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Deafheaven Sunbather album cover
3.79 | 77 ratings | 8 reviews | 36% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2013

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Dream House (9:15)
2. Irresistible (3:13)
3. Sunbather (10:17)
4. Please Remember (6:26)
5. Vertigo (14:37)
6. Windows (4:43)
7. The Pecan Tree (11:27)

Total Time 59:58

Line-up / Musicians

- George Clarke / vocals, piano
- Kerry McCoy / guitars, bass
- Daniel Tracy / drums

- Stéphane Paut / spoken word (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Nick Steinhardt

CD Deathwish ‎- DW146 (2013, US)

2LP Deathwish ‎- DW146 (2013, US)

Digital album

Thanks to RedNightmareKing for the addition
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Buy DEAFHEAVEN Sunbather Music

DEAFHEAVEN Sunbather ratings distribution

(77 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(36%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

DEAFHEAVEN Sunbather reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Deafheaven's Sunbather is a sophomore album that I wasn't really expecting much from. Sure the cover excited me and the descriptions of the upcoming tracks from The Needle Drop kind of perked my interest, but the band's debut album really left me cold, I thought it was just generic black metal with very little experimentation and elaborateness.

This album, on the other hand, is a definite improvement and I'm glad I tried it out.

Although it's basis is in black metal as was its predecessor, Sunbather draws influence from several different music scenes including shoegaze, post-rock, post-metal and even some subtler influences from alternative metal. These new injections from outside the band's previous realm are a welcome sound indeed, especially the post-rock leaning moments.

On this album Deafheaven has the crescendos and sound bites of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the vocals of Agalloch and the shoegaze-laden metal of Alcest, and the final product is a beautiful record, one of the best of the year, no doubt.

If the cover indicates anything, it's that this music is different. Different in a very good way. Different in ways progheads, metalheads and genuine musicheads can really enjoy.

Review by Guldbamsen
2 stars Potato - Potato

The last review I did, I inadvertently flew halfway across the globe from the thousand lakes of Finland to the land of milk and honey. Well that's me in a nutshell... Even when I plan something ahead - like this little review stint of mine - going from country to country, I still manage to surprise myself and do something uncalled for and silly...

Oh well all the more reason to get excited, because whereas a great portion of proggers out there bow their heads in eternal gratitude to the ever succulent and vivacious whims of the English isles, there are still some of us who believe that their bastard child way out in the west has produced some remarkable albums through the years.....and while this certainly isn't one of them, it is still what I choose to write about just to keep things nicely out of check and confusing. Just the way I like it.

I've seen a disturbing tendency on other reviewing websites of late - in particularly on Rate Your Music, where young peeps herald current albums as sonic originators, milestones of certain genres - and all of a suddenly this pseudo musical "knowledge" becomes fact. It irritates the hell out of me.

Deafheaven's Sunbather is a perfect case to illustrate this. Many people seem to hear this as an altogether fresh and progressive branching of the ever winding metal tree, and while the band must be said to have their fingers on the pulse of today's current fluctuations and musical gang-banging, the people claiming Deafheaven as unique maestros of progressive post metal shoegaze are still missing the obvious: This album is a major rip-off of the Alcest sound. It's so obvious that it literally screams at you! There's a pun intended there - especially seeing as this album basically draws on the ethereal panoramic post rock of Neige and fellow compatriots, and then leaves out any of the gentle singing.

Boiled down, Sunbather sounds like a heavier take on Écailles de Lune much credited to the cement mixing double pedal drumming and the ear shattering screamo vocals. You get the same huge wall of sound from the guitars - sounding like oceanic tidal waves feeding off one another in beautifully wavering patterns - the same nonchalant ways about the production side of things pulling the album neatly close to the current fad of Black Metal, and last but not least: the attempt at mixing all of these facets together in order to make something airy, heavy, dreamy and soaring. They do succeed on more than one occasion, but for my tastes there's a lack of subtlety. A non-existent vacuum of flow that eludes these guys from start to finish. Something that Alcest does so incredibly well.

These guys may sport chops the size of anabolic sheep farmers, but then again I've always preferred mind over matter - sauce over gravy - brain over brawl. The drums are a perfect example of this. Sounding like an amphetamine fuelled spastic, this guy seeks to highlight every note and shading to his surroundings, that every important peak seems to end up over-thought and hurried - like Mike Portnoy playing the drums during an uncomfortable pat down at the airport...

If you however are searching high and low for something comparable to the aforementioned French dreamer and furthermore feel indifferent about plagiarism, then you'll probably love this thing like sliced bread. To me personally, this is like hearing The Watch after a good Genesis sit down - or munching on an unpeeled potato after a big plate of pommes frites.

Review by Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Sunbather' - Deafheaven (6/10)

I remember Hunter-Hunt Hendrix (of Liturgy infamy) once defending the new wave of 'uplifting' black metal as being in keeping with black metal's doctrine of controversy and rebellion. Indeed, the pejoratively-titled scene of 'hipster black metal' has polarized audiences; some embrace the softer approach as a relatively fresh innovation, and others have lavished the 'hipster' bands with the greatest execration and disdain since Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. Love or hate them, bands like Liturgy and San Francisco's Deafheaven are causing a stir, and it's always interesting to see people taking such equally vehement stances for and against a band. While I've always been skeptical that a style so historically rooted in darkness could (or should) be translated into feelings of hope and optimism as Deafheaven strive for on Sunbather, I've kept myself open to the possibility. Unfortunately, while Deafheaven's shoegaze-laden approach to black metal clearly intends to revive and invent the genre, I find it difficult to be particularly moved one way or the other by the most polarizing metal record of 2013. Sunbather is not an excellent album, nor is it the horrendous abomination genre-purists claim it to be. Rather, its predictable dynamics and washy atmosphere leave it somewhere in the neighborhood of 'moderately enjoyable'. In short, Deafheaven's second album is an only slightly above-average take on blackgaze that doesn't warrant the extreme opinions from either side.

In addition to the counter-intuitive emotional spin Deafheaven have placed on black metal in Sunbather, the album's cheerfully minimalistic cover makes it fairly obvious that they mean to rebel against the traditional order. Conceptualized as a reflection of the colours seen on the insides of one's eyelids when basking in the sun, it's an apt reflection of Deafheaven's emotional appeal. Operating in terms of melancholy and hopeful optimism, Sunbather gives an impression closer to that of a post-rock record than any metal I've heard this year. The guitars are laden in reverb and distortion, but the songwriting never betrays a sense of malice or anger. Conventionally beautiful harmonies are used in abundance here; particularly on some of the clean sections offered, Deafheaven will overdub guitars to create a dense, yet accessible wall of sound. Although it often feels like Deafheaven choose the most obvious sequence of notes to resolve their motifs, the compositions demonstrate a talent with knowing when to change up the pace. "The Pecan Tree" really excels with its dynamic, switching between soft and heavy sections, each contributing towards a powerful emotional payoff.

Although Sunbather feels rooted in a fairly narrow emotional context of longing and melancholy throughout, Deafheaven have a firm grasp of songwriting dynamic. In spite of that, Sunbather feels constructed out of a mere handful of tricks and ideas, to the point where the formula begins to feel predictable long before the album is over. Deafheaven are remarkably consistent throughout the album, but the everpresent euphony filtered over blastbeats and vocal shrieks feels too narrow a range to stay engaging through the album's hour length. Especially considering the roots of the genre the band is apparently trying to reinvent, Sunbather offers a nicely blended production, with textural detail aplenty to keep the atmosphere afloat. While the instrumentation is dynamic and powerful (with special merits going to Daniel Tracy for an excellent drum performance!) the vocals are painfully underwhelming. George Clarke's harsh screams are high pitched and raspy (in keeping with frostbitten traditions) but they're undermixed, lack resonance and fail to add a relevant emotional dimension to the music. Screams in 'blackgaze' music can be used plenty effectively, but Deafheaven's failure to properly integrate the vocals into their atmosphere is a sullen reminder that the effort to reinvent black metal as an 'uplifting' sound feels ultimately contrived and needlessly contrarian.

Most of all, Sunbather is a case where the hype (both good and bad) has left me disappointed. There are moments here where I come close to feeling the awe and admiration others have clearly felt, but the feelings are fleeting at best. I'm pleased that a fairly young band like Deafheaven is getting such an enthusiastic reception, but I'm simply not feeling it at much. Its uplifting, graceful beauty comes at the cost of emotional tension or challenge. The blackgaze style has potential aplenty for an emotionally evocative experience- Alcest's excellent Écailles de Lune and Lantlos' .neon come first to mind- but in the case of Sunbather, I wish I could be feeling more from it.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Deafheaven's Sunbather is certainly a divisive release, with some listeners embracing it whilst many - especially black metal purists - passionately disliking it. The thing is, I think the album's detractors are correct in most of their criticisms but short-sighted in their conclusions: that is to say, when you get down to it this really is a post-rock album with black metal vocals and blast beats parachuted in.

Where they go wrong is dismissing this combination in the first place; the album is actually a really entertaining listen, though I think you would need to enjoy both post-rock and black metal to really get the most out of it. And in expanding the lyrical subject matter of black metal as this album does, with songs about heartache and feelings and all sorts of stuff that more kvlt bands are too busy praising Satan or Odin (or, in some unwelcome corners of the subgenre, Hitler) to really address.

Review by siLLy puPPy
3 stars Black metal is the biggest promiscuous slut of the metal world having long left the confines of its first and second wave separation zones and unapologetically cross-pollinated with just about any music genre that has ever existed on planet Earth. While acceptable crossover styles with traditional folk music, death metal, progressive rock and other styles have been celebrated as groundbreaking and original, other hybridization attempts have been a bit more divisive which brings us to the world of blackgaze. This style that is basically the unlikely mix of post-rock, shoegaze, post-hardcore and black metal began in 2005 when Neige created the bizarre Alcest project and soon was finding new candidates willing to adopt the style and take it further.

While Alcest didn't initially make any major waves in the black metal scene, along comes the San Francisco based DEAFHAVEN in 2010 and began its own creative spin of the unusual mix that Alcest had alchemized. Originally a the duo of George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, DEAFHAVEN released "Roads To Judah" and introduced the style of blackgaze to a larger audience beyond the confines of the underground black metal scene. While that album got the engine revving, it was the band's second release SUNBATHER that took the world by storm and finally put the blackgaze style and the world of black metal on the map for the masses. SUNBATHER saw a third member, drummer Dan Tracy join the DEAFHAVEN team and the album expanded the blackgaze sound by adopting elements of alternative rock, post-metal, field recordings and droning.

While met with critical acclaim from many music critics, the album also polarized the world of black metal with many open minded experimentalists welcoming the new musical chimera with open arms and the less than accepting black metal purists who wanted the underground black metal scene to remain in its own little kvlt time capsule never to be tainted with such impurities. The irony is that many post-rock and shoegaze fans who never even heard black metal before were being exposed to the world of black metal for the first time and DEAFHAVEN's crossover appeal for better or for worse made a huge impact on the entire extreme metal industry simply by being popular. It should be obvious in retrospect that the nasty atmospheres and distorted guitars accompanied by raspy vocals can pretty much adapt to any musical style, even ones as far removed as one could imagine such as post-rock and shoegaze.

SUNBATHER delivered an hour's worth of 7 tracks that are for the most part compositionally speaking totally in the world of post-rock with long cyclical melodic loops ratcheting up the tension until melodic crescendoes break loose along with totally metal-free post-rock moments of ambient atmospheres. DEAFHAVEN simply added the bombast of incessantly fast-tempo guitar furor, blastbeat percussion and screamo inspired raspy vocals that added a monstrosity of an addition to the classic post-rock and shoegaze stylistic approach. Given the popularity of both black metal and post-rock in the 1990s, it really was only a matter of time before the two would converge. SUNBATHER indeed is an odd beast even when listening to it today, 11 years after its initial release. The mix of My Bloody Valentine inspired hazy shoegaze juxtaposed with post-rock musical flow and the most intense black metal elements possible is really quite alarming.

While the debate still continues whether this was a good thing or not, the fact is many fans love it while many do not. As far as i'm concerned i'm not against the idea of the whole blackened post-rock-gaze thing in the least bit. But what gets me is that most blackgaze uses the same mix of lazy post-rock rhythms amplified by black metal extremities and shrouded with thick atmospheric turbulence with the overuse of screamo vocal screams. The word blackgaze should allow for a vast palette of interpretations of how these sounds go together and that's where i have my biggest problem with SUNBATHER and DEAFHAVEN in general.

While the music itself is original in how things are blended together, i find the execution is what's lacking and i've given this album a good decade to let sink in hoping one day it would click but every time i give it a spin i'm plagued by the same dislike of how it was all laid out. First of all the vocals are too much of a one-trick pony and George Clarke offers no diversity in his screaming style which ultimately makes the heavy tracks sound way too similar for their own good. Sure the electronic weirdness in tracks like "Please Remember" are a nice break from the incessant bombast but these are vocal-free zones. This track also features a spoken word appearance from Alcest's Neige. Likewise the black metal is always on rampage mode. It's either balls to the wall stampeding into the thralls of war or it's total chill time. No in between zones, no nuances just off and on. Likewise the penultimate track "Windows" that offers one of the few non-screamed vocal segments provides an interesting dark ambient side track but a ridiculously lame dialog about Biblical scripture.

So there you have it. Blackgaze as a style works for me but really only in a different context with bands like Sadness, Woods of Desolation and White Ward offering much more interesting interpretations. While considered one of the top dogs of the world of blackgaze, SUNBATHER just doesn't do it for me. It's not that the album is a bad one by any means, it just doesn't deliver what all the hype portends and i always feel totally disappointed in its limitations. So in effect i'm neither a DEAFHAVEN fan nor am i a hater. I mostly find myself just indifferent and honestly dislike a lot of screamo type vocals especially in the context of metal. It's an OK album and one of San Francisco's more famous contributions in the 21st century but honestly for experimental San Francisco black metal acts, i by far prefer the likes of Weakling, Leviathan or Lurker of Chalice. The aimlessness of SUNBATHER just seems to rub me the wrong way every time. A good once in a while break from things but not an album i really consider essential.

Latest members reviews

5 stars If you're expecting this to be black metal, you're in for a weird surprise. Deafheaven is a metal band that combines post-metal, black metal, shoegaze, and other genres to their sound, creating a unique sound unlike any other. Sunbather is the second studio album by Deafheaven. The album is lo ... (read more)

Report this review (#2494009) | Posted by progtime1234567 | Friday, January 15, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Divisiveness I remember well the day that Sunbather first leaked. Well, I should, as it was only a month ago. But regardless, it was an interesting day. I had known of Deafheaven prior to the release of Sunbather, after Roads To Judah became part of The Great Black Metal Awakening Of Early ... (read more)

Report this review (#1205214) | Posted by Gallifrey | Friday, July 4, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 i ... (read more)

Report this review (#1112072) | Posted by Polymorphia | Friday, January 10, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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