OCTOBER TIDE – The Cancer Pledge
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://m.facebook.com/octobertideband
October Tide (henceforth OT) had been formed in 1994 by two Katatonia members Sven Fredrik Norrman and vocalist Jonas Petter Renkse and persisted for 5 years and two albums (Rain Without End¹⁹⁹⁷ and Grey Dawn¹⁹⁹⁹) before breaking up for a 10 year hiatus. They returned with A Thin Shell²⁰¹⁰ (without Renkse) but it was the fantastic Tunnel Of No Light²⁰¹³ (my point of entry into their catalogue) which introduced Fredrik’s brother and former Katatonia and Trees Of Eternity bassist Erik Mattias Norrman (guitars) and Daniel Alexander Högbom (vocals), and then, following Winged Waltz²⁰¹⁶, Johan Patrik Jönsegård (bass) and Jonas Sköld (drums), the lineup which persists to date through In Splendor Below²⁰¹⁹ (which I completely missed) and, the subject of this review, The Cancer Pledge²⁰²³, released on October 6th last year via the Polish label Agonia Records.
Having a very slight modicum of comparison (Tunnel Of No Light²⁰¹³ and Winged Waltz²⁰¹⁶) I can’t tell you if The Cancer Pledge²⁰²³ is OT’s best album but I can tell you that it’s a fantastic piece of progressive death/doom metal, especially for those into old Opeth, In Mourning, Swallow The Sun, Insomnium, Dark Tranquillity as well as mid era Hipocrisy. In interviews, band’s frontman Fredrik Norrman asserts that the music is getting more extreme and that is, no doubt, due to a lot more death metal in every composition, a direction OT consciously chose. It is most obviously showcased in the opener “Peaceful, Quiet, Safe” which is like a three adjectives opposite of what is going on – at first, rather classic OT with the characteristic melodiscism, then, suddenly turning a vicious Obituary-an old school death metal corner. True, the perfect “Tapestry Of Our End” recalls more of In Mourning’s Afterglow²⁰¹⁶ stylings with luscious abundant infectious melodies, yet still smuggling quite a bit of early Paradise Lost gloom and doom for good measure, and those first two tracks set the mood for the rest of the 8 track album until the surprisingly viciously black metal “Blodfattig” (Anaemic), which, again, is far from what the title suggests and which is sung in the original Swedish, the fact that only adds to the horrific delivery where Fredrik Norrman even screams and shrieks like a seasoned black metal performer, yet the track is still not bereft of melody and hooks. His confessed favorite track on the album, “Blodfattig” is, indeed, perfect and the most odd one and almost out of character which, in my book, deserves the highest accolades, but after that things get a bit less intense and more melodic, epic and progressive for the title track and “I Know Why I’m Cold”, although they are still very good. “Season Of Arson” is another standout and it gets downright rock-and-rolling catchy toward the end, which, in my view or, if you will, my audition, it should have been the last track as it sure feels like it. Not that the closing “Breathe The Water” is unnecessary, far from it, in fact, it is another perfect melodic masterpiece, so intensely gorgeous and so emotive I may have accidentally shed a tear or two or three (for God only knows what reason, although it may have something to do with the words “consentual abuse”) which is interesting since he literally screams about drowning in the sea even recalls the sadly defunct Mar De Grises (Sea Of Grays), but it feels like a bonus track, so, perhaps the positions should have been reversed, but that, in essence, is my one of the only two serious gripes with The Cancer Pledge²⁰²³, the other one being that the first half is about 0.2 points better than the second.
In all, The Cancer Pledge²⁰²³ is a fantastic record deserving 5.6/6 so 5.5 is fully justified. The album has a wonderful replay value and the insightful lyrics about not the disease, as you may think, but the suffering of wrongly allocated feelings of love which then feels like sufferings from cancer (a simile I know too well) add it additional appeal. As a best compliment for the record let me conclude that if Opeth still recorded albums like that after the prophetically or purposely named Watershed²⁰⁰⁸ we wouldn’t have a separation into old and new Opeth.