In certain circles, it's fair to say that "Sunbather" is one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Following on from the bruised brilliance of their debut album, "Roads To Judah", and a split with BOSSE-DE-NAGE, for their sophomore album, DEAFHEAVEN continue to tread a path entirely of their own. Somewhat unfairly the band have been lumbered with the post-black metal tag leading to inaccurate comparisons to scene luminaries ALTAR OF PLAGUES and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM but their sound is more akin to post-rock taken to it's extreme with beautiful melodies and harsh blackened noise. While "Sunbather" may be more positive in it's outlook than previous DEAFHEAVEN material, it is still a fully immersive emotional tour-de-force.
Despite the guttural black metal growl and rampaging riffs that introduce "Dream House" it still manages to sound triumphant and strangely optimistic with the band showcasing their mastery of dynamics stripping the song back to a clean LANDSCAPES-esque melody before reintroducing the distorted guitars to a clarion call of "I want to dream". Following this, "Irresistible" is the first of several instrumentals interspersed across the album. A polyphony of melodies wave into one beautiful tapestry of gentle guitar and piano. Next, title track "Sunbather" reintroduces the cathartic vocals which carry a whole depth of emotion unheard of in 'conventional' black metal. Melody is used more subtly along with the devastating guitars, complementing the music but still allowing the heaviest parts to bludgeon the listener before taking a melodic tangent to keep you on edge throughout. Next is the second instrumental, "Please Remember" which dabbles in spoken word and acoustic guitar and pitches itself somewhere between CULT OF LUNA and GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR before the fifteen minute cinematic scope of "Vertigo". Beginning with a riff that wouldn't sound out of place on the 'Inception' soundtrack, "Vertigo" slowly builds up allowing each successive layer introduced ample time to develop. It's hard to pick out a highlight when each track is so perfect but the execution of "Vertigo" is amazing keeping up momentum throughout it's running time and providing the purest distillation of DEAFHEAVEN's post-rock/ black metal fusion. Following this is the third and final instrumental, "Windows", which finds the band back in GY!BE territory with minimal instrumentation creating an ominous tone accompanied by a sample of a street preacher. Final track, "The Pecan Tree" lays waste both aurally and emotionally with an impenetrable wall of noise ending with the harrowing confession, "I am my father's son/ I am no one/ I cannot love/ It's in my blood". It may be too early to call 'album of the year' but rarely does such a perfect album come along and the bar just got raised to dizzying heights. A future classic? An instant classic more like! (10/10)
"Sunbather" is out now through Deathwish Inc.