For black metal classicists, it’s natural to feel like kids with cool haircuts are encroaching on your scene. But the whole “hipster metal” backlash is simple snobbishness. In a sub-genre built on rejection – of harmony, of bombast, of Christianity – Deafheaven fit right in.
The band’s second record satisfies the expectations raised by 2011’s Roads To Judah. Some people are calling Sunbather “blackgaze.” As far as made-up genre designations go, it fits. The record alchemizes shoegaze’s hazy wall of distortion and black metal’s quick-fire drumming and tormented, raspy howling. The astonishing opener, Dream House, unveils a cresting triumphalism that’s pretty un-black metal. But elsewhere (Please Remember, Vertigo), Deafheaven retain the genre’s defining dread.
But who cares about category conceptions? Why does it matter if singer George Clarke looks more like Ian Curtis than a member of Mayhem or Emperor? Should Deafheaven be written off as inauthentic because they don’t carefully daub their faces with monochromatic corpse paint? You can spend hours dismantling Sunbather and cooking up a neat sub-sub-genre for it (post-black-metal-gaze-death-dreamcore-whatever). Or you can just call it one of the year’s best records.
Top track: Dream House