01. Dream House
04. Please Remember
07. The Pecan Tree
Deafheaven are among the rarest of breeds. Their uncanny ability to write music that so perfectly conveys the emotion they express with their lyrics is something that had been lacking for such a long time in the metal world. Since their inception, the band has continued to push the envelope and experiment with new sounds, techniques, and lyrics. With their newest effort, Sunbather, the band not only personifies what it means to be emotive, but perfects this into a pure form of art that can only be described as an expansion of their past towards an even brighter future.
Sunbather is the perfect example of what happens when you do everything right. This record is not only a black metal record, but a more positive one, at that. While the lyrics may not appear so, when you listen to the music, you get the sense of happiness, beauty. None of the morose, vitriolic atmosphere that the original creators of black metal set out to express. Everything from the color scheme of the band’s simple cover artwork to the melodies found on the instrumental tracks seems to bleed positivity, although the lyrics would not appear as such. Taking an excerpt from the closing track ‘The Pecan Tree’, “I am my father’s son / I am no one / I cannot love / It’s in my blood.” The band did an excellent job of being able to combine this sadness with very beautiful music, and, if it were not for the lyrics, you would think this album was just as positive as it sounds.
Sunbather’s biggest achievement, however, is the way that the band were able to make music that was designed around the grim and dismal sound happy, almost peaceful. This tranquility is mostly gained through the three instrumental pieces that act as buffers between the longer tracks. Most notably, ‘Irresistible’ is able to express the finer points of Kerry McCoy’s talent on the guitar, as he weaves intricate melodies throughout its duration. Originally, the inclusion of three instrumental tracks between four tracks with vocals was a turn off, as it would have been fine with one more song and maybe one or two less instrumental tracks, but over time they seem to grow on you, and they end up earning your blessing for their right to belong. They also acts as nice breaks between the more intense, non-instrumental tracks that range from around 10 to 14 minutes in length.
One of the most beautiful features of this album is the way that the vocals are mixed. George Clarke’s vocals blend in perfectly with the rest of the instruments, becoming as much part of the music as the guitars, bass and drums. Normally having vocals this low in the mix would throw people for a loop, but this is one instance where it works. Had the vocals been on top of everything else, the rest of the album would have been hindered as they would have been obstructing the beautiful guitar melodies that encompass the entire album. Where execution is key, Clarke delivers, and it really feels as though he is screaming towards to you, not at you. One of the smartest moves the band could make, this not only adds to the records overall experience, but makes it one of the better executed records to come out this year.
There’s nothing to gripe at about this record. Aside from the wish of one more song with vocals, this record excels at nearly every turn. Experimenting with layers and layers of guitars, McCoy manages to create some of the most memorable moments in the band’s entire discography. At around a minute and a half into ‘The Pecan Tree’, the wall of sound explodes with layered guitars playing two distinctly different melodies while the drums abandon the blastbeats for some tasteful drum parts that really add to the songs features. The 60-minute runtime flies by, and before you know it the record is on repeat for days on end. With each listen there is something undiscovered, a tiny intricacy that was missed on the previous listen, that adds to the record so much more. A very dense listen, this record warrants multiple plays in order to fully grasp what the band is trying to express to the listener. Do not be deterred, however; these multiple listens will benefit the listener more than you think.
Sunbather is proof that metal and emotion have not fully severed the ties that once bound them so close together. Whether it’s soaring tremolo riffs over blast beats or slow ambient pieces, this album offers something for every avid metalhead and is a cut above the rest. There is no band out there that has accomplished what Deafheaven have in such a short period of time, and this record is a promising reminder that this band has plenty to offer. With Sunbather, Deafheaven have not only reached their potential, but gone above and beyond it, reaching new heights in the world of metal as one of the best USBM bands out there.
Deafheaven – Sunbather gets…