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Deafheaven - Sunbather CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.79 | 77 ratings

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5 stars Calling Sunbather "uplifting" or "hopeful" is a mistake. Themes such as poverty, lust, existential crises, broken homes, insecurity are everpresent throughout the album. Certainly, it offers small shreds of hope, moreso than most Black Metal bands outside the Liturgy fanclub, but the main focus in its method of expression is how it brutally tears down that hope, and, in this sense, it is a more painful, hard-hitting, and heart-breaking experience than most black or post metal bands can claim to have created.

The guitars at the beginning of opener "Dream House" are red hot and the riffs expressionately bittersweet. The drums are colossal but progress with incredibly brevity. The song fades into a clean guitar interlude with chords that make use of open strings to create moments of heart-wrenching dissonance. The band then returns, this time with a kind of crushing intensity playing those gorgeous chords with emotive screams and a soaring delay drenched riff. Singer George Clarke screams of the dream house he will never have and mockingly recites drunk texts he sent to a woman he was once obsessed with.

"I'm dying." - "Is it blissful?" "It's like a dream." - "I want to dream."

Dream House gives way to the post-rock-ish interlude "Irresistable," which in turn, leads into the 10-minute title track. "Sunbather" is about Clarke's lusting and obsession with a woman he saw sunbathing while driving through a wealthy neighborhood? the solace she gave him and the despair of having to live without ever seeing her again. The next interlude, "Please Remember," features Neige from Alcest reciting a passage from the Milan Kundera novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." "That passage is really important to me," Clark claims. "It just screams insecurity, which I have huge faults with."

The tone gets darker with the final three tracks. "Vertigo" is true to its name channeling the shoegaziest of shoegaze in a swirling mass of alienation and depression. The interlude "Windows" which is perhaps the darkest moment on the album features a recording of a fire and brimstone sermon and another of a live drug deal by guitarist Kerry McCoy. "Thematically, it's supposed to be about this guy talking about the evils of hell intermixed with one's own personal hell and the actual realities like addiction and self-worth, not the fire and brimstone," explains Clark. "[McCoy] didn't have a lot of money, and he was kind of desperate; he's showcasing the true horrors that are here on earth?one's own personal demons." The album ends with the haunting Pecan Tree, where Clark tackles the issue of his inability to love that he believes he inherited from his absent father.

Sunbather does not attempt to be uplifting. Instead, the album intends to have a full range of emotions, not excluding hope, but not totally indicative either. Is it metal? Is it innovative? Those questions aren't really important in the overall scope of the album. It certainly is a very good album. The music is expertly composed and the lyrics are phenomenal. But more than that, this album is something that few black metal albums are: human. It is perhaps one of the most moving albums of the year and one of the most beautiful emotional expressions that I have ever had the privelige to experience, Alcest notwithstanding.

Polymorphia | 5/5 |


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