Review: Deafheaven - 'Ordinary Corrupt Human Love'


Deafheaven’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is the first record I have listened to to date that made me give credence to the adage “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” The complexities of emotionality and cross-genre grandeur of Deafheaven's soaring guitar layers, frigid blast beats, elation and devastation all mixed together makes putting this record into words flummoxing. This record accomplished the impossible task of taking the tropes, both musical and emotional, of all of the genres represented on this record from black metal, to post rock, to shoegaze, to indie? and translates them into a breathing altar to every flavor of love.

Deafheaven beat the odds (and the gods?) to make the world of black metal accessible to a wider, if not necessarily mainstream audience with the release of their 2013 debut album Sunbather. Five years later we have a lot of DJs wearing Burzum shirts and the latest album, a collection that slips through sunshowers of shoegaze, the dripping saliva of black metal, and emotional discussions of everyday life post-rock would like to deny that it’s constantly having.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is aptly named, and packaged. The album described vignettes celebrating regular lives. We hear about moments on streets, observing, feeling. The viewpoints described see things as the music does, passing through perception and emotion in scenes of loss, tiredness, exaltation, and biblical importance. OCHL addresses the love of a kiss scene, to a failed marriage, to the basement gutturals of an invocation to blood. The musical dexterity Deafheaven uses to maneuver this ground is firsthand. The vignette nature of the songs also differentiates this album from the rest of the bands catalogue. The other records read like single works, single bodies. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love reads like a poetry zine, or a mixtape.

“You Without End”

The record begins with a piano line that seems too easy, and integrates a femme-voiced narrative that might intimidate the listener with the threat of an oncoming concept album. The threat is not delivered as the song soars into a bombastic post-metal merry go round. The song sounds like if Queen was fronted by a Warhammer Miniature. The milieu returns to the sunburst beauty and elevation high that made sunbather a gem.

“Honeycomb”

Brings that big old deafheaven crunch with the tastey riffs of slowed-down metalcore that doesn’t leave the guitar high behind. “Honeycomb” rolls out the blast beats you were promised (and I had hoped for) when you turned on the record. The lyrics are a (literary?) ode to abserving love in the wild and translating it to the self. This is one of the suites on the record. Songs are schoolyard-picked into camps of long developed suites and sweeter, short numbers like standout track “Night People.” The simple guitar lines repeat in layers over the thirty-second notes on the snare. This is what prog rock wanted for us.

“Canary Yellow”

Definitive album standout and single. The airy tones in the back are like sunlight over water. The guitars duette nicely, the opening is a meditative break from the intense emotionality of the two opening songs. The imagery is psychedelic.

The gang vocal on this record, fading in and out of focus, goes from a church congregation to isolated voices, and back into the miasma. This song comes so close to Indie .There are moments, strongest on the album opener but also gloriously present on this track where the music would be straight indie rock if it were not for George Clarke’s diaphragm.

“Near”

The albums midpoint, and a sad break from the grandeur, “Near” wouldn’t has been out of place on either of the first two Interpol records. The echoey guitar and forefront drums sets the scene for the exaggerated slow motion of movement when u are near to a loved one, who as the lyrics progress, can only be found in your memory. This song was a smaller, birdlike track when compared to the songs with more muscle, but in its quiet sadness makes it an album standout.

“Glint”

By minute three the song gives the gut wrench metal that I signed up for. “Glint” describes just that, the identifying reflection of a thing that stops you from seeing the thing itself. We are mercifully saved from seeing the full spectrum of sadness offered by the song. We are so close to bitter endings in this record, nothing is defined, we do not know what happened, but we can hear the hearts of every victim.

“Night People”

Chelsea Wolfe is another metal-plus breakout success who came off the same wave with her fourth record around the same time as Deafheavens. A rare clean vocal from Clarke finds harmony with Wolfes wet velvet as they walk together in a vocal rhythm that could have been Enya.

“Worthless Animal”

The high drama in the way the words turn in the mouth of Clarke as the black metal priest are at their peak in “Worthless Animal,” a jam about all the the different flavors of completely meaningless death in the natural world. The closer asks if the emotion and sadness of the rest of the album, in the face of nihilism offers beauty. Fear brings into lazer focus the lines around love.

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