Release Date: 6/11/13
Deafheaven is a four-piece black metal/post-rock act from San Francisco, California signed to Deathwish, Inc, and Sunbather is their second full-length studio album. Their debut LP, 2011’s Roads to Judah, was marked by massive soundscapes of shoegazing black metal and song structures that gracefully shifted and intensified through slow melodies and tremolo picking. Agonizing screams and prolonged blastbeat sequences seemed to be slightly out of place in the album’s generally softer sound, but they’re muffled and slickened enough to do no more than contribute to the songs’ atmospheres.
On Sunbather, the Deafheaven continues to bolster their reputation as both genre innovators and unparalleled individual musicians, evolving the occasional monotony of atmospheric black metal into a more distinctive brand of dynamic, almost melodic, post-metal. Each song is an adventure, and in context of the rest of the album, is totally unique yet complementary. Whereas Roads of Judah offered a much darker, blacker perspective on their music, Sunbather opts for a lighter (yet still just as solemn) and much more expansive direction, obvious on both the title track and the soothing second half of “Please Remember” (if not also on the first two songs).
The album’s opener, “Dream House,” is full of slight buildups and heavy moods, until the second half kicks in with clean melodies that ebb and flow towards a soft and beautiful conclusion. It shifts directly into the second track, “Irresistible,” which is entirely clean and serves as a nice palette-cleanser before “Vertigo,” quietly begins. This 14-minute epic also showcases the band’s ability to gradually crescendo a song from minimalism to much more complex atmospheres, and then into a climactic melody and crunchy denouement that segues nicely into “Windows,” which serves as an interlude before “The Pecan Tree” blasts its way in to conclude the record. Midway through the song, a clean interlude and soft, distant tremolo picking develops into a delicately powerful interplay of chord progressions and driving rhythms, that finally climaxes in a beautiful manner only fitting for such an incredible record.
All in all, these seven songs’ impeccable, complementary structures make Sunbather more of an epic saga rather than just an ordinary album. Deafheaven has evolved out of their black metal roots into an intelligently diverse and emotionally enthralling beast of a post-metal quartet, beginning to explore territory virtually uncharted by any of their peers. Blastbeats and abrasive screams are used more effectively, the former also more sparingly and the latter with more organization. The album is highly dynamic, and cleanly transitioned throughout. That smart employment and perfect execution of both simple melodies and atmospheric soundscapes produces a damn near perfect LP, and one that I’ll be jamming for a long, long time.
Stream the record in its entirety here: http://pitchfork.com/advance/120-sunbather/