Thursday, July 18, 2013

Album Review: Deafheaven - Sunbather

Album Rating: A-
"People are buying the album who you would not expect to be buying it," the owner of my favorite record store tells me as I searched the store for a copy of Deafheaven's new record, Sunbather. "It's crazy. I've sold out of two shipments of it," he tells me as he genuinely looks surprised. I tell him thanks and go home to order a copy from Deathwish's estore. I hit play after the instant download finishes, and I immediately understand why the album has been selling so well to crowds outside of the usual metal/hardcore circuit. It's metal for nonmetal fans, and an easy transition into heavier music for people who may typically not be into the genre.

Deafheaven has created an album with enormous sound and energy. Blending the vast scope of post-rock and the crushing power of thrash metal, Sunbather truly stands out among albums released this year. "Dream House" kicks off the record with shredding guitar chords over pounding, double bass driven drums. In just a short time, vocalist George Clarke arrives in the mix, howling and roaring with extreme ferocity. Vocals are not the most forward aspect of the mix though. The instrumentation takes the lead, with it's furious speed and intensity. But the record is not as crushing as it may sound. The emotional swell of bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky can be found during the lengthy tracks, both during climatic barreling and the forgiving, airy breaks scattered throughout the album.

Sunbather follows a pattern of first brutalizing you, and then letting your ears heal, only to then tear them open again. The epic "Dream House" is followed by "Irresistible," a beautifully soothing track, acting as a closer to the first chapter of the album. The title track ramps up next, and never falters. The song is sonically savage, intertwined with moments of brief catharsis, to offset the intensity preceding it. Akin to the loud soft dynamic changes that bands like Sunny Day Real Estate defined, the blend is fresh to hear with the sharp roughness of metal. This dynamic is not just found during songs, but also between them. After the title track, "Please Remember" presents a soundscape of cataclysmic, drowning noise, before descending into hauntingly strummed guitar chords. The composition might not be the first track you pick to listen to, but it forms an integral component of the album. At this moment, you realize what Sunbather really is — a complete work of art, meant to be taken in as a whole, as albums should be.

The last three tracks round out the album in a somewhat predictable way, with the thrashing "Vertigo" sliding into the spoken word laden "Windows." The closing track, "The Pecan Tree," is Deafheaven at their finest. They display their talents immensely, and reach new ends of the spectrum of post-rock they have created. At moments it's as beautiful as a Sigur Ros track, while others it's as violent as Converge. With this Deafheaven has created a bridge between genres, and in doing so they have filled the gap with new fans of heavier music. So give it a try, and you just might be surprised at how beautiful black-metal can be.


Track list:
1. Dream House
2. Irresistible
3. Sunbather
4. Please Remember
5. Vertigo
6. Windows
7. The Pecan Tree

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