Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Metal & Hardcore Albums

4. Deafheaven
(Deathwish Inc.)

In many ways, Sunbather is antithetical to black metal, the genre with which it is most often labeled. The salmon pink album cover certainly doesn't help the case. Take opener "Dream House" as a case study. The title alone is so far removed from presumptions of what the crowd donning corpse paint (which Deafheaven are noticeably free of) would dub their creations that you'd be forgiven for thinking you were holding the wrong album.

Any suspicions of erroneous packaging are temporarily laid to rest with the blast-beat drumming of the opening track. Sure, they sound suspiciously happy — perhaps the ultimate division from black metal's literally murder-inspired music — but between the three interludes and enough shoegaze, post-rock and even scream influences to bathe in, being kvlt was never the point. Instead, Sunbather IS a lot of things that black metal — at least in the traditional sense — hasn't accomplished. They've been featured in Apple advertisements for the iPhone 5c, a noteworthy achievement no matter which way you spin it, but even more so when you consider the extremity of the music.

The critical acclaim has been nearly unanimous, even amongst more mainstream publications, which undoubtedly helped them land gigs with decidedly un-metal bands and adoption by primarily un-metal fans. All of this would be inconsequential without a solid album, one instead exclusively riding the wings of undeserved praise, but Sunbather isn't just solid; it's impenetrable. (Bradley Zorgdrager)