October Tide – A Thin Shell Review

October Tide // A Thin Shell
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —There’s a monster hiding in that thin shell
Label: Candlelight Records [EU | US]
octobertide.net | myspace.com/octobertideband
Release Dates: Out Now Worldwide!

With the tides come a darkness and oppressive gloom and that gloom is known as October Tide.  After resting in deep, dark slumber for the fullness of eleven years, the brainchild of Fredrik Norrman (ex-Katatonia) and Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) crawls back into the light with another monumentally morose death-doom opus titled A Thin Shell. Not too many bands can survive such an extended state of limbo but when Norrman left Katatonia, he decided it was time to resurrect his side-project for a third album without co-founder Renkse.  While  it was quite natural to doubt a quality comeback or to fear a Katatonia clone,  you can put those fears to rest.  A Thin Shell is a remarkable album that showcases the beauty that exists in darkness. 

Taking the basic ingredients and style from previous albums Rain Without End and Grey Dawn but amplifying the power and gloom to the nth degree, A Thin Shell is an intensive and intriguing study of the contrasts between light and darkness.  Starting with stellar lead track “The Custodian of Science,” listeners are treated to tranquil, quietly introspective and nearly ambient musical interludes that are eventually crushed and annihilated under the weight of massive doom riffs and the monstrous and guttural death croak of new throat Tobias Netzell (In Mourning).  The cycle then repeats and the listener is again lulled into a sense of false security before the chaos returns.  At other times, it’s doom-death from start to finish with no respite from the dirge and despair (“The Dividing Line” and “Scorned”).

When focusing on the slow and beautiful doom-death style,  A Thin Shell is reminiscent of Swallow the Sun and Daylight Dies. When they decide to kick the pace up (which is rare) they sound more like The Rapture. Regardless of similarities, there is no escaping the fact that the music here is top-notch and both beautiful and brutal, mournful and majestic.  Just listen to standout cut “Blackness Devours” and drift along experiencing the various moods, textures and emotions it invokes throughout it’s short life. Although most songs are about six minutes, each packs so many diverse moods and emotions that they feel much longer, in a good way.  There’s a unique quality to the songs that’s hard to quantify. However, this is an album that needs to soak in for a while before it fully opens up.  It’s a grower in the truest sense but well worth the time investment.

The guitar work of Norrman and Emil Alstermark is first rate as they lurch from soft and mournful leads to titanic doom riffs and back again. Their compositions are tasteful, melancholy but oddly uplifting even at their most depressive moments and this make A Thin Shell the success it is.  Greatly aiding in that success are the vocals of Netzell.  His deep and forlorn roars give the music a deadly serious atmosphere and added credibility.  The production is a doom-death fan’s dream and everything sounds clear but suitably hopeless and dark. Pretty much everything about this album screams quality.

Dark doom-death is a pretty niche market to be certain and many of the metal masses want their music faster and more over-the-top.  However, I can’t think of a better sountrack for the impending winter, the darkening of the days and freezing of the land.  Maybe that eleven years lost in the void was what October Tide needed to mature into what it’s become on A Thin Shell.  Time well spent!

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