(as) Deafheaven have released the long-awaited reissue of their monumental sophomore album Sunbather. Sunbather was not only a massive success upon its release in 2013, it also created a radical shift in heavy music culture, an acceptance of the genre by previous outsiders, and a trailblazing sound that previously hadn't been heard outside of learned circles. It was a reveille 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 connoisseurs intent on keeping the status quo.
Remixed/remastered by original producer Jack Shirley and available in Spacial Audio, with updated packaging and a re-release of the original typeface courtesy of the album's original designer Nick Steinhardt, and deluxe color vinyl treatment that includes a gatefold jacket with gloss varnish details and 2 printed inner sleeves with unseen album-era photography, the Sunbather 10th Anniversary Remix/Remaster is a crucial addition to the collection of any discerning music fan.
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.
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 uncharted territory. An immediate success at the time of its 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 so on. And while the critics were dog-piling on the compliments, the conservative nature of heavy metal could not help but spin things in the opposite direction.
"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.
Ten years since Sunbather's initial release, Deafheaven is nothing less than a mammoth and touring juggernaut, with fans across the far reaches of the earth and a flawless live lineup. The band continues to soar to the stratosphere with the Sunbather 10th Anniversary Remix/Remaster release and 10th Anniversary Tour that commences later this month