Deafheaven – Sunbather

Deafheaven - Sunbather First off, that’s a crap album cover and a crap album title. Fortunately, what lies within album number two from this San Franciscan duo fares much better. The three instrumentals (placed between the other four tracks with vocals) are exquisite. Track two, ‘Irresistible’, with its clean guitar melody washing along on the waves of a gentle breeze, is exactly that. And the contorted electronics of the first half of track four, ‘Please Remember’, as well as the soothing guitar of the second, as disconcerting as they are, have a strange familiarity about them that stir something within that is deep rooted and has been almost forgotten. A touching piece, track six, ‘Windows’, again bears something mystical and transcendent, the soundscape created by its ambient keys and captivating samples is warm and alluring. Were Deafheaven to release just these three tracks as an EP, they would already be on to a winner.

As for the rest of the tracks – all of which are between nine and almost fifteen minutes long – opener ‘Dream House’, despite wanting too quickly to get the album underway and drench us in optimism with its upwardly spiralling melodies, introduces the album well and gives a clear an insight into what to expect. Five minutes in and the track settles into its calm centre before again lifting us ever higher into the heavens. While title track ‘Sunbather’ pretty much does the same, it’s here where George Clarke’s harsh vocals reveal themselves to be the Achilles’ heel of this one hour piece of work. lyrically having more in common with the fringed whingers of emo and the like than the anguished screams of the destructive dark forces, his vocals clash too severely with the bright, optimistic aura of the tracks.

Combined with Deafheaven’s propensity for shifting the tracks into galloping blackness, neither seems to serve much of a purpose. For the remaining tracks, predictably, when the melodies rise, this is a sign that they are preparing to get their collective head down and blast away at their instruments at a thousand miles per hour for yet another surge of the dark stuff. The atmospheric opening of ‘Vertigo’ is captivating, the intertwining lines weaving a seductive web that very slowly builds back into another hyperblast of burnished blackness. And closing track ‘The Pecan Tree’ does the same as opener ‘Dream House’, save for the more progressive parts where they actually do something interesting.

Were Deafheaven to forego the apparent need to hit the high gears of black metal savagery and stick to the ambient, the atmospheric, and the more musically developed aspect of their sound, Deafheaven would have something worth sharing. As it stands, this is too convoluted, too constructed, and too clever for its own good.


Jason Guest

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