October Tide – Tunnel of No Light Review

October Tide // Tunnel of No Light
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — A partial blackout
Label: Pulverised Records
Websites: octobertide.net   |  myspace.com/octobertideband
Release Dates: EU: 2013.03.25  |  NA: 04.16.2013

october_tide_tunnel_of_no_lightSteel Druhm is a sucker for well done doom death with oodles of morose, melancholy atmosphere. Yep, I like stuff that makes me feel as if I’m slowly drowning in an ice cold Finnish lake as wood gnomes and forest elves cry and throw Mardi Gras beads into the water (just go with it, don’t analyze). Because of these predilections, I heartily enjoyed the last opus from this bunch of downcast Swedes, which featured several members of Katatonia at one time or another. After some line up changes and a few years away from the game, October Tide skulks back with Tunnel of No Light and it’s business as usual (that business being depressing but darkly beautiful music). While not innovators in any sense, October Tide executes the doom-death sound well, taking pages from Black Sun Aeon, Before the Dawn, Daylight Dies, Saturnus and of course, Katatonia. They’re masters of mixing big, heavy, crushing doom riffs  with melodic, sullen interludes and they hit all the expected genre tropes while keeping things classy, generally interesting and engaging (though there’s certainly a moss peeping component for those easily bored). Sadly, something feels missing. There’s less of a replay factor here compared to their prior works and at certain points, things tend to bog down and drag. It’s still a good doom/death forray, but it feels less inspired than their past efforts.

Things start off quite well with the very Black Sun Aeon influenced “Of Wounds to Come.” It has all the same punch and melodic sensibility Tuomas Saukkonen’s material and leans closer to death than doom. The riff work is great, the atmosphere is bleak as hell, but it’s a very accessible, emotional song with nuance and dark beauty. “Our Constellation” reminds me of a mix of Ghost Brigade and Tool with a heavy dose of Saturnus added for good measure. Over its eight minute run it features some interesting ideas and has a lot going for it, but it drags on toward the end and could have been chopped to six minutes. Other bright spots are the Brave Murder Day era sound of “Caught in Silence” and the lively rumble and shifting dynamics of “In Hopeless Pursuit.” The latter especially demonstrates what these chaps can do when inspired. There are so many moods and flavors contained in a fairly straight-forward doom/death number, it’s quite deceptive.

Sadly, that kind of magic is missing on several cuts. “Emptiness Fulfilled” has a strong Katatonia vibe and some decent riff ideas, but as a whole never fully engages my attention. The same problem haunts “The  Day I Dissolved,” which feels like filler and never seem to get moving in an interesting direction.

There were certainly some significant changes internally since the superior A Thin Shell, with a new vocalist and bassist coming on board. While Alexander Hogbom (Spasmodic) is fine and has a great, deep-register death roar, Ioctobertide2 preferred Tobias Netzell of In Mourning fame. I don’t know how much the switch impacted the writing, but the material here is less consistent. While the guitar-work of Fredrik Norrman and Emil Alstermark is above average and rich in mood on most of the songs, they don’t seem quite as on their game as they did last time and some of the riffs and leads have a “heard it all before” quality that drags things down a peg or two.

While Tunnel of No Light is a step down for October Tide, it’s still a nicely dark and sullen romp through the grim side of human emotion. I’d recommend checking out the rest of their catalogue first, but this is still worth a spin and some of the stuff is sure to please a doom/death connoisseur. Now, I must get back to my cold lake and Mardi Gras beads…

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