Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 17 May, 2016
October Tide is, for many, probably a band that would go unnoticed. Formed by Katatonia alumi Fredrik Norrman and Jonas Renske in 1994, the band released their first two long players in Rain Without End (1997) and Grey Dawn (1999). During the former part of this period, the band’s underground profile was kept intact by choosing not to tour or do any press. Perhaps their mantra was simply to let the music do the talking in an attempt to establish an identity other than “that band featuring those guys from Katatonia”. I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps not surprisingly, the group disbanded after the release of their sophomore album.
The group remained dormant until 2009 when Fred Norrman left Katatonia and resurrected October Tide. Norrman put the band back together sans Renske and the result 18 months later was the excellent A Thin Shell. The album continued the band’s doomier, deathier take on the sound of the band’s heritage in what was their shining star to date. It was my first introduction to the band as well so it still sits very well with me to this day. Their fourth long player didn’t quite have the same impact on me, as nice as it was.
As far as the positives go for the band’s fifth album, Winged Waltz is everything you should expect from October Tide. Clocking in at a hefty 52 minutes, the eight tracks of lengthy, doom-laden melo-doom-death are drenched with resonating guitars that are topped with powerful, guttural vocals. The songs are well structured, mostly engaging and true to form as far as operating within the parameters that are typically associated with October Tide.
The thing is with any genre that is crowded these days, is that it becomes more and more difficult to stand out. This is where October Tide will fall by the wayside because as tight as the album is, and as good as it sounds, and as much as Winged Waltz ticks all the boxes as far as their genre mix of melodeath-cross-doom-death goes, the band lacks anything that makes both themselves and this album stand out with their chosen field. Sure it’s heavy, it’s dense, dark and dripping with the cold, harsh feel of a bleak Nordic winter, but there are countless other bands who manage to deliver albums with all of that as well. The fact that it the band seems to want to keep their collective toes in both melodeath and doom-death pools doesn’t really help either. October Tide tends to try to walk the line between both genres, which might make it more difficult for their work to appeal to diehards of either crowd. Perhaps that’s their intention. Perhaps that is how they wish to push the limit with what they do. Either way, there’s not enough here to really be able to call October Tide unique.
As mentioned, it is difficult to stand out in a saturated genre, and really that’s the only thing that is against this album. Oh, well, to be fair, perhaps a little bit of editing wouldn’t go astray either. I’m not sure what the answer is to the first of those problems regarding what a band could do to stand out more. What that means ultimately is that Winged Waltz will probably go unnoticed by many a fan of doom death metal, and that’s a damned shame because the album is quite easy on the ear throughout.
October Tide might not have covered new territory with Winged Waltz but for what it is within the doom death genre, it manages to stand pretty solid overall, albeit unremarkably so. It’s a classic example of a good but not great album. It feels unfair to say it because I like the album and it feels right but in saying so it just doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out significantly above the rest.