancholic chords in generally linear song structures, which hinders memorability, but increases replay value. Initial impressions could also be hurt by the lack of the additional instrumentation and vocal styles that often appear in this genre. Nothing jumps out and grabs you at first, but repeat listens are rewarding as the subtle guitar work and songwriting slowly worm into your brain.

This modern incarnation of October Tide has not quite yet brought back the emotional power of the Renkse/Norrman duo days, but it’s obvious that more effort went into this album than its predecessor, making it a more worthy successor to Grey Dawn and a quality album in its own right. It may take a little more time to fully appreciate, but it’s worth the effort.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
April 25th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: stiffy

    Yeah this definitely didn’t grab me right of the bat but the more I listened to it I really did learn to like it. Totally fits with the first two records better than A Thin Shell. Good review!


  2. Commented by: jerry

    “Even though I would describe the music as melodic, there really aren’t many full-blown melodies to stick in your head.”
    That has been the problem with Katatonia from “Distance” on. Give me riffs over mood ambiance anyday.


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