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Run of the death/doom mill - 60%

TheWaltzer, December 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Agonia Records

Death/doom can be one of the most rewarding genres to listen to if done right. The way the two styles mesh can turn into some exciting songwriting, with plenty of contrasts and a dense, dark atmosphere - and there is even room for some gloomy melodies. All of this was present on October Tide’s famous debut, “Rain Without End”. While expecting an album of such caliber to happen again is absurd, Fredrik Norrman, the creative leader of the band, is no slouch.

Rather than Katatonia, which will probably always remain sort of a “older sibling” project to October Tide, “Winged Waltz” brings up allusions to Paradise Lost when they actually do decide to play some death/doom. The main reason is the melodic riffs and song constructions are somewhat similar in style, and Andreas Högbom’s echoey growls do resemble those of Nick Holmes a fair bit, though still a far cry from Nick’s versatility. There's just one difference, and it is a big one.

What is the difference? Barely anything on this record sticks. Sure, it’s professionally played death/doom which includes plenty of haunting melodies… but that’s about it. Whilst guys like Blakkheim and Mackintosh always deliver clean guitar lines that will have you coming back for more, the ones by October Tide go in one ear, out the other. The heavy parts are actually somewhat lacking, too, since the guitar tone is rather light and buried behind the drums and vocals. Without the urgent heaviness, it seems that “Winged Waltz” just trudges onward without really doing much. Only seldom does the band create tension between the melody and the rare heavy riff (the paused one that dominates the second half of “Coffins Of November”), however, such moments really are few and far between.

Some good doom metal albums tend to be greater than the sum of their parts. They can be simplistic, drawn-out, but if they work, they simply work. On the other hand, “Winged Waltz” somehow manages to be less. The songwriting looks fine on paper, the vocals, though monotonous, are quite good, the musicianship is definitely there… and still, nothing sticks, besides the aforementioned closer and perhaps the main melody of “Reckless Abandon”. I have listened to the album five or six times and I simply cannot remember any outstanding parts. Only when I stop and focus, I even think to myself “this is a good riff”. However, it all somehow disappears into the grey soon after and leaves me thinking about how there’s a dozen other records of the same style I would rather be listening to instead of “Winged Waltz”.