Oct 112023

(DGR is the author of the following review of October Tide‘s new album, released last week by Agonia Records.)

Fun fact: If research is to be believed, up until the recent release of October Tide‘s newest album The Cancer Pledge, they have never actually had a release come out in October. Unlike November’s Doom – who can credit at least three releases towards their chosen month-name – October Tide have actually been pretty distant from their month-of-misery-and-inspiration.

Both, however, have a large bulk of their releases based within the spring and summer time. Perfect weather for the sort of melancholic-death-and-doom those groups have trafficked in, and if nothing else, provider of the idea that in the future, should you choose to involve a month in the naming of your band, lean toward including a December or January in the mix just to guarantee that you’ll never have an album hit during the pre-year-end-list panic attack or the post-year-end list hangover/panic attack wherein everyone is trying to catch up on everything that hit prior.

October Tide‘s The Cancer Pledge arrives four years since the release of the group’s 2019 album In Splendor Below, keeping to the band’s surprisingly steady schedule of every three-to-four years a full-length since their reactivation in 2010.

In keeping with established patterns, it probably won’t shock a lot of people to find out that October Tide have also kept things stable, lineup-wise, in that time and basically pick up right where In Splendor Below left off. If you enjoyed the surprisingly death metal leanings that the aforementioned album displayed, then you’ll be happy to hear that The Cancer Pledge is October Tide giving in to those sentiments and creating an equally ugly and miserable beast for a second go-around.

Even though we’ve jokingly remarked on it before, The Cancer Pledge even sticks to the eight songs, plus-or-minus forty-five minutes, modus operandi that was established so long ago on Tunnel Of No Light. We do love us a good pattern round these here parts.

In keeping with the newer, uglier logo, The Cancer Pledge maintains the sort of miserable being crawling through the murk atmospherics that were established on In Splendor Below, but what will surprise long-time listeners is the sense of immediacy with which the first couple of minutes of the album actually moves.

“Peaceful, Quiet, Safe” may have all the trademarks of a classic October Tide song from first glance, clearing six minutes with ease and the song title giving off a sense of foreboding, but within the opening minutes of the song, October Tide drop into a classic swede-death style ‘snare-bass rotating thump’ to keep the song moving, using that as the throughline to keep vocalist Alexander Högbom howling towards the sky. The Norrman crew drop plenty a slow-moving lead and atmospheric guitar section into the song as well, but it’s that sort of surprise that will likely color a lot of early impressions of The Cancer Pledge. No longer are we shriveled up in a corner or waking up and dragging ourselves near-comatose through the day, now we are lashing out a bit as well.

There is an understated push/pull dynamic happening on The Cancer Pledge that you normally wouldn’t expect from a group so well known for making a friend of – and using as its muse – the concept of misery. They took the doom aspect to heart when the band was founded and upon their 2010 relaunch have since made it the fulcrum upon which they shift, yet in the quest for darker atmospherics the band have adapted to moodier realms alongside their chosen anguish. Some of it even hinting towards abject violence and seeing the band drawing upon themes of self-destruction in a more overt sense than they have in the past, which lends itself well to the apocalyptic cries of a song like “Unprecedented Aggression”.

The guitar melodies that weave themselves around the limbs of the song before tugging ever so slightly make it one of the more dynamic songs on The Cancer Pledge, as it sways back and forth in line with its drumming. October Tide make it a point not to spend too much time uptempo on The Cancer Pledge – they are still a depressed into the dirt band at heart – but you can definitely see a throughline from a song like “Unprecedented Aggression” to a song like “Ögonblick av nåd” from In Splendor Below prior to it.

That style of song even bleeds over into follower and early-album highlight “Blodfattig”, which is built around a hefty gallop and mean vocal-warp for nearly six and a half minutes of bludgeoning before events close out. It isn’t often that October Tide get overwhelmingly blast-ey but they do so within the ending of “Blodfattig”, and to great effect because it makes the song – and vocal work – seem like they’re spiraling ever-further into madness.

But where then, lies my precious doom? If October Tide are now the saddest death metal band in existence, where be-eth the slow tempo and drag through the mud that we have long come to the band for? Well, it’s a little more spread out this time but you’ll definitely be at home by the time you hit the titular “The Cancer Pledge” song, which couldn’t have been more perfectly fitting within the hallowed halls of October Tide‘s songbook had it tried.

Alongside it you have its older brother in “Tapestry Of Our End” – it’s no wonder why they both got lyric videos – and then just after it you have the younger sibling of “I Know Why I’m Cold”. “I Know Why I’m Cold”, especially, dwells in darkened halls for much of its run time. It is comfortably October Tide in the way that many of the songs on Winged Waltz were. Propelled forward by a hefty bellow and a rhythm section that constantly hammers, “I Know Why I’m Cold” is built around its guitar work as much as its rocking-back-and-forth rhythm. The Cancer Pledge overall has an air of viciousness that hadn’t been present in the group’s previous sound but it is one that keeps the atmosphere dark throughout – though drawing from a different font than the group had done before.

Still, by the end of The Cancer Pledge we have once again found ourselves submerged. October Tide have played with the idea of drowning before, so “Breathe The Water” is a suitable return to form to close out the record. October Tide have a talent for letting their listeners drift underwater, and the crashing guitars of the new album’s closing song are great for that. It’s the one final song to summarize the events within the world that October Tide have created for this particular drift into melancholy.

It is also, surprisingly, one of the shorter songs on The Cancer Pledge, and the beneficiary of quite a few gorgeous guitar leads in between verses of the song, though one of the defining traits of the band is that there is constantly some sort of lead echoing throughout their songs. It, like “The Cancer Pledge” in song form, is a near-exacting take on the October Tide blueprint and a great way to end the album.

The Cancer Pledge iterates on much of what took place within the album before it, so if it seems like the two are direct siblings upon your first few listens, you wouldn’t be wrong. October Tide clearly enjoy the part of the ground they have staked out for themselves wherein they get to reach into a realm of death-metal heavy while also still disarming listeners with some absolutely beautiful melodic work, and vocally remaining as miserable as ever.

It may have been four years since In Splendor Below echoed out its final notes but you wouldn’t be able to tell with The Cancer Pledge. Instead, the events continue and remain as dark and dreary as ever and they move within a dreamlike haze. It’s October Tide firmly within their wheelhouse, and a forty-five-ish-minute trip that’s well worth the time.



  1. Excellent record. I’ve enjoyed every album by this band.

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