What I’d like to know is how the first 5 albums by Swedish melodic death/doom metallers October Tide passed me by? Granted I wasn’t even listening to Katatonia when they formed, but it was 20 years ago, so why? I guess it has more to do with information being far more readily available now, and that information allows you to seek out bands that contain members of other bands you enjoy. Or simply because word of mouth is a gazillion times faster than it was in the snail-mail and tape trading days. Formed in 1995 and releasing 2 albums in the 90s, they went into hiatus until Fredrik Norrman left Katatonia in 2009, releasing 4 albums with various line-ups comprising of accomplished musicians from well-known bands since they reformed. The current line-up consists of Alexander Högbom on vocals, Mattias Norrman and his brother, the aforementioned Fredrik, on guitars with Jonas Sköld on drums and Johan Jönsegård on bass.
My first encounter with Alexander was in the gore-grind death band Volturyon, which is a far cry from the almost serene doom on this album. His vocals however gently delivered, still manage to convey all the frustrated murderous intent required on “I, The Polluter” as the long drawn out guitar notes hang in the air adding to the menace. That is not to say the haunting beauty of the song is lost as the two contrasts still merge exquisitely to give us a solid core.
“We Died in October” is even slower and more morose, but all the more powerful for it, as the layered long growls match the melodic runs on the guitars as the bass fills out any quiet spots.
Raising then dropping the tempo and intensity on “Ögoblick Av Nåd”, the drumming ushers in an exceptional guitar lead that becomes the second melody guitar as the slow triplets on the kick drums match the rhythm riff.
The two guitars appear to be trying to out play each other on “Stars Starve Me”, as the melodies jostle for supremacy the steady drums and bass give the vocals something to follow until the flowing lead becomes choppier and merges back into the main riff.
The vocals on “Our Famine” are far more raspy with a sinister edge that belies how melodic and heavy the background guitars actually are. The gentle picking and strumming quieten down to the point of having you listen intently, before they build up again and are joined once more by the rhythm section and vocals.
As the title would suggest “Guide My Pulse” contains a nice steady beat, which gets double-timed on the kick drum during verses to give an exaggerated sense of pace while the guitars and vocals remain slow and controlled.
There are so many layers on “Seconds” that I could happily listen to it on a loop choosing an element to focus on, on each pass, from what the two guitars are doing, separately and together, to the drum patterns and how the bass is tying the guitars and drums to give the vocals plenty of room to manoeuvre.
The album ends on the far more upbeat “Envy of the Moon”, where the happier sounding guitars are complemented by the lighter tone of the vocals, albeit still death growls but sans the languishing hint of sorrow on the previous tracks. Even the lead has an uplifting flair to its delivery, setting you up perfectly to listen to the album once more.
An excellent example of how heaviness and melody can mix to give you a decent blend of nastiness and gloom, combined with adept song writing to make the album easy to listen to over and over again.
(8/10 Marco Gaminara)