Deafheaven - Sunbather | Album Review | By Volume

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Deafheaven-Sunbather11

Deafheaven

Sunbather

Chaos. Radiance.

Comments (0)
Author: on June 3, 2013
8.6
Deathwish Inc
June 11, 2013

Let’s get it out of the way: Sunbather is an eclectic palette of semi-related genres and thoughts. A veritable portmanteau of post-rock, black metal, hardcore, and likely others, Deafheaven’s second LP will surely polarize the purists of its intended audience. On one hand, it basks in a realm typically avoided even by its “blackgaze” contemporaries – a juxtaposition of the sun’s simultaneous chaos and graceful radiance, typified by an uplifting major key tonality throughout. But on the other hand, it undoubtedly lends itself to the chagrin of dedicated black metal acolytes for its cross-genre experimentation. Sunbather presents an exact polar opposite sensation – avoiding, yet embracing, many of the same tropes that identify with said genre at its very core. As a result, Deafheaven eschew the traditionally conveyed biting winter’s cold for warmth, a feeling seemingly long forgotten by not only the black metal sub-genre, but by metal and hardcore at large.

Deafheaven push their intentions forward by flipping the envelope of their debut. Where Roads to Judah laid the mortar and foundation of their sound, it balked at representing a true cross-genre melange. Instead, it favored a strictly enforced musical contrast of styles, engaging in typical post-rock buildups, followed by atmospheric black metal breakdowns, with the two never truly intermixing. Conversely, Sunbather employs a methodology of morphing moods as opposed to genres; each part coalesces seamlessly into the composition, giving it space to breathe and to emphasize the listener’s emotional response. “Dream House” typifies this idea, incorporating a blackened barrage of blastbeats and hi-hats into its build-up until the uplifting crescendo’s end at the track’s apex. A similar formula resonates throughout, interspersed with pensive, short interludes that act to really fit all of the pieces together coherently. Most notably, “Pecan Tree” (an easy contender for track of the year) is a masterclass in dynamics, ebbing from the near-field recording of “Windows”, through an initial metallic explosion, and finally undergoing a seven minute decrescendo into the most beautiful post-rock sunset this side of 2003.

While music will always have a finite number of tones and combinations thereof, humanity hasn’t broached but a fraction of this theorized limit. Albums like this lie on the very precipice of innovation and progression – experimentations that result in new sub-genres or sounds that influence an entire generation of artists prepared to more finely hone this new craft to greater aspirations. With Sunbather, Deafheaven revitalize several stagnating genres in one grand statement; by no means is it perfection, but that possibility flickers on the horizon, flirting with the essence of the setting sun.

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