Deafheaven were last year’s loudest quiet success story.
Formed by George Clarke [vocals] and Kerry McCoy [guitars/bass] after decamping to San Francisco in 2009, the band signed to Jacob Bannon’s Deathwish Inc in 2010, before releasing their debut record, Roads to Judah, a year later. Merging extended passages of post-rock melodicism with straight-up blasting black metal, Roads… was immediately met with critical acclaim within and beyond the immediate extreme metal scene.
That record, excellent as it was, gave little indication of the scope of its follow-up, this year’s Sunbather. Sunbather was – is – an amazing record, as quietly evocative as it is relentlessly crushing, and certainly one of the most comprehensively realized and refreshing full-lengths of recent years (bolstered in no small part by the drumming of semi-permanent new member Dan Tracy). Preceding its release, hearing the track Dream House for the first time was startling; a confluence of sonic tropes so well melded, so affecting for it, that it felt as exciting as the first time we heard Rites of Spring or, god forbid, Thursday as teenagers. It was black metal, of a definable sort, but at the same time a million miles from it: encompassing, iridescent and without sounding like any particular attention had been paid to the genre’s often rigid confines and stylistic singularities, discarding the ‘traditional’ BM aesthetics of wind-whipped natural expanses, the occult and esoteric cultural asceticism, for something immediate and real. These were creative sentiments reflected to a fuller extent within the album proper, as well as through its stark live iteration.
Speaking to Crack before their second sold-out show at Dalston’s Birthdays in the space of two weeks, it quickly becomes clear how determinedly set apart from black metal’s central KVLT pathways McCoy and Clarke are, and just how driven by notions of an artistic and personal honesty over limiting and contrived insular self-definition their output is.