Though the band got off to a strong start on their 2011 Deathwish debut full-length Roads To Judah, the best was yet to come for Bay Area metal band Deafheaven. Specifically, their sophomore album, Sunbather. The album merges shoegaze, post-rock, and black metal influences in a way that is surprisingly accessible, yet no less heavy and emotional. While it’s true that similar albums and bands existed before Deafheaven ever did (specifically, Wolves In The Throne Room and Alcest), Deafheaven’s brand of post-black metal managed to garner critical acclaim – in fact, it’s still one of the top 10 highest-rated metal albums on Metacritic.
Of course, all those accolades are meaningless if this was just some hyped-up album that ended up ringing hollow to a burgeoning audience. No, what Deafheaven accomplished here is still awfully impressive. Album opener “Dream House” sets the tone early on with a shimmering opening that segues effortlessly into a wall of cascading guitars, and really, it doesn’t let up too much from there. While there are 3 interludes on the album to help break up the lengthy songs, even those serve a greater purpose – to give the listener a breather in between what can be a very intense record at times. Album closer “The Pecan Tree” and the title track also drive the listener into the emotions and world Deafheaven are trying to create, and whether it’s the violent, abrasive vocals of George Clarke or the shoegaze influences that are much more apparent here than on their debut, this is essential listening for any metal fan. It’s no surprise that many bands – especially the likes of Ghost Bath – would go on to be heavily influenced by the sound created here.