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Walking in the footfalls of the excellent Rain Without End is certainly a path well outside the park, and as their swan song, October Tide's sophomore effort was a mild disappointment. That isn't to say it's bad, or without merits of its own, for the musical performance on the disc is almost worthy of its predecessor. The major difference here, is that the vocals were turned over to Mårten Hansen of A Canorous Quintent (also Sins of Omission), and though I won't say he's got a bad tone, I just didn't enjoy his melodeath leanings as much as I did Renkse's deeper growling doom thrusts of the debut. It seems as if something so beautiful and painful was replaced by a rather phoned in alternative to those same emotions.
Otherwise, the band is the same here. The big melodies have been crafted into some more progressive patterns, perhaps a parallel to the changes that Renkse and Norrman were making in their main band. The drums are actually a little more powerful, but still simplistic, and where the band departs from the pure metal, they still excel. But having Hansen here sort of feels like ordering a burger or hot dog, then finding the wrong condiment was placed upon it, and tasting it anyway...
"Grey Dawn" is an interesting bit, with a strong doom opening, and a very Edge of Sanity-like melodic death riff after thirty seconds; but eventually winding down into a period of tranquil bass plodding, light drums, and chords alongside a warped, conversation sample that hangs at the edge of perception. It's a decent track, though the vocals are mediocre. "October Insight" has some chug and doom, for a few seconds sounding like something Katatonia might pull on a more modern record. The vocals here are grunted low and behind the vibrant melody, and they fit better than the first track, until the melodic charge part... "Sweetness Dies" has some excellent rolling melodies that would have fit perfect on the debut album, and later comes an almost psychedelic break where chorused guitars simmer alongside a lumbering doom melody. "Heart of the Dead" has a lurching, forward momentum, with some nice melody lines that wander blissfully across the open spaces between chords. But alas, the vocals.
"Floating" is another of the tracks worthy of Rain Without End...had ONLY Renkse decided to use his vocals here, for there are some truly evocative, somber passages, where the chords stop and an evil guitar line rings out. "Lost in the Dark (and Then Gone)" has a sense of depth and urgency to its riffing, with a sweet and sad dual melody in the bridge. "Into Deep Sleep" has some strong riffs in the beginning, though it gets a little dull during the faster section, and the album closes with the acoustic piece "Dear Sun", which does not disappoint, though it seems like something tacked on to give the album another track and could have been used anonymously on any of Renkse's records.
In short, this album was acceptable enough for what it was, but fails to generate the nostalgia that surrounds its elder sibling. There is good music to be found here, but you have to sift through the average vocal performance, and the mix of the album is not quite so devout or honest as Rain Without End, but somehow subdued. If you're tracking down this band for the first time, you might not want to start here, as it could turn you off.
Highlights: Grey Dawn, Sweetness Dies, Lost in the Dark (and Then Gone)
October Tide have certainly shaken off that Katatonia vibe. 'Grey Dawn' is the second full-length by October Tide and turned out to be the final record the band ever made as they split-up shortly afterwards. 'Grey Dawn' signifies the lose of the leading role of Jonas Renske. He had decided to step down from doing the vocals and hand the spotlight over to Mårten Hansen. This brings around an immediate change to October Tide. With Jonas seemingly stepping back from the limelight, Mårten Hansen has the chance to prove his worth in front of the mic. Unfortunately for him, he is overshadowed by the performance Jonas gave on 'Rain Without End'.
Despite the obvious Katatonia influence running through the debut full-length, it was a more pleasing effort by October Tide. I'm not entirely sure why the band split, to be honest I don't particularly care, but it would seem to me that there were problems. Musical development wasn't achieved on this full-length. 'Grey Dawn' can be seen as somewhat of a backwards step. Certainly not the direction they were hoping for. It would seem that since Mårten Hansen seemingly took control, October Tide attempted to react and reform, much like a political system. He certainly reacted to being given the leading role for this Swedish outfit, but he didn't reform them.
I'm not doubting Mårten Hansen's ability at all, but the reason why this full-length doesn't live up to expectations starts from the front, and at the front we have the vocalist. He doesn't give a very commanding performance. His growls aren't as powerful as Jonas'. They don't have enough conviction behind them, which is disappointing. There is still a Katatonia vibe flowing through October Tide, which is also disappointing. I like Katatonia, but I don't want to hear clone bands. October Tide are a competent outfit, but they're nothing spectacular. They float in the realms of mediocrity and seem to be content to stay there. The style is lacklustre and not as penetrative as 'Rain Without End'. The guitars have changed in sound. They appear more hollow and void of emotion. 'Rain Without End' gave a particularly stunning performance in terms of dynamism in emotion.
The distorted riffs were melancholic and sorrowful. 'Grey Dawn' is nothing but a sad title. The riffs can depict sorrow at times, but mostly they're just bland and uneventful. They have no spark, no direction to them. Like I said, floating in the realms of mediocrity. The acoustics to lighten the load a bit, but we're back to the stuttering performances on guitar and the forgettable percussion side. 'Grey Dawn' is disappointing. It's not terrible, but it's disappointing.
This album really delivers the goods, the follow up to the impressive Rain Wihout End, its even better, which is something hard to believe. Vocally the album delivers a much better performance by Mårten Hansen (Jonas Renske stepped down on this album, as it seems he couldnt do the blackish vocals anymore). Speaking of Jonas, he proves he has evolved to be a much better drummer considering some of his past work (Dance of December Souls, Brave Murder Day from Katatonia both) and well the guitar work, by Fredrik and Jonas is very melodic, very depressing, and at times very doomy. Production wise its also better than Rain Without End. The vocals are very understandable (considering is a sort of black metal vocal). My only complaint its the album is too short, but this means you will be coming back for more, which is always good. The songs simply follow this structure of Verse, Chorus, Verse so if you get turned off by that, you should maybe try to listen to some old katatonia instead which is much much more original. But considering there isnt that much amount of Death/Doom around this album really shines through...For fans of Katatonia, old Opeth and even some Old Anathema