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Album Reviews : Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

By on July 21, 2018

When ‘blackgaze’ kingpins Deafheaven broke largely in 2013 through their landmark release, Sunbather, the band finally dragged the maudlin corpse of black metal into the sunlight. It was an episode that many may have anticipated would only last the solitary epic album, such was the vociferous trolling the band (and fans) copped from the trve/elite/kvlt among the metal faithful.

To the band’s enormous credit, in what was in hindsight as much a reason to keep fans engaged as it may have been a ‘f*ck you’ to the haters, Deafheaven doubled down and released the ferocious “From the Kettle onto the Coil” single in 2014. ‘Coil bristled with muscular intent, like a bullied kid unleashing a series of violent kicks to the head of an antagonist… it served a purpose to clear a path for the band to prepare the public for the brilliant Sunbather follow up, New Bermuda (’15).

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love manages to go beyond both Sunbather and New Bermuda … however, the band may have overplayed their hand. It sounds as if the album is designed to be the moment that Deafheaven realise their glorious ambition by incorporating aspects of classic rock, goth-pop and even more and longer contrasts of light and shade. The problem, however, is that Deafheaven has issued a serious list of demands to the listener if one is prepared to listen to the entire album in one session.

With four outstanding cuts that manage to take the Deafheaven ‘sound’ into the outer limits of their musical stratosphere (“Honeycomb”, “Canary Yellow”, “Glint” and the career-defining “Worthless Animal”); “You Without End” is as far as the experimentation really works. The meandering “Near” is at best, a b-side and “Night People” is the cut most likely to offend the sensibilities of naysayers. By reimagining a gothic version of Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman’s duet on the cut “Come What May” (Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film– ’01), Deafheaven never sounded so accessible… or boring.

Rest assured, because it is still a Deafheaven album there are many, many wonderful highlights; You Without End almost apologetically eases us into the album as a female voice narrates a suitably-cryptic passage against a musical narrative sounding like the distant cousin of Deftones “Xerses” (Saturday Night Wrist– ‘06). Lead guitarist Kerry McCoy (and/or rhythm guitarist Shiv Mehra) unleash some very tasty lead work reminiscent of Queen’s Brian May or Guns N’ Roses Slash on this cut, and McCoy further ups the guitar heroics on the epic Honeycomb at the 4:38 mark.

At the 8:30 mark of “Canary Yellow”, McCoy/Mehra and bassist Chris Johnson adopt their best Abbey Road (The Beatles– ’69) era George Martin and Paul McCartney guitar/ bass interplay, and the musically inclined fraternity boys of Phi Gamma Delta sound like they are wooing the girls of Kappa Alpha Theta underneath vocalist George Clarke’s banshee scream at the 10:30 mark, metaphorically speaking. The twin lead-guitar at the 4:17 mark of the final cut, “Worthless Animal” introduces the sublime passage that occurs from 4:40… if you have listened this far, what a treat the band offer by saving the most memorable feature deep within the album.

As the band’s spokesmen, Clarke and McCoy have distanced themselves from the black metal moniker. So be it, and good for the band.

The band had their backs to the wall on previous albums. They were embraced by a decidedly non-metal audience (they receive great copy over at Pitchfork). I just hope Clarke and McCoy realise that they are at their very best when Clarke is perched atop a vocal monitor staring down an audience screaming bloody murder, while McCoy hammers away at any one of his expertly tooled riffs and guitar leads.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is still Deafheaven… but not as you know it.

Band: Deafheaven
Album: Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Year: 2018
Genre: Blackgaze
Label: ANTI- Records
Origin: USA

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith