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Shades Of Deep Water : Underworld (Demo)

The 2009 third demo tape from Shades Of Deep Water shows a surprisingly upbeat side of the band, moving the focus away from the primitive misery of the past.

A year after the wonderful 'Closure' came the third demo tape from Shades Of Deep Water, released independently. This time the inlay was minimal, featuring only lyrics, recording information and the lone initials of the band mastermind - J.H. There is no artwork other than the front cover, which features an eclipse in nice blue warm tones.

'Underworld' is relatively short and if you look at the track list you would assume that it is a single song split into three parts. Even if this was the initial intention it does not work that well, as the songs are clearly separated and do not flow seamlessly. Instead, they usually end suddenly, without any transition and despite offering very similar style and sound they fail to create a coherent whole. The songs simply begin and end without going anywhere, without bringing a sense of conclusion; they feel like a succession of riffs which makes the album not only a collection of songs but a collection of ideas.

The music on this release is very familiar, typical of the band and instantly recognizable. In just three releases J.H. was able to completely shed the initial Shape Of Despair influence and fully master a sound of his own. Once again we have very catchy melodies that carry the songs and are explored throughout, again and again, in different forms with ever so slight changes.

The album is pretty fast for Doom and almost progressive in nature, made up of mostly upbeat notes. At times the guitar reminds me of the relatively unknown artist Nathan P. Holly and his debut 'The Suffering'. The melodies are very good but do not bring any negativity. At times they are even bouncy due to the drum rhythm. The short sharp riffs that evoke no sadness or melancholy prevent any association with Funeral Doom even in spirit. The vocals are very deep semi-spoken grunts and not particularly exciting. They are rough, brutal and the only part that still invokes any negative feelings.

The sound and riffs are very catchy and the songwriting is really good which makes it a real pleasure to listen to unless you expect something that touches you emotionally. The album is always changing and evolving, always bringing new ideas but no real atmosphere can settle in in such dynamic environment. Even when the music gets slower it remains light and hopeful due to the shimmering guitar notes, like the sound of light in darkness.

These nice simple melodies lack the drowning effect previously associated with this band. From a technical perspective, it is a step forward but it sounds like he is trying too much to create complex songs without providing any suffocating or depressing atmosphere, as if he wants to step up to a new level - to create good compositions, but by compromising the atmosphere and depression in order to achieve technical complexity. All three songs are packed full of ideas, they are engaging solely because of their songwriting and the lack of solid atmosphere means you cannot really immerse into the music as there is always something new happening that diverts your attention.

J.H. once again displays amazing songwriting skills and proves he can compose perfectly structured songs but the resulting effort is just too light-hearted. In Doom the purely musical qualities are simply not enough unless the music can affect you and grab you by the throat. Here, it feels like he just plays Doom without any heart, so the good compositions fall flat. He uses the Doom Metal palette but without the gloom and despite the title - which implies something morbid - 'Underworld' remains the happiest and least doomy release of Shades Of Deep Water.

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Reviewer's rating: 4.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Underworld I
2. Underworld II
3. Underworld III

Duration : Approx. 18 minutes

Visit the Shades Of Deep Water bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-01-21 by Klamerin Malamov
Thermal Mass
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