October Tide A Thin Shell

October Tide A Thin Shell
The recent departure of guitarist Fredrik Norran from flagship rock/doom act Katatonia had fans up in arms and critics of the band's progressively tempered approach wondering where they would take it next. Surprisingly, Norrman has resurrected one-time side-project October Tide, although former member and Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renske is noticeably absent. Those who've resented the direction Norrman's former partners have taken over the years will be happy to see that October Tide's initial approach remains intact: melancholic death doom reminiscent of Daylight Dies or Rapture, written and played by musicians who arguably founded the style and have a firm grasp on how to keep this music from becoming too dreary or unfocused. Elements of Katatonia's modern approach have wormed their way in, but largely in understated fashion ― one can hear clear shades of more alternative-informed guitar playing and the occasional downtuned, groovy section that the October Tide of past would have likely steered clear from. New growler Tobias Netzell is a dead ringer for Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, but this could be said for the majority of singers in this style, and doesn't detract much from the atmosphere. One thing is certain: A Thin Shell is far and away the best-produced album to bear their name. On occasion, they crack their beaks through the shell and try something different, such as the bubbling, hypnotic repetition of instrumental "A Nighttime Project," making for one of the more compelling moments on the album. On every level, they have assembled a consistent release that exudes professionalism, but one cannot help but wonder what might have been had they taken it a step further and broken free of the titular prison once and for all. (Candlelight)