Deafheaven-Sunbather

Any time a metal-curious friend asks me to explain the distinctions separating different metal subgenres — most often re: death metal vs. black metal — I tell them to start by focusing on the vocals. This is by no means the only fundamental difference, and it’s by no means an absolute, but it’s a pretty handy rule of thumb: To my ear, death metal vocals are warm; black metal vocals are cold. Death metal vocals tend to take the form of a loud bark or a low rumble; they’re roiling, thunderous, guttural — intestinal, really. Black metal vocals, on the other hand, tend to be higher-pitched, whispered or hissed; it’s a chafing sound that takes shape on the soft palate. The first time I heard it, and understood what I was hearing, it reminded me of the wind.

I mention this now because Deafheaven frontman George Clarke deals exclusively in what I’d consider to be a pretty traditional black-metal vocal style. As such, I’m inclined to discuss Deafheaven primarily in the context of black metal, even though that might be a tenuous appellation in other respects. If you were to remove all Clarke’s vocals from Deafheaven’s new LP, Sunbather, and replace them with anodyne, ethereal cooing courtesy of, say, Bilinda Butcher or Rachel Goswell, you would be unlikely to hear Sunbather as anything except a shoegazer album. Or you could axe the vocals entirely and just call it a post-rock record and you wouldn’t be wrong. Clarke doesn’t even look like what a guy in a black metal band is supposed to look like: He’s dapper, smartly dressed, cleanly cropped. You’d be more likely to mistake him for a member of Morrissey’s backing band than a member of Inquisition or Immortal. But as soon as he opens his mouth …

Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy formed Deafheaven in February 2010, and for the better part of the last three years, their band has been tied to, and frequently reviled by, the American black metal (USBM) scene. Deafheaven first appeared on many radars when fellow San Franciscan Jef Whitehead, aka Wrest, dropped their name in a very rare 2011 interview. (Wrest is one of the architects of USBM; he has released several essential albums of hallucinatory and nightmarish beauty under the aliases Leviathan and Lurker Of Chalice. He almost never does interviews.) When asked what he thought about the state of the scene, Wrest had only one recommendation:

Just heard an impressive band from my neck of the woods, Deafheaven …

Naturally he followed that up with a put-down, saying that Deafheaven — along with nearly everyone else in the USBM scene circa 2011 — were imitating the work of yet another SF act, John Gossard’s Weakling [1], more than they were innovating or expanding upon it. As slights go, it’s a mild one: Wrest is a spiteful curmudgeon, and Weakling are unambiguously considered ground zero for American black metal. More often, though, when “real” metalheads dismiss or deride Deafheaven, they do so by tagging them “hipster metal,” a hollow insult that has nonetheless persisted for years now, even as roughly 85 percent of its usage appears to be in some way directed at NYC provocateurs Liturgy. (Hilariously, in that same interview, immediately before big-upping Deafheaven, Wrest takes a barely veiled shot at Liturgy: “Black metal will always be a feeling for me — ’transcendental’????? No …”)

Deafheaven have been fucking with that paradox since the beginning. They’re on Deathwish, Inc., a hardcore label, rather than a metal stronghold like Century Media or Relapse (or even an avant-leaning metal shop like Profound Lore). When asked what they’re listening to, they namecheck the non-metal likes of the Microphones and Chelsea Wolfe (much to the consternation of some Stereogum readers). They’ve toured with artsy metal-adjacent acts like Alcest, Russian Circles, and Boris, and they’ve released a split with fellow Bay Area iconoclasts Bosse-de-Nage, on which they covered Mogwai. And they spend solid portions of interviews examining or explaining their relationship to black metal. Speaking to Brandon Stosuy for Show No Mercy last year, Clarke said:

Sometimes, the metal scene’s sense of unity can give way to close[d] mindedness and prejudice. We don’t subscribe to a cookie-cutter mold of what extreme music should look like, so we’re ridiculed for it. It’s unfortunate that there’s safety in anonymity in the metal scene. When Deafheaven first began, we didn’t release any photos of ourselves for fear of an inevitable backlash. So, I’m not surprised when we get called “hipsters” or are thrown the Liturgy comparison. In addition to our music having about a ten percent similarity, their outlook and agenda seems to differ from ours. Ultimately, Deafheaven will continue to do our own thing musically and visually regardless of controversy or alienation.

That’s a thoughtful, noble statement, exactly the sort of thing trolls eat for lunch. A couple weeks back, I searched Twitter for “Deafheaven,” and the very first Tweet returned to me read:

Just listened to Deafheaven. Can I have that 10 minutes back please. Not even slightly necro. [2] Take your soundscapes away hippies.

. . .

In a studio diary published earlier this year on Invisible Oranges, Clarke wrote: “I named the record Sunbather because that’s the feeling it gives me. It is the sadness and the frustration and the anger that comes with striving for perfection. Dreaming of warmth and love despite the pain of idealism.”

I don’t (entirely) mean to question Clarke’s sincerity, but that seems like an enormous stretch to me. He couldn’t find a better metaphor to capture Sisyphean angst than Sunbather? Nah, I’m not buying it — as I said in my review of Sunbather’s lead single, “Dream House,” I think he’s trolling the trolls: Black metal bands don’t have pink album covers, and they don’t have album titles that refer to vapid summertime outdoor leisure. That is the exact fucking opposite of what black metal bands do. I think it’s deliberately intended to inflame. And it will. To Deafheaven’s credit, however — and as they must have realized pretty early on — those jabs are backed up by an album full of fire, enough to leave everything in its radius blackened and burned. Embers. Dust.

Sunbather opens with the aforementioned “Dream House,” and I don’t even know what more to say about that track at this point: It’s the best song of the year, period. It runs for nine-plus minutes, but it took me less than one to realize I was in the presence of greatness. It uses its time efficiently and expertly, not relying on droning repetition to induce hypnosis, but cresting through valleys and scaling ever-higher peaks, emphasizing a bounty of details as it increases tension and explodes, repeatedly, like a Roman Candle. It’s tremendous and elegant and precise and fucking glorious.

“Dream House” is followed by “Irresistible,” one of several … I guess you’d call them interludes? That term makes these moments on the album feel insubstantial or inessential, which they’re not, but they’re also plainly intended to be experienced and understood as connective tissue rather than organs or bone. But “Irresistible” showcases another side of Deafheaven, too; it’s not metal at all, and not even atmospheric, exactly. It’s gentle and melancholy, a small section of of finger-picked guitars and chiming piano building elegantly to a minor apex. It reminds me a lot of yet another San Francisco band, actually: Mark Kozelek’s pre-Sun Kil Moon project (and slow-core pioneers) Red House Painters.

Sunbather is heavy on slow-core and dream-pop influences, really — they appear in nearly every song, at some point or another: the breakdowns at 5:05 in “Dream House,” at 2:45 in the title track, and at 4:20 in “The Pecan Tree”; the opening strains of “Vertigo.” But they’re not always so blatant: Look around, everywhere — guitars streak like sunbursts across otherwise gray skies; melody and melodrama abound.

After “Irresistible” comes Sunbather’s title track. I wrote about the song when it was first released, and rather than rephrase what I said then, I’ll simply say it again:

From a distance, the title track from Deafheaven’s sophomore LP, Sunbather, sounds like a particularly harrowing and intense display of might. But in the lovingly crafted details, the song is all about dynamics: George Clarke’s raw shriek is pure urgency and desperation; percussionist Daniel Tracy’s rhythms vary from hailstorm to sunshower as the movements progress and demand; and Kerry McCoy’s guitars ring out from a din of reverb and noise, bringing melody and muscle, guiding the song through clouds to Olympian heights, and then dipping gracefully, suddenly, into shadows. The final quarter of the 10-minute-plus “Sunbather” is a study in contrast and momentum: A dizzying post-black metal barrage relents, and suddenly the guitars and bass are gentle ripples in an otherwise placid dream-pop pool; then, everything ascends at once, and all the elements combine to reach higher peaks still — climax upon climax, until it is hushed.

That description — or some slight variation thereof — could be applied to nearly every one of Sunbather’s four major moments (“Dream House,” “Sunbather,” “Vertigo,” and “The Pecan Tree”). It is an album of and about dynamics, especially the interplay between Clarke and McCoy, whose combined work here can neither be quantified nor overstated. Special credit is due, though, to percussionist Tracy, who brings to these songs a disarming and unusual deftness. And extra-special credit is due to producer Jack Shirley, whose direction has helped to deliver a record of remarkable clarity and power, a record rich in detail and scope, a record that is obviously the product of careful scrutiny and revision, yet sounds organic and alive.

Sunbather closes with its heaviest track, “The Pecan Tree,” a deluge of frantic screaming, blast beats, and tremelo-picked guitars — black metal’s essential ingredients — which collides with tidal waves of My Bloody Valentine-esque reverb and noise, eventually dwindling and slowly swelling. It is an intoxicating and pulse-raising song. And just before it hits the 7:55 mark, everything solidifies into a single, knee-buckling riff, as viscerally thrilling a moment as music can produce. The song rides that climax for its final three and a half minutes. And then, it’s over.

. . .

Starting in 2006 or so — but really hitting its stride in 2008 — American black metal seemed to be growing at an impossible rate: Bands like Nachtmystium, Leviathan, Krallice, Cobalt, Wolves In The Throne Room, Ludicra, and others were releasing new albums that continually raised the genre’s parameters; to call it a boom time is an understatement. Then, in November 2010, Portland, OR’s Agalloch released Marrow Of The Spirit, an instant classic that momentarily dwarfed everything around it. Marrow, in my opinion, represents the creative peak of USBM; it’s certainly the best album produced by that scene — and maybe the best metal album, period — since Weakling’s lone release, 2000′s Dead As Dreams. After Marrow, USBM bands seemed to tunnel downward, reverse course. Many of the best American black metal bands broke up or scaled back, went retro or necro. The best new bands — such as Ash Borer, Vattnet Viskar, and A Pregnant Light, among others — have thus far couched their grander ambitions in webs of cassette hiss and the protective embrace of increasingly insular sub-sects.

When Deafheaven released their debut album, Roads To Judah, in 2011, they were merely one of many promising new acts to emerge that year. I saw them that fall, though, at Bowery Ballroom, sandwiched on a bill between the Men and Russian Circles. I was more or less indifferent about Roads To Judah, but seeing Deafheaven live — Clarke, confrontational and possessed, jackbooted and bug-eyed; McCoy leading a symphony of blinding, bending deep-indigo noise — it was obvious the band had something more. As I drunk-tweeted that evening:

It’s been less than two years. Sunbather is not a better album than Marrow Of The Spirit, but it is the most successfully ambitious album to emerge from the wreckage left behind by Marrow. Sunbather is also not (necessarily) Deafheaven’s true masterpiece: The band can do even more with melody, more with economy and structure, more with less; Clarke’s vocals can do more to match the nuance of McCoy’s instrumentation. But that’s me dreaming on LP3, not me criticizing the work at hand. Sunbather is very much a masterpiece. If 2013 produces a better album in any genre, I will be blown away. Heck, listen to me go on. It doesn’t matter what happens next. I’m already blown away.

///


[1] I wrote a bunch about the legacy of John Gossard and Weakling in last month’s Black Market, while discussing Gossard’s new band, Dispirit. You can check that out (and hear Gossard’s newest music) by scrolling down to No. 4 on this list.


[2] “Necro” is the name given to the extremely, intentionally rudimentary and raw production style employed by Norwegian bands Darkthrone and Burzum on their now-classic early-’90s albums. You can read much, much more about it here.

Deafheaven tour dates:

06/19 – Tempe, AZ @ The Yucca Tap Room
06/21 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
06/22 – Austin, TX @ Red 7
06/23 – Houston, TX @ Mango’s
06/25 – Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub
06/26 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
06/26 – North Birmingham, AL @ The Forge
06/27 – Charlotte, NC @ The Milestone Club
06/29 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings Barcade
06/30 – Washington, DC @ Rock N Roll Hotel
07/01 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Barbary
07/02 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
07/03 – Cambridge, MA @ T.T. The Bear’s Place
07/05 – Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop
07/06 – Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
07/07 – Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick Lounge
07/08 – Kansas City, MO @ The Record Bar
07/09 – Denver, CO @ The Marquis Theater
07/10 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
07/11 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
07/13 – Portland, OR @ Bunker Bar
07/15 – San Francisco, CA @ The Bottom of the Hill

Sunbather is out 6/11 via Deathwish, Inc.

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Comments (52)
  1. I was walking through the park while listening to this and the sun was peeking out through the clouds and it felt amazing. I think that the black metal vocals work really well in this somehow, even though it feels slightly out of place, the screams over this sort of music just feel ecstatic, rather than the pained, hateful screams that work on darker Black Metal albums. But yeah the build-ups on this album makes me wish I could just takeoff and fly up above the clouds.

  2. No idea which are right, but their tumblr shows different tour dates: http://dfhvn.tumblr.com/shows

  3. This shit make me wanna climb up Mount Everest and do somersaults off of it. And I mean that in a good way.

  4. Glad they’re coming to Austin. Will have to jump on that.

  5. It is truly a great period for heavy music. Pallbearer, Kvelertak & now Deafheaven.
    All different. All nearly perfect.
    I normally avoid Black Metal specifically because of the vocals. But it so works here. The record is like a metal symphony. With the voice just being another bruising instrument. Oddly, for dark heavy music, it is very uplifting & positive (similar to Pallbearer’s Sorrow… & Kvelertak’s Meir.)
    Fuck the traditionalists. It’s good to see metal breaking away from the cookie monster.
    \nn/

  6. Hell of a good write up here, Michael. I usually go for sludgier stuff when it comes to metal, but I’m really enjoying this album. These songs might as well be bathing directly in the sun, they’re that huge-sounding.

  7. A fantastic album. I think one notable thing about Sunbather is how it adds a level for the black metal/shoegaze movement. I love Alcest, but I kinda feel they’ve been spinning their wheels since Souvenirs. Sunbather is a huge leap forward. Also, thanks for throwing love to Marrow Of The Spirit. That album and Cobalt’s Gin are the two most awe-inspiring black metal albums in the last five years. What an amazing time for metal.

    Great article.

    • Thanks, Carson. I just saw Cobalt’s first-ever live show at MDF. It was a moving, overwhelming experience. (I actually wrote up their entry in the MDF program; if I can scare up a PDF I’ll share it here for you to read, it’s got some good intel.) Phil’s back from Iraq for a hot second so they are doing a micro-tour. I’m going to see them again this Friday at St. Vitus. Probably my favorite USBM band. Gin is a massive album, as is the one that precedes it, Eater Of Birds.

  8. I can’t really explain why, but I read this entire article hearing Tobias’s voice, and it was a good time. I’m sure it has something to do with binging on the new Arrested Development.

    Anyway, great write up. I’ve been interested in these guys. I shall indulge.

  9. Great writeup! I ran into these guys in the parking lot of the Echoplex when they played with Boris on Friday. Missed the set, sadly… Here’s that Mogwai cover, in its shrill, clipped-vocal majesty http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GyIggA4b5w

  10. Yes Deafheaven! Yes Death Wish! Vinyl should be here anyday now!

  11. Holy Hell. Just heard “Dream House” for the first time. I LOVED this line:

    “I guess you’d call them interludes? That term makes these moments on the album feel insubstantial or inessential, which they’re not, but they’re also plainly intended to be experienced and understood as connective tissue rather than organs or bone.”

    I’m guessing, based on “Dream House”, that these interludes are MANDATORY comedown/comeups for the heavy blasts of songs contained on this album. I’ve always viewed interludes (let’s call ‘em that) as a beautiful way to make great songs even greater on an album.

    Call me crazy, but when I’m done listening to a huge, epic song, I’m not ready for another huge, epic song. I need a bit of a comedown, something to help my mind process what I just heard. Based on my trust in Michael’s musical taste, I’m hoping I just found one of my go-to summer albums… until Fuck Buttons comes out… because *GOB voice* COME ON!

    p.s. Your review also got me to look into this “Marrow of the Spirit” album. I’m a metal idiot but it seems like this album is incredible?

  12. The controversy surrounding this band and to an even greater extent Liturgy is almost as fascinating as music itself (almost, I’ve had Dream House on repeat for the past week). Black Metal is one of the most conservative genres in music and both Deafheaven and Liturgy are claiming to be a part of its tradition yet presenting themselves in a radically different way, which has consequences in a genre where image and presentation is so important. And you can’t tell me this is not being done intentionally. Here we have a pink colored album called Sunbather, with a lead single called Dream House. If you hadn’t heard the music you’d swear they were on Mexican Summer. Liturgy uses a drum machine and toured with Diplo and Sleigh Bells. This ain’t grandpa’s corpse paint and church burning black metal, to borrow multiple bad cliches, and its inspired a pretty intense discussion about authenticity.

    Brandon Stosuy explored this way more eloquently than me in the article below, and I highly suggest you read it if these sorts of things interest you. For extra credit I suggest trying to find “Transcendental Black Metal”, the manifesto by Liturgy frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, though if you can get through all of it you’re a braver one than I.

    http://pitchfork.com/features/show-no-mercy/8761-death-to-black-metal/

    • If Pitchfork had any other writers as thoughtful and un-snide as Stousy, we’d all be better off.

    • Honestly, Deafheaven’s approach to their album art and names reminds me of when BORIS dropped “Pink” in 2005. Coincidentally, that album is fucking amazing too.

  13. This reminds me a lot of “I Have Dreams” melodically and aesthetically but with more double-bass and less hardcore elements. Not bad.

  14. After listening to a few tracks, I have to voice my hesitations. I’m not looking to be confrontational here, I honestly want some good back-and-forth to help my perspective.

    I just cannot get into the vocals. Admitedly, I’m no black metal enthusiast. I never have been. In fact, I listen to very little metal at all these days. I enjoy it immensely now and again, but I’m very picky when it comes to the overall genre (much as I am with hip-hop), and a lot of that has to do with vocal presentation. I just have a hard time with the limited variation from song to song, even from word to word. I know there are intended lyrics in there, but it gets monotonous when every phrase sounds like a screamed variation of “Yai! Yai yai yai! Yaya YAAAAAAAI!!!” I get the emotion and intensity, it just seems extremely monochromatic and starts to become very dull after awhile. Again, this isn’t usually my cup of tea, so I probably sound pretty typical and clueless as an outsider as far as my opinion of that goes.

    BUT…I absolutely ADORE the instrumental side of it. I would love for this to be an instrumental album. The textures and melodies inherent there are incredible. So I’m at a bit of a loss. I really want to enjoy this album. But I am having a hard time.
    Thoughts? Suggestions? Please help a friend in need.

    • Preferably, I’d like to avoid any response of “You just don’t get it NOOB!” because obviously that is the case. What I’m asking is that someone help me “get it,” if that is at all possible.

      • Hey dude, I actually didn’t like black metal vocals at first either. But do you like death metal? Or any kind of harsh vocals? I think the band that got me into death metal vocals was Opeth, and after that I’m not sure what got me into black metal vocals… maybe it was Agalloch, but in terms of the best Black metal vocalists I can think of I would suggest John Haughm of Agalloch and Phil McSorley of Cobalt. If you can’t Get into those two vocalists, I would say it’s probably just not for you.

        Hope that helps!

      • I think you have to submerge yourself in a certain kind of harsher vocal stylings and your ears will adapt. I grew up listening to a lot of punk and over time I was able to handle the shoutiness of hardcore vocalists (Refused were a gateway there). Over time I have developed a taste for a wide range of gruff vocals. It eventually stops offending your ears. Black metal’s screechy styles may be a lot to take if you don’t really listen to anything south of straight singing. Try different metal bands, perhaps ones that are gruff, but still tuneful – High On Fire, Mastodon, Yob. They’re not black metal, but I think your ears will eventually adapt to the point where the screechiness of black metal will be pallatable.*

        *Death metal’s Cookie Monster vocals, however, are really the hardest mountain to climb.

        • In response to aaron72 and carson,

          It’s not really the “harshness” of the vocals that bothers me. I do enjoy bands with harsher vocals, some of which you’ve mentioned (Mastodon, Refused). And I know this band isn’t exactly the same thing, but I still adore the Deftones and their heaviest morcels. But those are bands that still have inherent melody and discernable lyrics, despite the harsh delivery. What bothers me here is the lack of any real variation from word to word. I wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t sound like the same thing yelled in repetition with the same intensity…. over, and over. It becomes grating in a negative way. Does that make sense? I dig the emotion, and I dig the harshness. It just comes off as humorous and distracting when I know there are supposedly realy lyrics behind the wall of “YAI YAI YAAAAAAI!” In variation I could stomach it, but non stop it becomes overbearing. I’m gonna try to listen to it while reading the lyrics though and see if it makes any difference…

          • I couldn’t imagine that you’re alone on the vocals KiDCHAIR. It will be the number one detractor for most people, and will likely be the one thing that will need the most adjusting for their next few albums before they reach that LP3 masterpiece Michael has convinced me WILL happen.

            I guess what won me over with the lyrics is how it reminded me of “Street Horrrsing” Fuck Buttons, since I’m not a metal fan and that’s the closest album I can get to compare vocally to “Sunbather”. The lyrics are unintelligible, sure, but I feel like that is the point. In both Deafheaven and Fuck Buttons cases, they’re making music so immensely powerful that it seems like screaming is the most logical response.

            I remember listening to “Ratts of the Capital” back in 2004 and being overwhelmed by its incredible peak. Rocking out in my car, my mouth agape, but no sound coming out. It’s such a cathartic release that I can see why other bands choose to scream over them. It’s almost like the music has caused the lead singer to combust and he’s just howling like he has nothing left to lose. Obviously, that’s one way to look at it. See my comment below for another take…

            When I was so in love with “Street Horrrsing” but realized that 80% of the people I knew would be like, “the fuck is he screaming about?” I decided to average out how long he is actually screaming throughout the album. It turned out to be only like 30% of the album (ROUGH estimation) that he screams on, leaving the rest of the album’s instrumental beauty out in the open for all to share. Of course they reduced the screaming to 0% on “Tarot Sport” — a wise move but I still miss the screams.

            So even though I haven’t made it all the way through Deafheaven yet, from what I’ve heard with the instrumental tracks, I feel this will be a similar situation. Even though the vocals are likely going to be its number one detractor, I feel over the span of the hour long album, it will be a small portion that has the screaming. Over time as these long compositions can be understood better, I feel like the screaming will become a necessity.

            Of course I love The Blood Brothers too. And Deftones. But I see your point and it’s a good one to raise. Hopefully I contributed to some back and forth.

          • You always contribute nicely, RJ. Mucho love.

            I’ll have to give it some more listenes, maybe in better headphones (turned up to 11) and with the lyrics in front of me. And like I said, screaming as a concept itself isn’t a detractor. I’ll even go further in saying the inablility to understand the lyrics isn’t the problem as much as the inability to make out any sort of phonetic sounds outside of a screamed “yai yai” that supposedly has poetry behind it. There is plenty of music whose lyrics I can’t make out for various reasons whether it’s the hummed drone of MBV, the mumbled slur of Thom Yorke, or the made up nonsense of Sigur Ros Hopelandic (or Icelandic for that matter), but in those cases it at least “sounds” like they are saying something. I simply can’t understand it. There’s an element of mystery and intrigue with those, whereas in a lot of black or death metal vocals, recognizable speech is often all but absent. It becomes hard to take seriously knowing there is supposedly some actualy lyrics behind it.

            I understand that’s probably part of the appeal to some. I guess I just haven’t gotten over that hump.

          • You should read the lyrics while you listen. It’s not something I necessarily do, but I noticed, at least with Deafheaven, that once you know what he’s saying, everything seems far more decipherable.

        • Hi KidChair. I’m late to the party haha but have been feasting on this album for the past week. First, I’m engrossed in the tight musicianship and thrilled by the emotional nuances and tones of the album. When I first heard the brazen in your face banshee screaming I was like ‘ehh……..” and I was initially turned off. But the more I began to let the musical parts that I adored ( and there are many to adore) become paramount, the vocals become like a slowly adjusted thing where I was more cozy with it. These types of vocals are never my thing at all. But this isn’t isn’t cradle of filth. This is an honest heartfelt album ( with lyrics to boot) that have an incredibly striking effect and the emotion is so strong that I accepted the scream. Other then that, a great article write up Michael and a great album.

    • Funny you say that, I got the exact same response when trying to get some friends into Fucked Up by playing “David Comes to Life.”

      • Ditto. My friend was drunk on tequila in a car ride and he was taken so aback by the vocals on David Comes to Life he started laughing and making fun of it (I thought he’d like it! I did.)

        Eventually I couldn’t take it after he said, “Why is he so mad?”

        My answer: “Because he can’t sing!”

        That shut him up lol.

  15. I think the reason that metalheads who are not indie fans get upset about bands like deafheaven and liturgy is due to the fact that when indie sites only pay attention to certain metal albums and certain types of metal, it makes it seem like indie people disregard the rest of metal in general.

    Metal music has so many great bands, but most of them are just not cut out for indie consumption, so when bands like these pop up it kind of gives a “well most metal sucks, but this I can get into!” type of vibe, so metalheads get offended and feel kind of traitorous for listening to it.

    Anyway, I enjoy this album so far, haven’t finished it yet but I’m definitely into it!

    • I think this is exactly it. For anyone who is heavily invested in a particular genre (be it metal, hip-hop, EDM, whatever), it can definitely be frustrating when tastemaker sites pick and choose a handful of token bands/artists to focus on, especially if those artists represent the more “accessible” aspects of the genre, while ignoring the majority of artists that big fans of the genre actually care about. When a site covers Deafheaven and Kylesa but not, say, Portal and Carcass (who also have new albums out this year) it can definitely feel like some metal is considered cool but most is not.

      PS I am not trying to slag on Stereogum here, I actually think they do better than most when it comes to metal coverage on a mostly non-metal site

    • aaron is exactly right. There’s a lot of picking and choosing when it comes to indie-centric coverage of metal. That’s why the key, I think, is to follow individual critics who know there shit, but take an inclusive approach – Adrien Begrand, Brandon Stosuy, Kim Kelly, Michael Nelson.

      And to give the devil its due (I call it the devil because I think they were initially the most guilty of the selective coverage thing), Pitchfork is up to about 4-5 metal reviews per week.

      • I want to jump in this convo but I’m so busy over here. Thanks for all the kind words, and thanks for caring about this stuff.

        I just hit publish on the May edition of our metal column, the Black Market, in which we talk about a lot more metal-related stuff than just Deafheaven (who are still prominently discussed!):

        http://www.stereogum.com/1368151/the-black-market-the-month-in-metal-may-2013/list/

        Thanks again. More soon.

        • Oh trust me, I know you guys talk about more than just Deafheaven, I’ve been a faithful stereogum metal follower since Brandon was here and I’ve been following all of the stuff you guys post about metal. Also, when I see the year end lists you guys put out it’s obvious that you listen to more than just “hip” metal.

          It’s always nice to see metal getting coverage no matter what band it is, and it’s clear you guys care about the less “indie”stuff.

      • I have noticed quite a bit of metal coverage on pitchfork more recently, but the thing I have always noticed is that they refuse to give a metal release more than about an 8.2 unless it is a stone cold classic (Marrow of the Spirit, All We Love We Leave Behind) which is irritating considering many of the releases that they review deserve much more than a B-

        • Yeah, that’s always chafed me a bit – it’s like there’s some kind of scoring ceiling for this stuff, except for when it’s a genre-defining classic like “Marrow Of The Spirit,” at which point it will be put in the some scoring range as some goddamn Best Coast album or something.

    • You are completely right. It makes sense that indie sites wouldn’t cover a variety of metal, that’s simply not their audience. But hat’s why it is helpful to have people like Michael Nelson on such sites.

  16. Does this come in an instrumental version? I could get into that…

  17. Sounds like Wu Lyf; but then Wu Lyf sounds like Explosions in the Sky with barking.

  18. mto  |   Posted on Mar 25th 0

    I want to like this album. Rave reviews everywhere but I just can’t see it. I’m not a black metal fan either so that’s probably the issue; I just don’t have an ear for these vocals. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a complaint on that front… But the musicality that everyone raves about… it just sounds like every Foo Fighters b-section. Theres not a moment on the album that doesn’t sound like a Foo Fighters bridge… Am I the only one?

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