Black metal has always been an extreme music genre I didn’t mind, but have never really delved in to. I am an old man: 34 years old, misanthropic, had a stroke, and stuck in my ways, but with time comes some openness and experimenting. I started to look for random bands, keeping an ear to the ground, finding a few that I liked. In 2013, an album was dropped that helped put black metal back on the map and seemed to be controversial in its own way: “Sunbather” by Deafheaven.
The album is a weird major-key light on black metal, using the genre along with various others (*ahem* shoe-gaze *ahem*), to create an interesting and interwoven sonic assault to the listener. It starts with the galloping beginner “Dream House,” showcasing the black metal tendencies and the shoe-gaze dream aspects of the band while highlighting the inner turmoil of all of us: the dream of wanting the best and the self-defeatist attitude that we all have. The title is uplifting, while the end lyrics destroy this, stating ” I’m dying/Is it blissful/It’s like a dream/I want to dream.”
It continues down this path of beauty mixed with raw, human anguish and self-loathing. “Irresistible” is a instrumental track of beauty, followed by the track “Sunbather.” Again, the music is the use of black metal with washes of shoe-gaze, perfectly well done to show the beauty people want with the ugliness that they have underneath the veil, and the devastation that they put on to others when it is shown.
“Please Remember” is another instrumental track, with a spoken word track from Alcest’s Neige. This is followed by the track “Vertigo.” This begins with the layering of guitar tracks, and is slower, slowly building. When finally unleashed, the full anguish the band can muster comes with lyrics as deeply personal as well as deeply caustic as they can be.
This is followed by another instrumental track, “Windows,” which shows the frailty and the easily led with two sound recordings interwoven: one being a drug deal of a band member, and the other being that of a street preacher yelling about sins and repenting. The final track, “The Pecan Tree,” ends the album with pure fury in the beginning, with the middle being a soft interlude. This interlude builds and builds until it explodes, showing the turmoil of knowing that you are a byproduct of something, that the dream version is just that: a dream.
This album was the best reviewed album of 2013 according to Metacritic. The choice for this album will get me shit, to which I say this: Bring it. “Troo” is a mindset unfortunately, and opinions are varied and all over the place. This album is a beautiful, brutal, well done and well written masterpiece, focusing on the beauty we all strive for in everything as well as the ugliness that comes with it both externally and internally, ultimately setting us back. To say that this album isn’t good because it is not “troo black metal” means, to me, that you haven’t listened to it. Black metal is supposed to show the ugly, and this album does so in a beautiful and personal way.
Bring on the haters!