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Shades Of Deep Water : Closure (Demo)

Shades Of Deep Waterís 2008/9 sophomore demo release builds upon the wretchedness of the debut, while adding a more personal sound.

Shades Of Deep Water emerged in 2006, cloaked in anonymity, with no official site, bio or any information about the man behind the project, and released its first demo tape the following year with a sound close to Shape Of Despair's debut full length, using the same monotone trance-inducing 3/4 rhythm and deep crude growls. The main appeal of the band is undoubtedly the raw, unpolished and intimate sound which is simple yet evocative. A year later this second demo was released as an independent CDr featuring only the twenty minute long massive title track; then in 2009 'Closure' was re-released by the wonderful but now sadly defunct label Bubonic Productions. (They had also released the self-titled debut via sub-label Bubonic Doom, as well as many other top notch underground Doom acts). The format was once again a tape featuring two additional tracks doubling the length of the album and this is the version this review is based on.

The cover art is fantastic - a very crude drawing of a woman doing the washing in a barrel while something is cooking on a fire - possibly displaying the numbing meaninglessness of everyday life, a struggle with no light or hope, bleak and unhappy. The figure appears alone crushed under the weight of a world that provides no pleasure or release from responsibilities. The nice fold out inlay features bleak grey landscapes as well as the sole initials of J.H. which is the only piece of information we get about the creator.

The style that Shades Of Deep Water play has always been a point for debate. It is definitely too fast to be considered Funeral Doom, but the languid feeling it usually exerts is typical for this style and there are no fast outbursts at all, only constant mid-tempo throughout. So while the sound does not strictly adhere to the rules of Funeral Doom, the aesthetic, feeling and atmosphere of the early material definitely does.

'Closure' features the longest tracks of J.H.'s career. He has always created relatively short pieces with (until the 2019 second full-length) no other songs even reaching the ten minute mark: not too ordinary an approach, as young bands often tend to hide their lack of talent behind long tracks justifying the negative response from the listeners with an assumptive lack of understanding. Fortunately Shades Of Deep Water have never been in this category as from the very first release they showed surprisingly strong skills, so J.H. never needed to hide behind extreme sound as the crucial songwriting abilities are clearly present. Also, despite the raw and at times primitive sound he is not afraid to play catchy melodies, again at odds with a certain underground elitist branch preaching all Doom should be unlistenable.

Even though the title track was composed only a year after the debut, we see that there is an apparent progression. It is less reliant on the 3/4 rhythm and more on the riffs themselves. It is tranquil, relaxing and at times intense, not relying on gimmicks but rather on a flowing pace with some perfectly fitted interludes. The drums are slow and strong. Cymbals have a big role and are perfectly tuned. The whole album is wonderfully composed with the soft moments engaging and the transitions to heavier parts always smooth. The melodies are pleasing and the droning guitars suffocating. The grunts are not so crude and raspy anymore, they are deep and dirge-like but still sound rough and dry, providing a scraping-like feeling which has a nice effect.

The album opens with clean acoustic guitar and gentle riff melody in parallel. This is explored and expanded for some minutes while mid-tempo drums become heavier and more menacing gradually taking the forefront. When the heavy distortion appears developing the initial simple melody further, it grinds and tears through everything. It is suffocating and has an amazing raw quality to it. It swirls a bit, then changes into another fantastic melody, slow, raw and uncompromising but still catchy. The main melody returns again slightly modified, like variations on a theme, explored and brought back a bit different. This structure is the trademark of the band as most of their output is built around it. An interesting trait of the title track is that at the eleven minute mark, after the main melody has been explored sufficiently, the song seemingly restarts, getting back to the initial guitar notes that opened the track and embarks on a familiar exploration until it fades out.

'The Breathless Sea' is another massive piece, and at sixteen minutes it continues the early experimentations with lengthy tracks. It was recorded some time later and has better production with the guitars sounding more full and heavy. The structure is again quite simple - as usual we get a main melody that is extremely pleasing and that will carry the track for the rest of its duration. It is explored throughout the song and every so often it is interrupted by either clear guitar notes or a heavy chugging section with harsh vocals. After each of these breaks we see the familiar melody re-appear with a slight twist, a variation.

These heavy chugging sections with fast drums and brutal grunts last about a minute each and act as a curtain which hides the transformation of the main melody before it re-emerges. Their place in the composition is quite smart, but unfortunately they are the low point of the entire release. They sound menacing, aggressive, but way too standard and mundane, totally unspectacular and do not evoke any feeling. Curiously they remind me of Stabat Mater's early work, minus the added cruelty. Fortunately they are short and manage to accentuate the following solitary melodic section which sounds even more pleasing by contrast.

The last song flows seamlessly on from the previous one and is made up of delightful semi-acoustic notes with swirling guitars in the background. It is a short instrumental piece, a little atypical and chaotic. Curiously it features the same clean melody that opened the title track throughout its entire length in parallel to the busy distant guitars. This is a pretty nice idea to bring back familiar harmonies in a different context which makes the album more coherent and creates a thematic frame.

As is usual with Shades Of Deep Water 'Closure' does not have any bells or whistles, it does not feature anything outstanding, but the strength of the brilliantly paced compositions with the very subtle progression of the tracks always guided by the main melody that evolves and returns ever familiar makes it a joy anticipating the next twist thus skillfully keeps the listener's attention focused. The title track remains a highlight of J.H.'s career, everything floats seamlessly and even when the rhythm is relatively fast it gives the impression of a slow procession. The songwriting is remarkable with the sole exception of the boring riffs in the second track and while not particularly depressive or devastating it is truly dark and creates a great atmosphere that is going to be missing in later releases where J.H. will instead focus firmly on the purely technical side of the compositions.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Closure
2. The Breathless Sea
3. The Final Return

Duration : Approx. 40 minutes

Visit the Shades Of Deep Water bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-01-21 by Klamerin Malamov
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