Friday, November 22, 2013

Gut Feeling: Deafheaven - Sunbather

Deafheaven – Sunbather
Deathwish, 2013
Deafheaven’s sophomore effort Sunbather is effectively metal for people who don’t like metal. Or think they don’t like metal. People who have been scared off by the abrasive vocals, blast beats, and church burnings. While the “metal for people who don’t like metal” might sound a bit insulting, the way Deafheaven have manufactured an album that seamlessly blends shoegaze, post rock, and black metal is one of the most exciting things I heard in 2013. I’m not a metal guy. I’m a pop kid at heart, but lately I’ve been getting bored and have been very interested in pushing my boundaries. Thanks to Mount Eerie’s black metal inspired Wind’s Poem and Liturgy’s “transcendental black metal” masterpiece Aesthetica, metal has ceased to be scary and untouchable. It’s dark and abrasive, but through all of the walls of huge guitars and the piercing screams there is a strange, satisfying peace that washes over me when I listen to music that sounds like it is aiming to destroy me. It’s almost meditative, spiritual, and while I’m sure there are some dyed in the wool metal heads who hate Sunbather, it’s hard to deny how beautiful this record is. The guitars swell with layers of reverb, the drums pound into your chest, and though George Clarke’s vocals are unintelligible, they possess a profound conviction. The lyrics sheet reads often reads like straight-up black metal (“Hindered by sober restlessness/ Submitting to the amber crutch/ The theme in my aching prose”) but the real poetry is in the guitars. The ten-minute title track is a great example of everything this album has to offer. Pummeling wall-of-sound guitars interspersed with blissful, shoegazey interludes all floating in a sea of music so violently loud it shuts down the senses and leaves just pure experience. God that sounds pretentious. Experience. It’s an album that is fully felt. I think here’s always going to be a sort of pretension to this kind of music though, because it’s obviously the point. This stuff goes where no pop song can go. I’m amazed that despite all the screaming, despite how exhausting it is to listen to Sunbather in its entirety (the album does a great job of guiding you through this gorgeously colored wasteland by offering little, beautiful piano and acoustic instrumental breaks here and there), it is an album I find myself craving. It’s one of the only albums this year that has caused me to drop everything I was doing to simply sit and listen and enjoy, and that sort of power is something both rare and admirable beyond measure.  

Sunbather, in its entirety. Absolutely worth at least one hour of your life. 

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