Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)
If every band is an island, and every album a town on that island, then Sunbather is a small desolate place with eternal dawn, somewhere near the bay of post-rock with a causeway to the black metal peninsula at high tide.
San Fransisco’s Deafheaven are one of those bands who manage to do something different. Here, on Sunbather, they have managed to perfectly meld the guitar-textured approach of post-rock and post-metal with the bleakness and heaviness of black metal. One of the stand out tracks on the album, Vertigo, starts with jangly post rock, complex drum rhythms, occasional hints at blast beats, building up a head of steam to a crescendo, just about getting started at the 4 minute mark, when most pop tracks are over and done with; there is no rushing this storm. Heavy is the hit of the wave and this is pure black metal territory, screamed vocals and fast guitars creating a wall of sound that envelops with terrifying intensity.
The fact that they, in company such as Wolves In The Throne Room and Alcest, had the vision to see that post rock and black metal did share similarities, despite them being in disparate musical circles, is testament to their vision.
I’m not the biggest fan of black metal, it’s true, I do like to listen to Marduk, Mayhem, Emperor, Carpathian Forest, Gorgoroth and the like, but I don’t go out and listen to every black metal band out there; however, this album is very appealing. It might be a somewhat “gateway” album to those who haven’t listened to black metal before, but I also fear that there might be a problem of audience here. Fans of black metal won’t necessarily appreciate the shoe-gaze nature of a lot of the album, and fans of post-rock might not bear the black metal sections, leaving a pretty niche audience.
Overall, it is a good album, both post rock and black metal are equally represented and neither is a cheap nod to the genre, this is authentic, intense, bleak and beautiful. A worthwhile listen.
Now what to call this genre? I’ve read “blackgaze”, which I quite like, but I think I prefer “blackened post-metal”.
Favourite tracks: Vertigo, Sunbather, Irresistible
Spotify link: Deafheaven – Sunbather