Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

Written by: AP on 20/09/2018 19:40:41

Given the success wrought by the warmth and scintillating nature of their sophomore album, 2013’s “Sunbather”, it was somewhat unexpected that Deafheaven should plummet into total darkness on 2015’s “New Bermuda”, embracing the intensity and violence of the genre to which blackgaze owes its heritage, and likely confounding the hipper portions of their fanbase in the process. The schizophrenia continues with this fourth and latest outing, “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love”, which, in many ways, offers clemency and plays like a reprieve to its predecessor. The lights are on again and there is hope, even defiance to be found in the cryptic musings of vocalist George Clarke and the cathartic melodies of his longtime collaborator, guitarist Kerry McCoy.

Notably, this is Deafheaven’s most universally palatable album to date, one which sees the quintet take a step away from metal — especially of the blackened variety — and indulge in the plethora of other influences that have been instrumental in shaping their visionary style. The first sign of this shift arrives with the opening track, “You Without End”, in which the familiar, earsplitting screams of Clarke take a backseat to grand piano flourishes, McCoy’s exultant, Queen-esque riffage and the actress Nadia Kury’s reading out a short story about Oakland, CA. Celebratory in its tone and neo-classical in its implementation, it leads in a collection of songs out of which only three roll out the blastbeats and tremolo melodies that have been a central element in the band’s modus operandi since debuting with “Roads to Judah” in 2011. Those three are personified by “Honeycomb”, “Canary Yellow” and “Glint”, yet none of them feel very tempestuous or diverge from the overall theme — the atmosphere sticks to a shade of triumph and redemption throughout, and there are plenty of easter eggs hidden within them, too, with loving nods to artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive and Radiohead materialising from McCoy’s eccentric fretwork if one cares to listen closely. As ever, he has also spliced an assortment of ‘90s-style guitar solos into the melodies cascading through the songs, often acting as pivots for a change in intensity or a shift between major and minor key. A neat trick, which goes some way toward explaining how, in spite of the soaring popularity of blackgaze, Deafheaven still manages to sound fresh and original today.

Another reason is that while the genre has grown quite saturated, Deafheaven just continues to push the envelope, as evidenced by the remaining four tracks, including the aforementioned “You Without End”. Combined, they expose a more nuanced aspect of the San Franciscan five-piece, whether by swaddling Clarke in diaphanous, Mogwai-esque post-rock riffs, as he turns to clean vocals in “Near”, or by inviting Chelsea Wolfe and her trusty cohort Ben Chisholm for a haunting duet in “Night People”, which is the most uncharacteristic piece that Clarke & McCoy have conceived to date. Given the artists involved in that marriage of darkwave and dream-pop, it is perhaps unsurprising that “Night People” actually far resembles Chelsea Wolfe’s own material than it does Deafheaven’s, and as such it offers a narrow opening for criticising “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love” for wandering off its course. But by the time “Worthless Animal” enters to close the proceedings with twin leads that would not sound out of place amongst the repertoire of Thin Lizzy and an epic crescendo that seems to just build and build, it becomes easy to forgive Deafheaven their trespasses and lose oneself in the uplift and warmth of this surreal, yet relatable ode to love in its most basic, human form.

Where “New Bermuda” was the yin to “Sunbather”’s yang, it would be far too simplistic to dub this latest offering as another reversal of that duality. It is another light and bright effort to be sure — an antidote to its predecessor, if you like — but neither of those records can stand against the organicity on display here. Indeed, the fluctuations between the myriad genres that mingle within Deafheaven’s music had yet to be executed so harmoniously as they are on “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love”. So if anything, the album is a “Sunbather” without the rough edges, without the filler. And while the band’s core identity remains intact, the agnosticism and fluidity with which they approach songwriting once again leaves me completely at a loss as to where Deafheaven might go next. Until then, we have a strong candidate for album of the year on our hands.


Download: You Without End, Honeycomb, Canary Yellow, Glint
For the fans of: Harakiri for the Sky, møl, Oathbreaker
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.07.2018
Anti- Records

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