This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Favorite Tracks: “You Without End,” “Near,” “Glint”
Deafheaven stand at a particularly peculiar position within the metal scene since their “mainstream” rise to fame, situated between two embroiled sides seemingly endlessly arguing about the intricacies of their music. On one side lies the black metal die-hards, citing Deafheaven as a sacrament to the well-established and conservative genre. Often, this portion of the metal community claims that Deafheaven is watered-down, carrying far too many other elements of slowcore and shoegaze to even consider them metal, while claiming that they are, above all, overrated and over-celebrated. The other side of of the aisle is lined with individuals claiming that they are a welcome revitalization to the metal genre as a whole, citing that they are a perfect jumping-off point for many to dip their toes into what is otherwise a traditionally daunting genre. With Deafheaven’s latest, ORDINARY CORRUPT HUMAN LOVE, they have drifted even further away from the conventions of metal, leaving to stand at an even more controversial point in their artistic progression.
While their initial releases were consistently weaving in far more melodic genres like post-rock and hardcore, never have Deafheaven dove so deeply into these stylings as they have here. While their non-metal aspects were often delegated to shorter, more transitional tracks on SUNBATHER and ROADS TO JUDAH, their 2015 album NEW BERMUDA saw them weaving these more ethereal pieces into longer and more operatic compositions. ORDINARY CORRUPT HUMAN LOVE will not serve as respite for those looking for Deafheaven to forgo their more melodic stylings; rather, it serves as another step in their journey to carve out their own unique sound, leaving fans cheering and dissenters’ opinions further ratified.
The intro track, “You Without End,” is an appropriate opening, establishing immediately the tone and overall feeling on ORDINARY CORRUPT HUMAN LOVE. The use of a rapidly fluctuating grand piano to lead off the composition is unprecedented within their catalog, yet it feels completely at home; the swelling use of cymbals help usher in the full-bodied sound, accompanied by lo-fi female vocal samples that make the song reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The quick, midway introduction of an in-front and unapologetic screaming guitar guide lead singer George Clarke’s vocals perfectly. With his trademarked snarled screams, he belts out melancholic yet hopeful lyrics (“In a dark tunnel / and new dawn approaching / with a sphere of light / ever glowing”), which work in perfect unison with the vocal samples throughout, carrying with them a feeling of redemption (“The smoke burned into his eyes, blinding him / as he blinked through the tears, the pain began to recede”). Out of the gate, Deafheaven use their lyrics and composition to establish that their newest release will be far more melodic and introspective than ever before.
“Canary Yellow” epitomizes Deafheaven’s search for renewal and revival. Singer George Clarke described the song on his Instagram as “a song about living on in the memory of others,” which comes through clearly with the melancholic and angelic intro that eventually crescendos into a savage yet somber interlude. The ending of the track is particularly noteworthy, with Clarke’s throat-shredding vocals accompanied by a reverb-drenched vocal sample that belts out “On and on we choke on (my lover’s blood) / An everlasting night.” In the finale, the instrumentation itself resembles technically sound but somewhat derivative heavy metal tropes, clean and efficient, but somewhat sterile. The accompanying chanting vocals, which take prominence at the tail end of the song as the instrumentals completely fade out, feel somewhat schmaltzy, but are admittedly successful in creating another hopeful yet mournful track.
Helping close out the album is “Night People,” perhaps Deafheaven’s most accessible track yet. Singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe joins Clarke on vocals, substituting Deafheaven’s usual abrasive vocals for far more soothing ones. With minimal guitar work, the moody instrumental is supported by the passion and melody created by the duo, creating a very theatrical tone throughout a somewhat melodramatic yet expertly woven and produced track.
ORDINARY CORRUPT HUMAN LOVE is an unexpected but admittedly logical step in the progression of Deafheaven as they push further against the conventions of metal. They further take up the mantle of a truly amorphous, genre-bending group, at times abandoning their own trademarked savage vocals and equally as barbarous soundscapes, yet never leaving behind the immaculate compositions and productions that set them apart from the beginning. ORDINARY CORRUPT HUMAN LOVE is a genre-ascending landmark in Deafheaven’s already solid discography, and while it is not without the occasional hiccup, it is a testament to their innovative artistry.