In-and-out dirge masters OCTOBER TIDE are back despite the loss of Tobias Netzell and Pierre Stam, who departed to release IN MOURNING's "The Weight of Oceans" last year. OCTOBER TIDE carries bleakness about them like an honor badge, thus they hardly let the exodus of Netzell and Stam deter them. If anything, their dark resolve seems even more stanch and despaired on their latest album, "Tunnel of No Light".
If you're unfamiliar with OCTOBER TIDE, then the title "Tunnel of No Light" should be indicative of what you'll encounter. Unhurried, methodic, forlorn, hapless, funereal, as if an alternate metal score to "The Descent" had been commissioned and promptly trashed because it's too goddamned depressing. For certain, "Tunnel of No Light" carries a disturbing sense of desperation that transcends melancholy, even if a few bright spots of grandeur materialize to offer false hope.
New vocalist Alexander Hogbom (VOLTURYON) aptly fills in the yelping vacancy left by Tobias Netzell. Mattias Norrman comes back to the family on bass, picking up the pieces with his brother, Frederik. Rounded out by second guitarist Emil Alstermark and drummer Robin Bergh, OCTOBER TIDE 2013 is more of the same as before, only with a more concentrated effort to slam the gates of doom upon their listeners. "Tunnel of No Light" is thus dank and dispiriting, a cumbersome, snuffing album that tears at its audience's wherewithal on a constant. There are few footholds to avoid falling into the inevitable misery of the album. Even Goth kids might find it all a bit much.
"Tunnel of No Light" carries a perpetual beleaguered vibe with barely any respite. Even when the opening of "In Hopeless Pursuit" begins with the premise of a stepped-up march tempo, it's merely a sadistic tease. OCTOBER TIDE immediately yanks their listeners back into their primary death-doom palette, drowning them with more inundation. To the song's credit, an anxiety-filled section of downstroking chugs adds to the hysteria and once again offers optimism of escape from the overall squashing effect of the album. Escape is not part of the plan, sorry, not until you hit the stop button on your player or you let the album finish its gory course.
The rolling apprehension of "Our Constellation", "Emptiness Fulfilled" and "Caught in Silence" are brutal exercises in endurance, but there is subliminal beauty to behold if you can separate your receptors past the tormented feel of the songs. The intro to "Caught in Silence" is especially superb. Frederik Norrman and Emil Alstermark know how to decorative their ugly canals with sparkling, if tempered lines that serve as dissipating tendrils of luminescence for listeners to try and cling to like life lines. The album's closer, "Adoring Ashes", may be the closest the band comes to sounding like their previous works, even if the tone is still drenched with spirit-sinking despondency.
This is by no means a welcoming album. "Tunnel of No Light" is good for a haul by any metalhead, but repeat spins are only for those with low-esteemed or constantly-peeved constitutions.