October Tide_Winged WaltzIt’s been a while since a doom/death album graced my overloaded promo bin, and as a tried and true sad-boy, I was quite stoked to see October Tide‘s fifth album, Winged Waltz arrive. Formed by Katatonia ex-pats Fredrik Norrman and Jonas Renkse, the band has long made it their practice to take elements of early Katatonia material like Brave Murder Day and mix it with the classic doom/death of Rapture and early Paradise Lost. This led to some stunning moments and others that were inexplicably less inspiring. 20113s Tunnel of No Light was a typical October Tide album in most respects but felt less emotionally evocative and gripping. I was hoping for a bounce back to the form heard on albums like Rain Without End and A Thin Shell, but unfortunately, Winged Waltz suffers from many of the same issues as Tunnel. Are there good moments? Yes indeed, but the overall product is again missing that essential something that draws one deep into a doom death soundscape and makes them feel all that exquisitely sweet pain.

Opener “Swarm” gets the doom ball a rollin’ quite well though with the kind of glum theatrics common to Rapture and Swallow the Sun. Alexander Hogbom’s downcast death croaks are appropriately anguished and soul-sick, and the big doom riffs are adeptly balanced with weepy and trilling harmonies that decorate the depression tree like so much grief tinsel. This is the type of song October Tide excels at and usually hits out of the park, and they do exactly that here. Better still is album highlight “Sleepless Sun” which targets that sweet spot between Gothic era Paradise Lost and the best of Rapture‘s later catalog. It’s dreary and doomy but so melodic, it’s like a wondrous goth fantasy land of abject despair.

Both “Nursed by the Cold” and Lost in Rapture” succeed due to slick riffing designed to chill the soul paired with top-notch vocalizing from Alexander. Closer “Coffins of November” is also worthwhile, borrowing heavily from early Katontonia and effectuating a pleasant flow to the doomage. The problem is that the band can’t maintain this level of craftsmanship, and several songs feel flat and humdrum. While “Reckless Abandon” is much more aggressive and in-your-face, there’s something holding me back from completely buying into what the band is doing, despite them checking all the proper boxes for the style.  Likewise, “A Question Ignite” is a pretty rote take on the doom/death genre with lots of simple riffing and unimaginative vocal patterns.

October Tide_2016a

At 50 minutes, Winged Waltz feels a bit too long, though not unbearably so, and most of the songs are short enough to avoid tedium and drag. The production is more than adequate for what the band is going for and the guitars have a good heft and tone. Alexander is situated just right in the mix, neither lost in the woods or too far up in your face. The drums also have a satisfyingly warm and organic sound.

The star of the hour is definitely Alexander. His vocals are some of the best he’s done and he apparently came close to doing himself real physical harm while recording them. He definitely gives it his all as he carries the album’s emotional baggage on his stooped and care-worn shoulders. He often sounds like Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Proust) but never segues into clean singing, which admittedly creates a lack of diversity in approach. Fredrik Norrman and Emil Alstermark do some interesting things with their riffing and harmonies and incorporate some jarring, discordant sounds, but this is not their best outing in terms of captivating leads and memorable hooks and at times their playing feels too safe and restrained.

Winged Waltz is far from a bad October Tide album and there’s definitely quality to be found within. The problem is they’ve shown themselves capable of much more, so this ends up feeling like another slightly underwhelming release. Still, until Rapture reforms or the new In Mourning platter drops, this is a respectable way to wallow in misery, with or without company. Stay sad, my friends.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Agonia Records
Websites: octobertide.net | facebook.com/octobertideband
Releases Worldwide: April 22nd, 2016

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    I’m giving this one a pass. These guys have been stuck making “kind of alright” music ever since Rain Without End. That album was lightning in a bottle but they’ve been running in circles ever since.

  • so much sadness. now I have to listen to a double dose of metalbaby just to get back to glum

  • Wilhelm

    After a listen, I’ll agree with you. I don’t think the album is a masterpiece, but it’s certainly far from bad. The problem is the sameness; after several songs you start to feel it and if the album ever wonders into unfamiliar territory, it doesn’t stay there too long…it’s also status quo from what they’ve been doing on the last couple of albums, which seems to work against them in the long run. At 50 minutes, it’s also a slog, had they cut off 10 minutes, threw in a couple different sounding songs (perhaps with clean vocals?) this could have had a greater impact

    The production and mix is a highlight here, on several tracks, the dynamic range reaches 8, so I’ll hand it to the producer/engineer for at least making this a pleasurable listening experience. Good album from OT, but too familiar within their discog.

  • Brother Ben

    I feel that unless doom-death is operating at its peak, I can’t truly enjoy it. I can dig average thrash or death metal, but melodic doom-death must be top notch. This is unfortunate because I love the depressing atmosphere, but most of these bands bands suffer from a severe lack of new ideas

  • bob

    I loves me some good Katontonia

  • Monsterth Goatom

    “He often sounds like Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Proust)…”

    Saw that!! Smartypants.

    • 5 points awarded to House Goatem.

    • Bart the Repairman

      I saw that, too and my first thought was: „this is the most stupid band name I’ve ever seen” (I don’t know names of STS members).

  • madhare

    Hmm. I was left thinking that it’s interesting how many of these experienced bands or musicians are missing “that something” which makes doom/goth work.

    Could simply be kind of a matter of age. When you’re around your twenties you can actually wallow in the proper desperation doom-gloom-goth “OMG THE WORLD HATES MEEeee”. But then you either a) die, or b) grow up and start to think that “wait a minute, life’s not so bad after all and you know, there’s this wife and family thingie and what they call a a career and…”

    It’s very hard to have anywhere near true-doom-and-gloom goth feelings when you’re a real grown up. So it might be that it’s that lack of “authenticity” which shows through with bands like this. They know exactly how it’s supposed to be made, but they don’t anymore connect with their own songs emotionally quite the same way.

    And music is not the only area where this shows. Like Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” is a great literary classic, but you probably shouldn’t even try to read if beyond the age of 28 or something. Then it’s just an embarrassing story of an angst-ridden teen. (Well, even Romeo & Juliet makes very little sense if you’re over that age. It’s like “seriously?! you’re going to kill yourself just for that? oh, pleeeeez!”)

    • Bart the Repairman

      In the classic piece of polish romantic literature – „Kordian”, the main character can’t even commit suicide properly. He shots himself in the head and somehow misses (sic). Later, he intends to kill the russian Tsar, and passes out in front of his chamber.
      I remember school discussions about it. Even though we were all infantile and immature, everybody was like „come oooon, what a p***y…”.