It’s been a fair amount of time now since I first came across Death’s Threshold, the sophomore full-length for “J.H.’s” one-man funeral doom project, Shades of Deep Water, in the plentiful wastes that constitute the Promo Bin. I was astounded; funeral doom is a bit of a rarity, after all, and I would expect
the vultures my coworkers to snatch up any errant scraps like, well, vultures. I hesitated only a moment before grabbing the album and absconding. After all, one does not simply listen to funeral doom. At least, I don’t. I need to be in the right headspace, the right mood, to truly appreciate the style. “Whatever,” I said to myself as I greedily grabbed it. “I’m sure I’ll be having a horrid week when I come to this one anyway!” Friends, I am a prophet, and Death’s Threshold could not have shown up at a better time.
So now that we’ve established that I am definitely in the mood to appreciate some good funeral doom, I should probably try to figure out if this is good funeral doom. And now that I’ve held you in suspense for a full ten sentences, I will tell you that Death’s Threshold is absolutely worth experiencing. There is a hopeless and distinctly nautical theme that runs through the album, accentuated by stringed instruments, alongside cavernous guitars and bellows that launch you straight to the bottom of the sea. This atmosphere is what I imagine happens when Pelagial (The Ocean) meets Antithesis of Light (Evoken). I could probably come up with a better comparison for the music itself, but this is a very varied album, at least as far as funeral doom goes. It never lingers on a single idea for too long, floating from gloomy pianos to simple, haunting riffs that nevertheless surpass expectations for standard funeral doom. The aforementioned string instrument — which I regrettably cannot identify with any certainty — adds a lingering sense of dread that benefits the album greatly.
With four songs spanning forty minutes, Death’s Threshold shows remarkable restraint, and never really becomes tiring to listen to.1 “Death’s Threshold – Part 1”2 largely serves to set the mood of the album with its slow introduction, hopeless tone, and mournful-yet-not-crushing approach. “Part 3” is my favorite track here, thanks to varied riffing and excellent use of plucked guitars, accompanied first by strings, then by silence in its conclusion. Vocals are sparsely used throughout, but J.H.’s subdued roaring is placed rather low in the mix, giving the impression of a presence that is only faintly there. His roars come across as whispers, menacing and cold, waiting to drag you down with them to whatever black oblivion they spawned from.
I do, however, have one major complaint about this album that, regrettably, knocked down its final score a bit. I don’t expect much from the drumming in funeral doom. Shades of Deep Water is under no obligation from me to utilize fancy drumming patterns and fills; on the contrary, I rather expect the drumming to be simplistic on most albums of this style. But Death’s Threshold features not only the exact same drum pattern for the vast majority of the album, but that pattern features a cymbal hit once every second or two, which is placed way too high in the mix. In addition to this, the drums lack impact; the snare is too reverberated, while the kick drums barely register at all. The results of this are manifold, and few of them are good; it distracts from the music itself, takes away from the overall impact, and creates a level of repetitiveness that should not exist in an album whose sound is so varied.
With that said, I have scant few other complaints about Death’s Threshold; this is an excellent example of funeral doom that I will definitely be returning to. Shades of Deep Water nail the crushing hopelessness of their nautical abyss, and it is all the more impressive for being a one-man project. J.H. has a clear talent for gloom3, and I am looking forward to another dismal day when he unveils his next opus.