Deafheaven makes music that's both intensely personal and incredibly universal. Its excellent 2011 debut, Roads to Judah, was a blast-beaten, shoegaze-indebted metal record that felt perfectly of its moment. With the new Sunbather coming up so quickly, I wondered where primary members George Clarke (vocals) and Kerry McCoy (guitar) could take a band with such an immediate sound. Apparently, I needn't look further than the Internet.
While thinking about Sunbather a couple weeks ago — and especially its nine-minute opener, "Dream House" — an Instagram from one of Deafheaven's members popped up in my feed; it was a shot of U2's Best of 1980-1990 taken from one of those airplane music stations. Suddenly, the sonic space of Sunbather clicked. The distant echoes of "Where the Streets Have No Name" don't appear until the last minute here, but I can't shake them.
Since then, it's been hard to disassociate my not-so-accidental voyeurism. I keep hearing The Edge's chiming guitar ringing in my ears, now set against Clarke screaming his aching prose. For the first half of the track, the momentum is exhilarating and relentless, buoyed by a melodic punk bounce not heard since Deafheaven's 2010 demo. But the second half delivers on the ideas stemming from the band's stellar Mogwai cover last year: It doesn't just consider the grandiose pace of post-rock — well-trod territory in metal by now — but also understands what caustic relief resides in it. Sunbather is the sound of a band expanding within its reach, with an open ear dedicated not to what always comes next, but what will remain.