Deafheaven: ‘Sunbather’ (10th Anniversary Remix / Remaster Review)

Sunbather’s iconic album typeface even extends to the 2023 sticker

In 2013, San Francisco-based Blackgaze band Deafheaven released what is arguably the single most impactful album for the genre to this day. The mix of Black Metal and Shoegaze quickly became a household name after its release and marked the inception point for many up-and-coming Blackgaze bands.

Sunbather, specifically, was met with universal acclaim upon its release, receiving a total score of 92 on Metacritic and being awarded Album of the Year for 2013. And in case you aren’t familiar with the lore yet, I don’t mean just top metal albums; it was the single highest-rated album of all genres for that year. Quite a feat for a previously underground band.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, that Sunbather got a special facelift to commemorate its 10th anniversary, with a complete remix/remaster. While I was sceptical when I first heard the announcement (“Why fix what ain’t broken?”), the moment I first listened to this new edition, I immediately knew it would replace the original.

Sometimes, artists like to mess with their songs for anniversary editions in ways I personally do not endorse, such as removing or shifting around some sections, the anniversary edition of Milliontown by Frost* being just one example that comes to mind. This is not the case here; all songs are presented in exactly the same manner they were ten years ago, down to the millisecond. This also includes the three iconic interludes. For those who are already familiar with the album, yes, even that one heavy drone section in Please Remember.

Because of how unique the overall composition of the original release was, I never had any issues with its mix. Still, after just listening to the new version once, you can immediately tell it was given a massive upgrade. The audible finesse and balance of the overall record are just more engaging. It’s hard to find the exact words to pinpoint what I mean here, but you can immediately hear the improvement if you play just five seconds of the old and new versions back-to-back. The sound is more refined, and less fatiguing, while at the same time also adding an even greater layer of oomph to the bass and drums. It’s almost magic how they managed to make an album I once considered perfect this much better.

If you haven’t heard of the term Blackgaze before but love crushing blast beats, agonizing shrieks, and so many chords per second you feel like you’re getting carpal tunnel just by listening along, definitely give Sunbather a try! Dream House, the first track on the record and arguably Deafheaven’s most iconic track to date, should serve as a wonderful crash course to see if this style is for you. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t click the first time; it definitely took a couple of attempts for me before I fell in love with this band.

This album will always hold a special place in my heart, as it not only put the band on the map, but without it, I probably would’ve never become a writer for Proghurst. Sunbather opened up a whole new world of music to me, and Deafheaven was the topic of my first-ever article for this site. While I’m not the biggest fan of their latest output, I still have the utmost respect for what these Americans have accomplished.

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