Deafheaven - Sunbather
Label: Deathwish Inc.
Reviewer: Álvaro Rodríguez Ortiz - 2013-07-06
Highlights: Sunbather, The Pecan Tree
Nowadays, seems like Black Metal, as a genre, is changing. The proof is Deafheaven’s last album. I’ve been following Black Metal for a while (almost 4 years now), and it’s one of the most versatile genres of extreme metal. You have those typical Norwegian Black Metal bands that burnt churches in the 90s (Burzum), those Black Metal bands that they don’t do anything except music (Watain), Black Metal with clean vocals (Alcest), even Christian Black Metal. But now, seems like there are some “hipster looking guys” that they are making better Black Metal than the old school and true ones. Deafheaven is one of those. I have to say, I don’t care how a band looks, I only focus in the music, but seems like lately in blogs, websites and fanzines all over the world, are complaining about them because Deafheaven don’t look metal. And I agree, they look just like normal people. But who the fuck needs those guys to wear corpse-paint when their music is 100% Black Metal?
Sunbather is their second LP album. And from the very begging is surprising. The first thing you notice is the cover art. In my personal experience, I started listening to Heavy Metal because the album covers were so attractive, like, who wasn’t shocked and pleased at looking at your brothers/sisters/fathers Iron Maiden’s CDs? Black Metal covers have always been minimal, shocking, fantastic or very ugly. I do normally think that Black Metal covers are “good”, but they are repetitive. Anyway, here we have something new: a pink cover. Have you ever seen a Black Metal band's album with a pink cover? Well, now you have. I saw in several magazines the reason why they wanted this color; they told the artist to make the same color you see when you gaze at the Sun with your eyes closed. And it’s very accurate, at least in my opinion (because yes, I did the test).
Deafheaven’s music is beautiful. I would say is a kind of mix between Alcest, with only harsh vocals (remember, you cannot say Black Metal is sang with growls, because is not. This is a common mistake), and really long songs. You can hear influences from Mayhem, Alcest, Gothic Rock like Bauhaus, and of course, Shoegaze. Seems like there are a bunch of Black Metal bands that they are very fond in Shoegaze, and they joined the two genres, creating a whole new genre (which I have to say, it’s my favorite subgenre in Black Metal, after Norwegian Black Metal): Black Metal Shoegaze. For the people who don’t care about tags, imagine this: the wall of distorted guitars of Shoegaze, with blast-beats and harsh vocals. There you go.
This album consist of seven very long songs (they are about 9-13 minutes, except two), and we have three instrumental songs. The album starts with Dream House, and for the very beginning you can hear the wall of sound that I talked previously. George Clarke’s vocals are pure Black Metal, and really difficult to understand, unless you have the lyrics or the book-sleeve. This song talks about a dream love night in Manhattan. See? Deafheaven is different even in the lyrics. I really want to remark the last 3 or 4 minutes of the song, when the drum slows down a bit. It is my favorite part of the song.
Next song is Irresistible. And it’s a gorgeous three-minute instrumental song. Okay, here we have only clean guitars, and you can hear a huge influence of Dream Pop and Post-Rock. The song is based in a simple melody, accompanied with a very simple rhythm guitar. And the best part of the song, and one of the highlights of the album is the slow transition between guitars and piano in this song. It’s so subtle and yet beautiful…
After Irresistible, we reach Sunbather. And I think this is by far, the best song of the album. It's 10 minutes length, and it continues the album’s sound: blast beats, harsh vocals and distorted guitars. But the best part is when the breakdown comes, with a simple clean electric guitar, bass and drums; and when that part is over, the song starts kicking again. I would say it’s like a roller-coaster, the slow part is when you are going up and up and up, and then you go down. It’s an amazing trip. One of the best songs of the year.
Next song is Please Remember, another instrumental piece. At the end of this song we can hear a simple strumming acoustic guitar, which adds more flavor to the album. Now we reach Vertigo, the longest song of the album. It starts very slowly for the very first 2 minutes, and then the guitar kicks in. I really want to remark the drumming in this song, it’s very intense and hard to do (it’s very hard to keep playing blast-beats for more than 2 minutes, I tell you). Windows is the last instrumental song of the album. It’s a really obscure electronic music song, with a very spooky piano on the background, surrounded by street noise. And then we reach the last song of the album, Pelican Tree. Around minute 4, the song starts fading and then clean guitars appear. In the whole album you can hear how they play with different feelings and dynamics (they normally play strong part-breakdown-strong part).
Deafheaven are different. Which is good in the whole Black Metal scene. If you are looking to hear something new, you seriously need to check them out. My favorite album of the year, next to Darkthrone’s The Underground Resistance.