Formats and Editions
Deafheaven’s monolithic second LP Sunbather, was not only a massive success in 2013, it created a radical shift in heavy music culture, an acceptance of the genre by previous outsiders, and a trailblazing sound that heretofore hadn’t been heard outside of learned circles. It was a reville introducing the changing of the guard in metal, featuring phenomenal reviews across the board, and breaking the mold used by buttoned-up indie types and false-flag musical dilettantes intent on keeping the status quo. A maverick release in every facet, the cornerstone for the triumph that is Sunbather truly lies in its world class songwriting. From the opening anthem “Dream House,'' it's clear to see that Deafheaven was soaring triumphantly into the unknown, through the emotional highs and lows, the fire and rain, and onto the unseen road ahead. Lyrically, Sunbather examines themes of existentialism, diving headfirst into the abyss, and the pursuit of self-discovery. The album's title itself is similar in scope, representing the embrace of the light and movement out of the dark unknown. Sunbather takes influence from the majesty of early Emperor and underground US heroes Weakling, the dark beauty of France’s Alcest, the introspective nature of post-rock and shoegaze gods like Mogwai and Slowdive, as well as the DIY spirit of punk ranging from Fugazi to Man is the Bastard to create a new realm for their emotional and expansive epics. The result is the nihilism and icy darkness found in black metal melding perfectly with the pensive, ethereal nature of shoegaze and the expansive dramatics of post-rock to create a new landscape. By juxtaposing propulsive and harsh blast beats and riffs against soaring melody, Deafheaven had refocused the blind-hate nature found at the kernel of black metal into a melancholic and singular journey to explore the unknown. Considering metal’s staunchly negative relationship with the press, Deafheaven’s Sunbather was nothing less than a true triumph. An immediate success at the time of it’s release, Sunbather blasted through the glass ceiling that limited so many other heavy music bands before them. Lauded by virtually every major critical outlet, Sunbather is the picture perfect ideal of a music darling– leading to sold out shows around the globe in increasing numbers. Sunbather would eventually become a year end favorite, repeatedly named one of the best albums of 2013 and landing on top 10 lists that were previously alien to heavy music– outlets like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, the New York Times and the like. And while the critics were dogpiling on the compliments, the conservative nature of heavy metal could not help but spin things in the opposite direction. As the saying goes, ‘the first one through the door catches all the bullets.’ “The easy answer was it was totally positive and overwhelming,” says founding guitarist Kerry McCoy with a bit of a chuckle when asked about his feelings about the response to Sunbather. “But in actuality it was also kind of frustrating. We were grateful for the positive notes, but there were people who thought we were the worst thing to ever happen to metal and others who thought that we claimed to invent the genre. Neither were true.” In addition to the game-changing musical approach, the band’s aesthetics were nothing if not utterly controversial as well. Designer Nick Steinhardt’s striking cover with use of a highly stylized font and a pale pink as the chosen color is not only a masterstroke in contemporary design, it was a true middle finger to the black metal establishment– one that prided itself on a lo-fi black and white aesthetic. The bright and easily recognizable cover openly positioned the album as a true outsider unafraid to duck genre boundaries. Formed in 2010 in San Francisco, California with the core duo of George Clarke and McCoy, the pair completed their debut demo with Jack Shirley, who would eventually helm Sunbather, releasing it on limited cassette. The cassette became an underground phenomenon, leading to a record deal with Deathwish Inc who released the cassette in limited numbers on seven-inch. After recruiting a live band, the five piece recorded their debut LP Roads to Judah and embarked on a series of shorter tours to promote the release. When the time came for the follow-up, the band slimmed back down to the original duo and added drummer Daniel Tracey– creating what many believe to be one of the most important musical statements of the ‘10s. The release would be their third with Jack Shirley. “Honestly, Sunbather gave us a career,” says McCoy with candor. “Before then we were working jobs and had these grandiose dreams, but that was the record that turned us into a real band. Because of that record, we ended up meeting a lot of people around the world that changed our lives and set us on the path we’re on now.” Ten years later, Deafheaven is nothing less than a mammoth and live touring juggernaut, with fans across the far reaches of the earth and a flawless live lineup of Shiv Mehra on guitar (joined in 2013) and Chris Johnson on bass (2017) in addition to Clarke, McCoy and Tracey. One of the most important and original rock bands of the past fifteen years, the long-awaited reissue of this pivotal release celebrates its tenth anniversary with a fresh shine and coat of paint– a newly remixed and remastered sound by original producer Jack Shirley with available spacial audio, an updated look to the packaging in all formats courtesy of the album’s original designer Nick Steinhardt, and deluxe color vinyl that includes a gatefold jacket with spot UV printing and 2 full-color printed inner sleeves. Whether a newbie to this colossal record or a familiar party, the anniversary edition is a crucial addition to the collection of any erudite music fan.