This is truly something special. I started with New Bermuda (which I also love equally) but this is a very different record. Whereas New Bermuda is rawer in parts, and has the black metal influences and shoe gaze / drone influences split out across the songs as almost separate entities in most cases, Sunbather is a real blend of the two influences together. Similar in vein to Alcest at times.
I love all forms of metal, rock and post rock/ shoe gaze and could not care less what bands look like / dress like / sing or scream about. This band really divide people, but for me, the music is incredible at times and I cannot get enough of it.
It's hard to get me excited about metal these days. Everything's been done. Been there, done that. Of course metal is still my main fare, but I tend to gravitate towards old classics. Hearing this album for the first time put a HUGE smile on my face. I felt I'd been hit by a train, and liked it. If you need a genre this is black metal. Vocals and drum blasts are pure black. But it's the black metal that Wolves in the Throne Room contributed to free from itself and its rehashed clichés. It's powerful, brutal, melodic, original. Never has an album brought together such brutality (as in power) and melodies so catchy they're almost pop-like. Oh, yeah, and it's also a bit experimental. It's going to be hard for them to top this album but you know what, it doesn't matter. It's a classic. The best metal album I've heard this year, and that's putting it mildly.
"Sunbather" is going to knock the china ducks from over the top of your grate, strip it of the Anaglypta roll and leave big bunkers in your concrete walls. Deafheaven have created a post metal behemoth here that is so large it may auger gravitational collapse and a musical black hole. This second album from the San Francisco band of noise merchants comes with songs that roll in at well over 10 minutes and which assault your musical sense in a way which was last achieved by Josh T Pearson's soaring aural assault in Lift to Experience's "Texas Jerusalem Crossroads" or the works of fellow Lone Star state residents Explosions in the Sky. On these songs George Clarke's rasp screams over the pile driver arrangements which sound like shattering blasts of pure cacaphony. Yet uplifting melody and triumph lurks here not least in the wonderful heights scaled on the opener "Dream house" whose crescendo builds to a sense of scale and power in its nine minute plus which is completely overwhelming.
Thus to describe or to compare this to black metal anymore (particularly the unholy Scandinavian variety) is to miss the point; this is post rock like Slint but done at warp speed. The closer "Pecan Tree" leaves you gasping for breath. In its 11 minute plus duration its like experiencing a sonic apocalypse which literally pulversises your senses and stops your daily deliberations. Much heavier is the epic mid track "Vertigo" this time at 14 minutes resembling a mini math rock opera with influences and traces of Black Sabbath, Husker Du and previous greats, and with Clarke's fellow band members Kerry McCoy, Derek Prine and Daniel Tracy whipping up such a fierce musical tornado that you should head to the ground shelter. When it comes to the shortest track on the album "Irresistible" its like a single in comparison to its lengthy counterparts and provides shelter from the storm from what follows but at the same time it shows how the band are confident in their own skins that amongst all this full on assault they can interject a lovely guitar lament. The eerie neo religious chant of "Windows" does feel more like an interlude which some may find a distraction. Amends are made however with the pulverising title track that has pitch-warped guitars almost being overcome by fuzz and static. "Sunbather" is a bold and thrilling album from a band whose music has gone into another league on this release. People of a certain age may question the sanity of those who love this undiluted wall of noise produced by Deafheaven, but you the listener will smile politely safe in the knowledge that something very special is going on here and if others can't recognise that then aren't they the poorer for it?
For too long has the heavier side of guitar music been dominated by angry men with long hair and black T-shirts. This is something new, something chimeric, something serious.
This record takes the sound, and unique technical aspects of melodic death/black metal, and integrates it with the wall of noise/soundscape elements of post-rock/punk bands like My bloody valentine, and sonic youth, and in doing so seems to have created a new cultural footprint. The result is utterly refreshing. There are bands; alter of plagues, wolves in the throne room, - who seem to be moving melodic black metal away from the tedious and angsty gothic-cabaret of bands like COD and Dimmu Borgir(whom I enjoy, but not without a hefty pinch of salt and regular bursts of belly laughter)but none I know of who have eschewed the cultural aesthetic of metal entirely. Which is why deafheaven and esp. sunbather is so exciting. It is not envisioned within the dogmatic confines of the heavy-metal subculture, it is expansive, unrestrained, and unapologetic about it.
The name too is apt, the music is the sonic equivalent of staring at the sky through closed eyelids on a hot cloudless day. You feel bathed in sound, it is at once aggravating and cleansing, combining the cultural literacy of post-rock with the aggression and catharsis of heavy metal. Seriously good stuff.
I was pointed in the direction of this band by a friend a month or so ago. After listening to a couple of tracks online, I bought for the album. It has quickly become one of my favourites of this year; it's heavy and brutal in places and ambient in others without sounding forced which is something of an achievement.
I've had a recent lull in review writing and it has lead to an intimidating backlist of stuff to get through. I partially blame Sunbather for this, as for some reason big releases can give me writer's block - to excuse myself, I think this is because so many people have had their say on this work and I didn't want to either trip over someone else's ideas or find myself being objectionable over some of the choice descriptions I've read and found pretty inaccurate. Now all that's out of sight and mind and I actually feel slightly awake for the first time in two months - hopefully I can get back on the mission. This fourth release by Deafheaven is by far their best work - and that's not to the discredit of the demo or `Roads to Judah', which both helped the band carve their firm and exciting niche.
But Sunbather? Sunbather! With guitars that seem to flawlessly and effortlessly conjure the most beautiful and sophisticated chord sequences accompanied by heart wrenching, epic and expressive embellishments - this harmonic journey is not only a fresh approach within the black metal landscape, but as far as the horizon, the territory seems unfamiliar.
This album definitely contains black metal, as far as an aural energy goes, but if you're the type to procrastinate over descriptions you'll vehemently defend the stance that this is obsolete from that particular crowd - and in fact, purists would be excused for vomiting blood and spitting fire out of their ears (or whatever) at the thought of allowing some handsome, young, cocksure San Franciscans anywhere near their precious kvlt of ugliness, bitterness, morbidity and despair. But the fact remains, this draws on black metal for it's fervour.
I've tried to hear a wasted moment on this album, a cut corner, but I can't and it's not there. I even love the interludes. I really thought I was going to have an issue with the fact that the atmosphere comes across as a sort of suffocating love-sick suburban tragedy, with life really getting on top of these kids who've just found talent comes very easy (it's easy to feel envious), but then I found myself picturing this atmosphere through the more critical and objective lens offered in the spirit of films like American Beauty, or the graphic novels of Daniel Clowes (think Ghost World) and Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings).
So in short, the reason why everyone's talking about Sunbather is it's a genuine masterpiece with an incomprehensible breadth of appeal. It's impossible not to feel - from passion to loss and longing to contentment when those melodies find you.
I bought this album as the result of pure serendipity. This album was recommended in some music press as one of, if not the, best album of 2013. A controversial and audacious statement so I had to investigate. Perfect combination of death metal and the indie shoe gaze tunes of the early 90s. Despite this combination this album can be very extreme.
I pleased to say that a few mates who dislike my tastes in music have falling in love with this album. Time to open up more ears to death metal.
If you're fan of Black Metal or Post-Rock and love just being taken on a wonderful journey through time, space and rock. You will love this. If Pink Floyd was satanic, If Heaven came crashing down to earth. I'm glad I have ears. Just go buy it already. -Calscape
Wow!! This is one hell of an album. Mixing black metal with shoe gaze, it captivates from start to finish. Be warned though, it's not for everyone. Fans of Volbeat will struggle with the sheer heaviness and lack of lame choruses.