Review Summary: An undeniably enjoyable death/doom metal album that suffers most from a distinct lack of inspiration to do things outside of the genre's clichesA Thin Shell
is a defining album for October Tide not in the sense that it is the culmination of everything the band has done, but in the sense that it shows that the band is no longer a Katatonia-fueled side project of Jonas Renske and Fredrik Norrman. With the departure of Renske and the introduction of In Mourning vocalist Tobias Netzell and bassist Pierre Stam, the entity that is October Tide shifted pillars to a sound that still encompasses the melodic doom/death metal shroud placed over them, but one that completely changes the atmosphere and mood of their music. The ringing guitar melodies show heavy influences of In Mourning’s sound, and rightly so, but also take on a doom metal flair that is reminiscent of a Swedish variant to Finland’s Swallow The Sun. It’s not the most original take on the genre around, especially considering the sound of A Thin Shell
basically borrows from other established industry acts, but it’s hard to fault October Tide due to their ability to still keep things enjoyable.
It’s hard to deny the focus on simple melody throughout the album, as no riff goes without a distinct melodic flavor that is key in the album’s eerie ability to hold your attention. The riffs seem to leisurely trudge around for noticeable lengths of time, yet their hypnotic qualities are completely enthralling. The second track “Deplorable Request” features over a minute and a half of dissonant ambience that surrounds a repeated riff which, for some reason, fits with the broad picture of things as far as the song as a whole is concerned. So it goes for the running time of A Thin Shell
, with slow plods of melodic riffing comprising the vast majority of the instrumentation and atmosphere, complimenting the oppressive despair that may be the last vestige of Katatonia influence left in the songwriting. The overbearing simplicity and reliance on repetition may not be to some people’s liking, but the fact is that a staple of this kind of metal are such simplistic songwriting pieces.
That’s where the real crutch of A Thin Shell
lies, though- in the fact that October Tide are reliant on their riffs to keep the listener entertained for long periods of time, and if these riffs come up short then the whole song is a wash. The relatively boring experience that is “The Nighttime Project” features a lead that overstays its welcome, and ends up dragging the entire experience down. The vocal department, though, is consistent and effective at ushering in the atmosphere that the instrumentation strives to convey. Netzell’s growls sound nearly identical to his work with In Mourning, something that I have no problem with. His voice simply works here, never running off-kilter in relation to the music and taking constant shifts between a low death metal growl and a raspier and higher-pitched scream that fans of In Mourning will recognize.
An album like A Thin Shell
needs an effective atmosphere to have any replay value whatsoever, and I think in large part the album achieves this. It’s not an original piece of work in the least bit, but fans of such bands as Swallow The Sun, Hanging Garden, older Katatonia, and In Mourning will find this album to be to their liking. Amid a few irksome riffs and drawn-out melodies that overstay their welcome, A Thin Shell
sits as an accomplished piece of work; not brilliant by any means, but definitely enjoyable. Even though its appeal may not extend very far, those who are a fan of this kind of thing will find plenty to like, and the albums decent replay value will having you coming back for more listens. The real question, though, is whether October Tide are willing to step it up and progress their sound into something that is unquestionably their own, or are they simply going to remain in the side-project stage for the remainder of their existence.