Since my second or third year of college, the surest way to keep me from listening to something has been to drop the word “metal” in its description. Metal (and by extension, hardcore) was something I had enjoyed while I was following the scene, but I had grown out of it and moved on to the greener, more mature pastures of folk, electronica, and art rock.
After all, who has time to listen to the new Chariot album when there’s so much Radiohead to explore? So when the first couple singles from this record started making their highly acclaimed rounds, I opened the reviews and lost interest at the worlds “black metal.” But later, when the album dropped onto the music scene like a cannonball, I decided to open that review again. This one was filled with words I was much more interested in: shoegaze, post rock…and what’s this? The guitarist is also in Whirr? I gave the album a shot.
And am I ever glad that I did. This record is among the most visceral works I have ever heard. Free of the doomy vocals, blast beats, and a harsh guitar tones I had been expecting from “death metal,” Sunbather is instead stuffed with the most explosive catharsis man can conjure from musical instruments. The guitars are an impossibly loud wall of noise. The drums are passionate yet not frantic. The screamed vocals have no sound of wickedness, but rather the sound of a man crying out to be heard. It’s an unthinkably powerful record, impossibly ambitious (four of the songs surpass nine minutes), and unexpectedly beautiful. There’s much more in common here with Godspeed You! Black Emperor than Opeth. And beyond all that, it’s the record that got me to care about hard music again. Which was no small task.