Album Thoughts | Deafheaven: Sunbather (Hipster Week)

Welcome to Hipster Week. This is the first of the five albums that i’m listening to and reviewing this week just for the fuck of it and for your entertainment. And what better album to start it off with than the most notorious album to come out of the whole Hipster Black Metal movement of the last five years? That’s right, the pretty, pink album cover that haunts every Black Metal purists dreams. I’m talking about none other than the infamous piece of IPA-drinking, suspenders-wearing, good city-ruining, short-haired, bearded whiny millennial art, Sunbather.

The sophomore album by San Francisco’s Deafheaven is without a doubt one of the most polarizing releases in recent years. On one hand, since it’s release in 2013, it has been subject to a lot or praise and adulation by more open-minded folk in the scene, and on the other hand, it has been the center of ridicule and scorn among those who prefer the darker and more traditional approach to Black Metal. I personally never gave enough of a shit about it to give it a full-on listen to find out where I stand with it until now. Boy, did I ever find out. As I said in my Hipster Week announcement, I will be giving each album an honest and non-biased review, positive or negative, so that’s exactly what i’m doing here. In all honesty, I stand on the side of the latter. This album was NyQuil for me from start to finish. I found this album boring, repetitive and in the same vein as the latest Ghost Bath album. A few god moments here and there, but ultimately falling flat on what it was trying to accomplish.

The first biggest flaw of this album is repetitiveness. Right from the start of Dream House, you’re beaten over the head with the same blastbeats and overly-cheery riffs under a dreary atmosphere that tries to create a weird marriage of light-heartedness and melancholia. There are some interesting moments and a couple decent tracks that i’ll get into in just a moment, but other than that, it’s just repetitive blastbeat-laden, Shoegazy Post-Black Metal similar to Ghost Bath or Wolves in the Throne Room but done not nearly as well. Ghost Bath at least have some level of versatility to their style, even with the similar flaws they exhibit. The super sweet, sugary riffs and melodies come off as corny and trying to hard to be light-hearted and uplifting and the atmosphere and over-used drum patterns in the same tempo just makes it worse. There’s nothing that stands out on any of these tracks and it bored me to tears all the way throughout. Don’t even get me started on the whiny lyrics.

In all honesty, the best tracks on the album are the last two of the three instrumentals. Please Remember is a weird, sort of poetic spoken word passage with some interesting, darker-toned melodies backing it and Window is sort of the same thing, but with some weird audio clips. These are the only two tracks that really peaked my interest to the highest level possible for this album. Not bad. Another thing I will commend is the vocals. Aside from the music itself and how I feel about it, the vocals are actually pretty damn good. The guy has a good set of pipes. Credit where it’s due, but it isn’t nearly enough to save the album altogether.

So, like I said, these albums are getting 100% honest, down-the-middle reviews (like all my reviews and rants on this blog), and this is as honest as I can get for this album. It has it’s good moments and a couple interesting tracks, and some of the melodies are pretty and the shrieked vocals are really good, but overall, it falls flat and I just couldn’t get into it. It’s a repetitive sleeping pill of an album that tries way too hard to be artsy and different but doesn’t do enough to add any versatility to it’s style to keep the listener’s attention. I didn’t really get the appeal of this band to begin with and now that I’ve given this album a full listen in it’s entirety, I get it even less. I could have ended up liking it if there was some sort of versatility or at least some sort of balance between light and dark. Again, I did enjoy the darker riffs on those two instrumentals, but that was about it. Maybe New Bermuda is better. Maybe i’ll give that one a listen too, but for now, when it comes to Deafheaven, it’s a no for me.

-Until next time.



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