October Tide - In Splendor Below review




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Reviewer:
7.5

71 users:
8.14
Band: October Tide
Album: In Splendor Below
Release date: May 2019


01. I, The Polluter
02. We Died In October
03. Ögonblick Av Nåd
04. Stars Starve Me
05. Our Famine
06. Guide My Pulse
07. Seconds
08. Envy Of The Moon


Fredrik Norrman's pet project is back again with another solid effort. Did October Tide finally release an album worthy of comparison to Rain Without End?

In short: No, they did not. While their debut album benefits from a cult-like revisionist praise, serving as the unattainable standard all future material is judged by, it still boasts an almost youthful energy and clarity that every album since has failed to replicate. This isn't a scathing indictment of the band's level of innovation or anything like that, but it would be ignorant to overlook the importance of what's considered by most to be a landmark release in the death-doom scene. With that said, In Splendor Below is still its own album -- a statement album of sorts -- arranged with a fresh lineup, and deserves to be analyzed for its own merits, or lack thereof.

An immediate positive to make note of is the clear and driving bass lines, often shaping the foundation of songs (as heard on "We Died In October", for instance) and adding a distinct heaviness to the sharp, elongated melodies. This isn't a new feature, as October Tide releases are notably bass-forward particularly in its current rendition, but this time around the bass is given an added touch of love in the mixing process. Alexander Högbom continues on the mic in typical fashion, growling and roaring his way just like he does with his other reformed Swedish metal band, Centinex. His depth and pitch are nearly perfect, audible and clean as if polished by diamond scrubbers, which makes finding fault in his delivery seem biased, but the lack of individuality or passion in his voice takes away much of what doom is all about. His carbon copy style is safe and "radio" friendly (in terms of mainstream metal) but it doesn't suit the emotionally charged music well at all.

Now if you're worried that all this focus on bass and vocals means the guitars take a back seat on this album, fear not. The Norrman brothers both offered up their axes to the fellowship, carrying the album with an abundance of sorrowful melodies and progressive-tinged riffs reminiscent of early Opeth at times, though not quite as adventurous in their travels. They still make it a worthwhile journey, visiting feelings of introspection, remorse, solitude, and a bittersweet sense of longing, but none of these eight songs seem to be able to break free of their chains and really let loose. It's a bit of a tease in that regard, with all these interludes and setups paving the way for experimental breaks in the mold only for the momentum to cease before reaching its ultimate height. It's painstakingly obvious that they're gifted musicians when they're pushing riffs and melodies beyond the simple straightforward doom and gloom plodding, but they also have a strong tendency for staying in their lane instead of going grandiose and nailing a quick solo or switching up the pace even if only for a few moments.

This is the fourth album by October Tide since returning from their 10-year breakup, and yet they still don't offer up enough material combined to compete with their 1997 debut marker despite Fredrik Norrman leaving Katatonia. It's a pretty harsh sentiment to voice, but this modern era seems like a recycled riff dumping ground with incomplete ideas and half-focused concepts mashed together, sometimes resulting in a satisfying overall experience, other times miring the listener in an inescapable boredom. Thankfully this release in particular features more of the ideas and less of the boredom, but its restrictive nature will only leave you wanting more. It's like dating the most attractive girl in school but she only lets you hug her and kiss her cheek and no matter how much you want for there to be another level, you just have to accept that she just isn't ready yet. Maybe October Tide are just holding out on us for some grand finale.

It's difficult to say whether there's a lack of self-awareness of maybe a self-indulgent stubbornness to continue or something imperceptible from an outside view, but even at their best, such as with this album, October Tide never really live up to expectations beyond "good", "solid", "consistent" -- all positive attributes, but mediocre in light of context. Unless you're legitimately expecting a true follow-up to Rain Without End, this won't be a letdown as much as it is just another number to add in the catalog of a band seemingly incapable of capturing the magic again.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Production: 10


 



Written on 06.10.2019 by Just another opinionated guy telling you what to listen to.


Comments

Comments: 6   Visited by: 12 users
18.10.2019 - 22:54
Redel
I like this review. In particular because I appreciate the effort you have put into writing a review on an album that -- for me -- delivers basically nothing of attraction. Vocals are extremely boring. The songwriting is not good either.
This is soooo far away from their outstanding debut.
I think this would be one of the last albums I could come up with a review on. Thus, you have all my respect.

The most attractive girl in school though I certainly dont see anywhere in this album.
So this "hug" and "kiss on the cheek", which was rather a slap in the face to me, will certainly be more than enough of what I would ever want to get from this album.
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19.10.2019 - 01:07
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Written by Redel on 18.10.2019 at 22:54

Thus, you have all my respect.

I appreciate that more than you know. I take a lot of pride in being able to describe music that doesn't strike me emotionally since that's far easier to be inspired by. Not to say I go out of my way to review uninspiring music, just that when it does come my way I enjoy the challenge of analyzing and critiquing it without the underlying emotional interest.
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I have no memory of this place.
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19.10.2019 - 01:19
Redel
Not sure I get your point entirely. But I would put it this way: Without emotional interest it is certainly easier to review an album based entirely on objective criteria -- if that is even possible at all.
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19.10.2019 - 04:58
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Written by Redel on 19.10.2019 at 01:19

Not sure I get your point entirely. But I would put it this way: Without emotional interest it is certainly easier to review an album based entirely on objective criteria -- if that is even possible at all.

For me it works the opposite. I've always found it easier to write about albums that evoke a strong response. Either I hate or love something and then muster up a review as a result of the emotional impact of the music rather than focusing on the music itself. My style has since shifted to focus more on the objective traits with a dash of personal inflection, which I find to be more of a challenge, but it gives me a sense of satisfaction when I'm able to play to my weaknesses.
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I have no memory of this place.
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19.10.2019 - 11:35
nikarg
Old Nick
Written by Redel on 18.10.2019 at 22:54

I like this review. In particular because I appreciate the effort you have put into writing a review on an album that -- for me -- delivers basically nothing of attraction. Vocals are extremely boring. The songwriting is not good either.
This is soooo far away from their outstanding debut.
I think this would be one of the last albums I could come up with a review on. Thus, you have all my respect.

This is exactly the comment I would make myself.


Written by Troy Killjoy on 19.10.2019 at 04:58

I've always found it easier to write about albums that evoke a strong response. Either I hate or love something and then muster up a review as a result of the emotional impact of the music rather than focusing on the music itself. My style has since shifted to focus more on the objective traits with a dash of personal inflection, which I find to be more of a challenge, but it gives me a sense of satisfaction when I'm able to play to my weaknesses.

9 times out of 10 I refuse to spend my time writing about something that gives me no emotional response whatsoever. I listened to this album twice (with the thought of reviewing it in the back of my mind), not so much expecting Rain Without End part 2 because this would be a naive expectation, but something which would at least not be bland and boring.

I feel it's a sad thing when an album is way less interesting than the review itself as it happens in this case.
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19.10.2019 - 23:14
Redel
Written by nikarg on 19.10.2019 at 11:35

I feel it's a sad thing when an album is way less interesting than the review itself as it happens in this case.


True that.
But then again, if you have such a talented reviewer at stake, as in this case, what can an album like this one do at all?
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