Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

by Joseph Trotman Rating:7 Release Date:2018-07-13
Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

It's always been apparent that Deafheaven are a band that takes themselves pretty seriously. The length of their songs, their predisposition towards anthemic, ascending chord progressions, the literary flavour of their lyrics; it all smacks of a band striving headily for a high-stakes brand of transcendence. Nowhere do they demonstrate this attitude better than the spoken word sections of "Ordinary Corrupt Human Love" opener "You Without End". Reciting from a passage authored by Oakland author Tom McElravey in which nothing much happens save for a flock of geese flying past a man smoking a joint, guest vocalist Nadia Kury delivers her lines with enough dramatic flair to make you think the geese were on their way to a U.N. summit. And yet despite the self-seriousness on display, the moment works. Vocalist George Clark's more traditionally black-metal vocal style contrasted with Kury's recitation over a pretty instrumental of piano and slide guitar sound great. While their latest is an uneven album, the band's risk pays off here and they prove that there is a definite amount of boldness and creativity to their black-metal-misanthropy-meets-millennial-malaise music. 



On this album, more than on any previous effort, Deafheaven succeed in creating an album in which their black metal proclivities serve as a doom-laden backbone to a broad and cohesive sonic palette. The final two minutes of "Canary Yellow" are a prime example, in which a choral backing vocal chants a melodic refrain as a foil to George Clarke's curdled, rhythmic screams overtop. It's thrilling and perversely beautiful. Unfortunately, it comes after a meandering and repetitive mid-section that pushes the track out to a 12-minute runtime, turning what should be one of the most enjoyable moments of the band's discography into a bit of an endurance test. There's also an odd choice made on this track and the other more metal-centric cuts on the album to give the drums an unusual degree of precedence in the mix. The kick drum, in particular, is one of the loudest I've heard. This often means the guitars are pushed out to the margins, especially in the frequent and long sections where double-kicks are deployed. Maybe it's a matter of personal preference, but to my mind, these songs are crying out to have the listener enveloped, cradled and/or punished by swathes of guitar. Prioritising the drums strips the guitar parts of colour and dynamics they might have otherwise had, causing each fast-drummed section to blur into the next. "Glint" alone is rescued from this completely by its Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins opening part and beautifully kinetic riffs; each section taut and momentous, never outstaying its welcome.

Deafheaven's unfortunate habit of strangely inhibiting their own often-excellent ideas continues on "Near". The instrumental is a lovely Slowdive-inflected number and the production is on point everywhere, especially in the chorus-y, harmonised vocals. But no amount of interesting production can save the lyric "Thought I saw you there/wishing you were near" from being underwhelming, and even the most lyrically-unfocused shoegaze band would probably think better of singing that six-to-eight times and being done with it. 



Other than "Glint", the song that hangs together best is also the furthest they've strayed yet from the metal playbook, on the Chelsea Wolfe-featuring "Night People". Built around a perfectly brooding vocal performance from Wolfe and collaborator Ben Chisolm, its piano-work and ghostly synths suggest a future Deafheaven that leap face-first into music that leaves tremolo picking and blast-beats behind entirely to embrace balladry in all it's Phil Collins-sounding tom-glory.

While not everything hits on "Ordinary Corrupt Human Love", their ambitious attempts at grandeur are generally admirable and occasionally achieve the panoramic highs they reach for. It's easy to imagine that as they perfect more of their stylistically diverse elements, and perhaps developed a more stringent approach to self-editing their longer songs, a truly great album could be in the making.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    This is the most accurate and well put review I've found of this album. Too often I find people just gushing over this band, but they haven't really evolved that much.