The promise of a new October Tide recording is a close second to Katatonia in terms of anticipation and excitement. Granted, it’s a much rarer occasion. Formed in 1994 by Fredrik Norrman and Jonas Renkse, few debut albums are held as sacred as 1997’s Rain Without End — the last time we would be privileged to hear Renkse’s tormented harsh vocals (2008’s Ayreon guest spot notwithstanding). A Canorous Quintet frontman Marten Hansen proved to be a more than serviceable successor on 1999’s worthy follow-up Grey Dawn, but shortly after the LPs release, the Tide went on hiatus, not to rise again for a decade. Reactivated in 2009 by Fredrik, the following year’s masterpiece A Thin Shell would serve as a return so flawlessly executed it left this scribe literally speechless. Now, reunited with his brother and former Katatonia/Uncanny bandmate Mattias, North is promptly back to treat the gloom-afflicted among us to the aptly-titled Tunnel of No Light. Guitarist Emil Alstermark and drummer Robin Bergh return for the second time, but Tobias Netzell has parted ways to fulfill In Mourning obligations. A pity… I had hoped he would one day get to flex his clean vocal muscle on OT wax. In his place is newcomer Alexander Hogbom (Spasmodic, Volturyon), whose sandpaper delivery sounds eerily similar to Netzell’s most of the time. Perhaps October Tide’s downcast musical nucleus transforms its narrative host to the tone of its liking? His performance is remarkably solid, as if Alstermark and Norrman’s anti-life riff equation needed much assistance. The overpowering waves of melancholic mastery that wash over the instantly spine-chilling auras of sorrowful gems like “Of Wounds to Come,” “Emptiness Fulfilled,” “Caught in Silence,” and “Watching the Drowners” recall the depressive magnificence of the For Funerals to Come / Rain Without End era. Elsewhere, sprawling epics such as “Our Constellation,” “In Hopeless Pursuit,” and “Adoring Ashes” don’t reveal their staying power until the album’s all-shade black hole sucks the listener into many a repeated listen. Look, it’d be downright inconceivable to ask a band who’ve already overcome the loss of a god among men —although it’s comforting to know Renkse still contributes lyrically— to top three consecutive perfect records. Tunnel of No Light comes damn close. Perhaps now free from the rigorous touring demands of Katatonia, the brothers Norrman will maintain the band in the fashion it has always deserved. Long live the timeless essence of Katatonia’s Doomy past. Long live October Tide.
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