06. Deafheaven – Sunbather
This is Metacritic’s highest-reviewed album of the year. It’s in nearly every major top 10 list. Also, this is a black metal album. Usually, this would be a red flag suggesting that this is the worst, most palatable black metal album ever. I don’t know why critics appreciate this album but not black metal as an entire genre. Maybe there’s just enough shoegaze here, or maybe it’s because Deafheaven come out of hipster-approved San Francisco instead of Norway or Poland. Shame on you, critics, for lauding this album while ignoring every other black metal release. All that said, the critics got this right. Sunbather is indeed the best metal album of the year, for my money anyway. What makes this album stand out is its use of major chords. Black metal is bleak, harsh, depressing. It’s about a cold, jagged atmosphere and about hearing the attack of the pick on the guitar strings. Deafheaven, instead, used black metal songcraft and instrumentation to try and make happy, uplifting music. This isn’t a post-rock album, but it gets to emotional places that a Sigur Ros or Godspeed You! Black Emperor can. And Deafheaven does it through black metal, just flipping the ratio of minor chords to major chords around. It’s not a perfectly-realized concept, as the black metal vocals sound just as cold and harsh here as they do on a proper black metal album. But those vocals help the sound from getting too saccharine. Again, I shouldn’t like anything about this project. It seems almost anti-metal. A subversion of metal. But I listen to “Dream House” and I know that it just does what a lot of metal does (and is unfairly ignored for it): make compelling art.
Originally Posted by Delano
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