October Tide re-shuffle lineup, maintain sense of anguish on ‘Tunnel of No Light’

october tide
I almost never read bio information about a band before listening to their new record, unless it’s a new group I’m encountering because, in that case, it helps to be armed with a lot of info. But if it’s a band I’ve experience with, I just want to hear their new creations first, and I’ll fumble over the details later.

Part of not heavily immersing myself in a band’s current history, lineup, etc., is because I want to experience the music and not be influenced by things like band member changes or philosophical alterations or planned musical diversions. It can cramp your listening style. I mean, there are obvious things, like Joey Belladonna returning to Anthrax, that can’t be avoided, but those are exceptions to my personal rule. There are so many bands now and so many things going on with them that it’s impossible to keep track of all of it, so going to the music first solves all.

October tide coverIt also can provide surprise, like when I got a first listen to October Tide’s new record “Tunnel of No Light,” their first for Pulverised after putting out their tremendous 2010 effort “A Thin Shell” on Candlelight and getting a stronger push into the world. It was pretty clear something was different about the Swedish band, most notably the vocals and who was delivering them. Yes, Tobias Netzell (also of In Mourning), who sang for the band since 2009, is out, and in his place is Alexander Högbom (who also plays with Spasmodic and Volturyon). He probably won’t go down as doom and death metal’s most dynamic singer of all time, but he acquits himself nicely on this record and gets across the band’s brand of pain and anguish as well as his predecessor. Lineup changes are nothing new to this band anyway, as the door has revolved quite a bit since their formation in 1994 (they once boasted Jonas Renske of Katatonia in their lineup, as he was one of the people who started the band), but their music isn’t suffering for it, so who are we to question?

The rest of the lineup keeps the bulk of the “A Thin Shell” lineup in tract, with guitarists Fredrik “North” Norrman and Emil Alstermark and drummer Robin Berg, with bassist Mattias “Kryptan” Norrman the other newcomer to the group. Despite the personnel switches, the music still is in the vein of grisly, stormy doom metal, with a touch of death, and folks into bands such as Opeth, Amorphis, and aforementioned Katatonia should find plenty to like about this album. The songs are moody and memorable, and Högbom’s vocals are scratchier and more abrasive than Netzell’s, though no less expressive.

Opener “Of Wounds to Come” is spacious and cloudy, with strong melodies and fearsome vocals, where Högbom howls, “Same faces, new pain.” Yeah, things are still pretty daunting and depressing in these corners, and I doubt their listeners would have it any other way. “Our Constellation” is the longest track on the record at nearly nine minutes, and it stretches its black wings across you and sweeps you into its sadness. “Emptiness Fulfilled” is a little punchier and pushes the tempo more than the songs that precede it, with Högbom spreading foul messages of curses and dread. “Caught in Silence” has a buzz-filled open, like a swarm of insects coming to envelop you, and while it chugs and punishes in its mid-tempo ditch, there is plenty of atmosphere as well, like you’re caught in a light storm cloud.

“Watching the Drowners” probably doesn’t need explained much based on its title, because you can’t get much more upsetting than that scene. The song is smoggy and dreary, with muddy growls and warnings of “no resistance left” from Högbom. “The Day I Dissolved” is enough to make you want to cover yourself in a blanket and hide in darkness over the overwhelming despair, though the screamy vocals cut a path through that feeling and remind you to lash out at what ails you now and again. “In Hopeless Pursuit” is rough and awash in psychological torment, with Högbom lamenting, “I have failed you,” and the closing minutes of the song help the band transcend into outer space as they explore that vast eternity of darkness. Closer “Adoring Ashes” drops the lid on this record, with a renewed sense of doom and murk, solemn passages that aim to empathize with your most upsetting experiences, and it grinds to an anguish-filled conclusion.

October Tide remain as strong a melodic doom unit as there is these days, and even tons of personnel changes haven’t stopped that. “Tunnel of No Light” isn’t quite the record that “A Thin Shell” is, though that one’s going to be tough to top anyhow, but it’s pretty damn good in its own right. I feel like October Tide are perfect for gray, rain-filled days where all you can do is mope, and this record has that same personality. Maybe if this lineup can stay together for a while, they can pull out another gem.

For more on the band, go here: http://octobertide.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://pulverised.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.pulverised.net/

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