Deafheaven’s Sunbather is one of those anomalies that happens every so often in metal music where you’re moved to your core listening to the aural violence. Singer George Clark sounds like Deftones’ Chino Moreno having some sort of attack as songwriter/guitarist Kerry McCoy creates transcendent -albeit bludgeoning- music that sweeps you up in the drama of life and existence. Sunbather sounds like what would happen if Explosions In The Sky dabbled in black metal. It’s a record that comes around every so often, and when it does all you can do is let it wash over you.
“Dream House” is a wall of guitars. And ebb and flow of dramatic sweeps and moods. This is what happens when post rock goes through primal scream therapy. I imagine Mogwai was brought up once or twice in the studio while recording this epic opening track. A barrage of guitars bash against each other as if waves pummeling the lone schooner in a black ocean. Clark screams orders till the storm calms as the piano and echoed guitar of “Irresistible” steps in during a moment of solace, quietly taking us into the ten minute title track. Deftones haunt the sound of this song, not only in the shredded vocal cords but McCoy’s exquisite guitar. His guitar is a sound filled with both guttural pain and heavenly scope. You feel as you listen to Deafheaven that you’re listening to a great epic tale -much like Homer’s Odyssey- put to music. This is a journey record(and not that “Don’t Stop Believin’ junk). “Please Remember” starts as noise and increases in intensity climaxing to a buzzsaw screech before dissipating into a quietly strummed guitar. Ebb and flow.
This album isn’t for the weak of heart or ear. It’s a trip filled with good and bad. It’s a journey filled with as much pain as pleasure. What makes this record a journey worth taking over and over again is songwriter/guitarist Kerry McCoy. He takes metal and hardcore music and gives it something that too often is missing in both: depth. At times there’s a downright shimmering quality to his playing that sounds like Johnny Marr filling in for Porl Thompson on Disintegration. “Vertigo” has a shoegaze swirl about it before going into an almost Euro-metal guitar lead that opens the gates for George Clark’s banshee howl. “Window” is a swirl of dread. A voice speaks in the background as piano plays and ambient noise comes in and out of focus before “The Pecan Tree” closes the dizzying journey called Sunbather.
Bands like Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, and even My Bloody Valentine are woven into Deafheaven’s DNA. I’m sure there’s some black metal and hardcore bands that were a basis for these guys wanting to make music as well, but I haven’t the ear or listening experience to throw those names around. All I can say is Sunbather is Deafheaven taking all of those influences and creating something unique and moving all their own. It’s not an easy journey, but one you should take. One you must take.
8.7 out of 10