A black metal album sporting a peachy pink cover ought to raise a few eyebrows, and certainly it has, but San Francisco's Deafheaven never made music to please the purists. Centered around vocalist George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, the band was ambitious at the outset, stretching beyond post-hardcore roots to incorporate the bleak and bitter onslaught of black metal with the textural heft of shoegaze. And their sophomore album, Sunbather, can blast with the best of them. Clarke's a devilish screamer, offering a raspy and effective complement to sheets of distorted guitar. The rhythm section behind him pushes generously without overwhelming the band's gradual melodic reveals, which prove crucial to Sunbather's appeal. With wide-open progressions that refuse to wallow in their own murk, Deafheaven has essentially repurposed black metal technique for dramatic uplift. Further blurring the boundaries, the band moves seamlessly into elegant passages of ringing guitars and piano, casting their own torrential bursts in sharp relief.
Marriages, a new Los Angeles band featuring Greg Burns and Emma Ruth Rundle of post-metal vets Red Sparowes, joins Deafheaven on the road, offering a more spacious approach to meditative heaviness. Raleigh's Gray Young opens.—Bryan C Reed