Review of Winged Waltz by October Tide

Band: Winged Waltz
Album: October Tide
Release Date: 22 April 2016
Record Label: Agonia Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XV: 4:45 Sunday at Rams Head Live

Winged Waltz by October Tide

Maryland Deathfest XV kicks off this Thursday. I’ve tasked the DCHM album reviewers with writing about a band playing MDF that they’re excited to see. Buzzo Jr wrote about grindcore band Insect Warfare (read it here) however Tal’s pick of death/doom band October Tide is on the complete opposite end of the metal spectrum. Read this review to know why you can’t miss October Tide at Maryland Deathfest this weekend!

For the second year in a row, the band I’m most excited about at MDF is a melodic death/doom band that I thought I’d never get to see live on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps that says more about my love of obscure melodic death/doom than about MDF, though. In the festival line-up, October Tide is buried in an avalanche of black metal.

October Tide began as a Katatonia side project (back in the good ole days of Brave Murder Day – i.e. mid 90’s), released two hallowed albums in the 90’s and then went on hiatus for 11 years, until the band took on a life of its own in 2010. Carried on by founder and ex-Katatonia guitarist Fredrik Norrman, October Tide now also includes his brother Mattias Norrman, who also played bass for Katatonia. Amon Amarth’s new full-time drummer Jocke Wallgren also took part in recording last year’s Winged Waltz. The current October Tide line-up is rounded out by bassist Johan Jönsegård and drummer Jonas Sköld, in addition to vocalist Alexander Högbom.

As they always have, October Tide carries on where Katatonia left off, and Winged Waltz is no different. If you wish you could find more music like Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day, like Daylight Dies and the short-lived Slumber (Fallout, 2004), then Winged Waltz is for you.

Listening to the album is like putting on a well-worn shoe (and I’m not just saying that because I’ve listened to it so many times). You know just how it’s going to feel. As the intro to the first song, “Swarm,” creeps around in a minor key and then jumps by a discordant interval – a jarring feeling that’s also just what you expected. As atmospheric riffs build nearly into white noise, but still with a discernible melody, sorrowful and keening, at the high end. As long notes waver and layer in a more downtempo segment. As the growled vocals full of aggrieved rage complete the crushing weight of the album.

That isn’t to say that the songs are cookie-cutter. There’s variety in pace and melody – an expansive, all-guns-blazing section at the end of “Swarm” contrasting nicely with the meandering pace of the next song, “Sleepless Sun”; more aggressive riffage in “Reckless Abandon” and “Perilous”; the brash melodic motif that runs through “Nursed by the Cold.” But at the same time, there’s not a huge distinction between the songs, making them run together a bit. This isn’t unique to this album, though. For me, it happens with pretty much all melodic death/doom, from Brave Murder Day and other music in that style, to Swallow the Sun and Doom:VS. It might even be a mark of a good melodic death/doom album that it feels like one continuous experience, of churning doom underpinnings, sorrowful melodies and crushing harsh vocals.

And Winged Waltz checks off all these boxes consummately. The 2016 release may be following a formula, but it’s been a successful formula all these years, and I hope they never stop.

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