By Michael B. Murphy
Black metal, a sub-genre of Heavy metal, is many things – violent, fast-paced and often controversial due to the Satanic themes found in the imagery and lyrics of some of its most notable bands – but the word “beautiful” rarely, if ever, comes to mind. What a wonderfully welcomed surprise then is “Sunbather,” the sophomore album by San Francisco’s Deafheaven. Damn near a flawless work of art, the mesmerizing sounds of “Sunbather” fluctuates in style between complex extremes, enticing listeners to revisit the album many times over. Meticulously crafted, “Sunbather” skillfully unites sounds that have no right being coupled together like Black metal with Shoe-gaze and Post-rock. Album closer “The Pecan Tree” best exemplifies this by beginning with a sonically dense concoction of vocal cord shredding screams of heartache and manic drumming before dissolving into an ethereal blend of piano playing and delicately strummed guitar strings. Deafheaven did not only create one of the best albums of 2013, but they also crafted an anguished yet gorgeous collection of threnodies for the passing of a loved one and the grief that loss gives birth to.