A Thin Shell
posted on 10/2010 By:
It didn’t take much for former and current Katatonia members Fredrik Norrman and Jonas Renkse to capture a fair share of attention back in 1997 when they released the very sturdy October Tide debut, Rain Without End, yet the ensuing follow-up Grey Dawn was a far less intriguing effort that failed to live up to the standards set by its predecessor. Now, ten years later, and with Renkse having since left the ranks, Norrman returns with a slew of new compatriots, solidifying the cliché of the third time being a charm with the revitalized A Thin Shell. Attaining nearly the same level of quality as the debut, this seven-track doom/death metal trek through downtrodden atmosphere takes a chance or two, and it results in a very current and invigorating collection of songs.
Exhibiting a mastery of mood and an incredible sense of flow throughout its forty-two minute running length, October Tide taps back into a type of depressive vibe that isn’t too draining or incredibly weighty. This is an excellent example of a musician and songwriter who has rediscovered his muse, as A Thin Shell capitalizes upon each and every strength this project established itself for earlier by bringing back those same pristine melodies which join with heavier, more substantial riffs throughout. It’s all very smooth, clean, and almost supple with the entwining of carefully-plotted blunt force and airy resonance, with medium-length compositions that never waver in purpose.
New vocalist Tobias Netzell (In Mourning/Contortion) establishes himself powerfully during the excellent “Fragile” in such a way that shows that he has no intentions of being overshadowed by the highly versatile Renkse, but the vast bulk of his prowess is shown through an authoritative roar, with virtually no other vocal dynamics to be heard. Additionally, the disc starts out rippling with determination when “The Custodian Of Science” and “Deplorable Request” strike like hooks to the jaw and jabs to the gut, but in another peculiar move, the unexpectedly docile instrumental “A Nighttime Project” slows their forward momentum by placing such a calm, lilting song so early in the song order. While there’s nothing wrong with the song itself, it might have worked better placed towards the tail-end when taking the entire presentation into account, but luckily “Blackness Devours” lays down some deeply soulful opening riffs and another impassioned voicing from Netzell immediately afterward to get things back on track.
Each tune manages to stand out at certain points, but there aren’t many instances where entire songs completely jump out right away. Each successive listen reveals a little bit more nuance for another few spins, which is something to be appreciated in this world of instant gratification. There were also a few times where the guitars could have been more pronounced, especially since the tones themselves are so damn righteous, but the drums also pack a good punch, and picking out bits and pieces of the accompanying bass guitar was a valued treasure.
Although it’s still a little too brief for my tastes -- just one more six-minute ass-kicker would have been great -- Norrman along with Netzell, guitarist Emil Alstermark, Scar Symmetry/Centinex bassist Jonas Kjellren (as a session player), and Amaran drummer Robin Bergh will be tasting sweet redemption now that the so-so Grey Dawn has been left in the distance. If you enjoyed Rain Without End, then it’s a no-brainer that you check out the return of October Tide’s A Thin Shell, another strong release from the highly productive Candlelight Records roster and one of the better comebacks I’ve heard for a while. Let the doom in.
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