Release Date: Jun 11, 2013
Record label: Deathwish Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Heavy Metal, Black Metal
For black metal classicists, it's natural to feel like kids with cool haircuts are encroaching on your scene. But the whole "hipster metal" backlash is simple snobbishness. In a sub-genre built on rejection - of harmony, of bombast, of Christianity - Deafheaven fit right in. The band's second record satisfies the expectations raised by 2011's Roads To Judah.
Review Summary: "I want to dream" Somewhere between the decaying sounds of “Windows” and the sonic hell of “The Pecan Tree,” I began to not only embrace Sunbather-but completely believe in it. The transition lacks subtlety; one of dark foreboding that leads into harsh eruption of shrill screeches and exploding percussion. Unexpected, but such is life, as Deafheaven so deftly describe throughout the album’s 60-minute runtime.
DeafheavenSunbather[Deathwish; 2013]By Zachary Corsa; June 27, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetOh, black metal. That great dividing line that separates so many of us music lovers like a jagged mountain range. For some, it's a deeply spiritual experience, akin to walking through fire unscathed. For others, it's a joke, grown men growing like demons and taking photos of themselves in corpse paint in the woods behind their parents' house, to laughable effect.
The albums that creep up and surprise – no, startle – you are always the most satisfying. Deafheaven‘s Sunbather is, without doubt, this year’s example. It’s fair to say that black metal doesn’t usually catch the consciousness of the wider music community. Yet the way Deafheaven fuse it along with post-rock and shoegaze meant that Sunbather was always likely to do quite well.
When we think about black metal, there's a certain expectation we associate with it; a feeling of icy bleakness that grips the listener by the spine and throws them into a pit of existential despair. Metal, however, is not a genre concerned with simply meeting expectations; it wants to destroy and subvert them. On Sunbather, their sophomore album, San Francisco's Deafheaven do just that.
Welcome to one of the most beautiful and disturbing albums you'll hear all year. One of the most powerful, profound and beautiful works of catharsis to emerge this year, ‘Sunbather’ is all the more remarkable for its originality. Taking their shoegaze-inflected black metal / post-rock fusion in myriad new directions, the San Francisco outfit come flying out of the blocks with ‘Dream House’, a whirlwind of mournful atmospherics and relentless percussion, and they don’t look back.
Whether it’s chest-beating hardcore or frostbitten black metal, extreme music has always been about power. So tell me, what other tangible entity that we can perceive is more powerful and mighty than the Sun. Think about it: a giant ball of superhot gas millions of times bigger than Earth which constantly generates energy and ejects flares of plasma through space.
The pre-release buzz and acclaim surrounding Sunbather, the sophomore LP by the Bay Area “post-black metal” outfit Deafheaven, is surprising. Not because of the aesthetic merits of the album itself—put mildly, it’s as good, if not better, than everyone is saying it is—but because in its construction, it’s set to incite vitriol in the two camps it appeals to. On one end, there are those who have stuck around this long because of Deafheaven’s associations with the West Coast black metal scene, whose stylings are in full form on the band’s impressive 2011 debut Roads to Judah.
Deafheaven don't look like your average black metal band. They lack the traditional garb of corpse paint and black clothing covered in studs. Hell, they even called their newest album Sunbather, an activity that many of their pasty ancestors wouldn't even think of. They also don't sound like your average black metal band.
Deafheaven weren't always this good. The San Francisco band's early shows found a scrappy, ambitious bunch of punk kids trying to warp black metal with shoegaze in a way that, for all its advances, felt familiar. In late 2010, they signed to Deathwish, the label run by Converge's Jacob Bannon, and there were expectations in the underground. (Though, at that time, people seemed to focus more on the fact that they didn't look like a metal band than what they were creating.) When vocalist George Clarke and songwriter/guitarist Kerry McCoy released their debut LP, Roads to Judah, in 2011, they added wrinkles to that live sound, especially on the opening track, "Violet".
Black metal, or at least the genre’s aesthetic, is in a precarious position of trendiness. While many see only the surface of it, the stark imagery of cartoonish xenophobes extolling Satan in costumes of corpse paint and spikes, the reality is that many of the form’s originators actually lived their art. So, while Etsy deals with a clogging bandwidth of kittens in corpse paint and leggings with inverted crosses, we remind you that people were killed, churches were burned, and the originators of black metal were generally deplorable people in every way.
Deafheaven make shoegazer metal that does its dark work in the background but refuses to stay in one place. Here, feedback thickens to thunderous crescendos while a cloud cover of despondent growls rains down. Snatches of minimalist stillness, acoustic strumming and spoken word vary the volume. But the mood stays ominous, even as sonic details thrill headphone-equipped headbangers.
Hop in the Delorean, everybody, because it’s time to venture back to the ancient past. Today, we’re setting the dials to 2011: the days of “Party Rock Anthem,” of the LCD Soundsystem farewell shows, of the best metal released in recent memory—or perhaps, the most divisive. I’m talking about the great “hipster black metal” explosion of ’11.