Review Summary: "I want to dream"
Somewhere between the decaying sounds of “Windows” and the sonic hell of “The Pecan Tree,” I began to not only embrace Sunbather
-but completely believe in it. The transition lacks subtlety; one of dark foreboding that leads into harsh eruption of shrill screeches and exploding percussion. Unexpected, but such is life, as Deafheaven so deftly describe throughout the album’s 60-minute runtime. Conceptually, it encompasses the jovial, yet painful and ultimately fruitless search for perfection; a personal journey for beauty and grace mired by the pangs of failure and disappointment. Lofty subject matter for sure, but Deafheaven have crafted their latest work in such a way to completely invest the listener as each moment of struggle and sadness becomes completely lucid and believable.
Deafheaven handle their philosophy well through the lyrical content of Sunbather
. However, it is the music itself that indeed carries the theme, being far more verbose than any lyrics could ever be. Even when dealing with life’s maladies, the duo finds places for profound beauty and warmth. While on its surface the album appears to be stumbling with various moods and emotions, one cannot help but feel that the internal struggle is absolutely intentional. To depict this, Deafheaven have embraced their post-rock influences completely, so much that “black metal” becomes a mere afterthought. Featuring the highs and lows endemic of the genre (lengthy compositions included) Sunbather
seems somewhat orthodox-- sophomoric even. But the band avoids the potholes by breaking free from the established formula. The compositions are multifaceted, but do not rely on slow builds and grandiose finales. Instead, the unstructured songs feature subtle shifts that feel wholly natural. Raspy shrieks leading into uplifting piano bouts are par the course, yet never come across as contrived. Deafheaven have matured as songwriters, with Sunbather
showing a sense of direction so fierce that it outclasses almost each one of their peers.
truly is an album that needs to be experienced from start to finish—all or nothing, one might say. Such a sentiment has been said ad nauseum, but here it pertinent in enjoying the record to its full extent. As a unified work, the album can be appreciated for how well it all comes together as one package. Each moment is intentional within the grand scheme, like a minor piece to a larger whole. That is not to say that each piece cannot be admired separately. The lengthy and emotionally exhausting climax in “The Pecan Tree” is just as breathtaking as it would be coupled with the searing intro to the title track. Each song has its own identity and its own charm. “Dream House,” as an opener, is positively perfect. Beginning as one might expect, the track holds no punches with its aggressive and immediate delivery. It’s as if the band start things out this way to clear the air, proudly displaying their roots only to show us where they’ve ended up.
On that note, Roads to Judah
was simply admirable
. Deafheaven flexed some muscle and displayed a nice little amalgam of post-rock and black metal-lite. It was much more crass and rough around the edges, which in all honesty was part of its allurement. Where it lacked creativity, maturity, and poise, Sunbather
more than makes up for with pinpoint precision and overwhelming focus. Deafheaven’s second outing is wondrous celebration of boundless ambition and pure artistic vision. Despite drawing a lot of attention for its disparaging influences, it is an album not bound by genre constrictions or musical convention. Rather, it is a work defined by its blinding intensity and enveloping beauty--like staring directly into the sun.