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October Tide - "A Thin Shell" (CD)

October Tide - "A Thin Shell" CD cover image

"A Thin Shell" track listing:

1. A Custodian Of Science (7:33)
2. Deplorable Request (6:03)
3. The Nighttime Project (4:32)
4. Blackness Devours (5:15)
5. The Dividing Line (5:43)
6. Fragile (6:35)
7. Scorned (6:33)

Reviewed by on September 28, 2010

"'A Thin Shell' is a solid melo-doom album that brings little new to the table for October Tide."

October Tide was the melodic doom metal side-project of Katatonia singer Jonas Renkse and guitarist Fredrik Norrman that dissolved in 1999 to allow the two musicians to focus on their main project. A decade later, October Tide has returned; well, sort of. Norrman is back in the ranks, but Renkse is nowhere to be found. Norrman's recent departure from Katatonia allows him to hone a sharper focus onto the band’s third album “A Thin Shell.” This is the first album to have a full line-up, including session bassist Jonas Kjellgren (Scar Symmetry), and the end product is promising, if ineffective in certain fields.

The band’s sound hasn’t changed much since their first incarnation. This is doom metal that leans on the melodic side, with an unsteady balance between punishing and tranquility that lies in an atmosphere of gray and depression. Even the lightest moment seems soaked in emptiness. The guitars do little to warp this perception, sticking to mid-paced riffs that lumber ahead with no ambition to speed up. “The Dividing Line” is the closest thing to an upbeat number, with driving guitars and an energetic rhythm performance the catalyst for a much-appreciated boost.

The songs average five minutes in length, and while that’s not epic by any means, the band makes each song feel that way. “A Custodian of Science” and “Fragile” slink along, taking each second to build towards the euphoric ending that leaves the listener with a satisfied expression. It seems like that approach was tried with much of the album, but instead, the songs just move forward lifelessly. The lack of direction is clear on the dull instrumental “The Nighttime Project” and yawn-inducing closer “Scorned.” Extended sections of repetitious music that doesn’t explode or finish with any gusto is all over the place.

The saving grace on “A Thin Shell” is the deep growls of In Mourning’s Tobias Netzell. Netzell has a commanding tone to his voice and his brutal approach is perfect. Though the music isn’t memorable, his performance is and keeps the album from disintegrating into lawless darkness. There are no clean vocals, like there were on tracks in the past, an adventurous turn that works well for October Tide. Whenever there is a plodding moment on the album, Netzell’s vocals sweep in to save the day.

Whenever a band returns from a lengthy hiatus, expectations are high for the first album to be released. “A Thin Shell” is a solid melo-doom album that brings little new to the table for October Tide. The lack of Renkse is noticeable, but not enough so that it weighs things down to an unsavory level. The lack of variety and abundance of rambling sections is unavoidable, though strong musicianship and vocals do enough to raise the album above average.

Highs: Strong deep growls, nice contrast of light and dark elements, the new members do a solid job.

Lows: Directionless at times, never really picks up momentum, lackluster instrumental in "The Nighttime Project."

Bottom line: A decent melo-doom album that doesn't break tradition or reinvent the wheel.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)