Deafheaven’s Sunbather is the San Francisco metal act’s second album, but it lands with a career’s intent. The musicianship is masterful, even overwhelming, a white-water blast of drum acrobatics and reassuringly melodic guitar lines. “Vertigo” sprouts to giant, shoegaze-driven proportions before indulging a cock-rock solo; “Please Remember” steps out of the river with a slow wash of guitar echoes as evocative and mournful as the folk work of Neil Halstead’s Mojave 3 — his previous act, Slowdive, was apparently an influence on the band’s name, as well.
“Please Remember,” and other long sections of the free-ranging Sunbather, are also better for the singer’s absence. I find the metal trope of unintelligible, throat-scarring noise vocals unapproachable at best, distracting at worst — the sound of a kid play-acting monster movies while the grown-ups finish work on Shakespeare, or at least Sorkin. “At worst” is absolutely the case here. It’s not just the timbre that doesn’t connect for me: if raw noise is what’s needed, a guitar could more pleasurably provide it. And I don’t think this music is against pleasure. On an album that relies firmly on melody and a sonic template only inches removed from, say, the more humane sounds of Paramore’s “Future,” a voice that provides only pain is a limitation on music that otherwise accepts none.
// Sunbather is out now on Deathwish Inc. (Buy)