Album of the Day: Deafheaven, “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love”

Homogenization has never been on Deafheaven’s menu, and now they loathe it more than ever. With Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, they’ve decided that fitting any sort of niche is a cop-out. Those who adored the blackgaze grandeur of the band’s breakthrough album, 2013’s Sunbather, or the thrash-and-burn musculature and alt-pop sidesteps of 2015’s New Bermuda, might even be taken aback by Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, the band’s least metallic release to date. An exercise in contrasts, the album is loud but not violent, reflective but not navel-gazey. It’s consciously injected with melodic flair—from classic rock to Britpop—without seeming the least bit pretentious.

There are still recognizable core elements—double-bass drums, blastbeats, tremolo guitar, echoey arpeggios, classical piano droning post-rock rhythms, and, of course, vocalist George Clarke’s enraged demon growl—but these building blocks are constructed without heed for either black metal or indie rock conventions, frequently intermingling the two in striking ways. Clarke still sounds like he swallowed a vial of sulfuric acid, but he isn’t always spewing about pain. On “Glint,” he’s reflective: “Imagining us clasping hands in holiday / Imagining you growing older, growing somehow more beautiful / Surrounded by your children and children’s children,” as jackhammer rhythms and machine-gun drum fills clamor around him. And there are times when Clarke’s a bit more acerbic, like on “Honeycomb,” where he compares his love with a “bulging, blue-faced fool … hung from the throat by sunflower stems.”

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love ends with the equally dramatic, but sonically divergent “Worthless Animal,” which echoes, chimes, drones and builds into a post-rock behemoth with euphoric hooks. The track peaks with rapidly strummed guitars overlapped with meandering guitar and ends with surging washes of sound reminiscent of the album opening. Elsewhere, “Canary Yellow” juxtaposes breakneck riffs with slow, tuneful guitar chords. Then, right when it seems like the song is going to build into a frenzied conclusion, the tempo levels out and the band sing in three-part-harmony: “On and on and on, we choke on my lover’s blood / An everlasting, handsome night, my lover’s blood / My lover’s blood rushes right through me.”

Ultimately, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is about lots of things—the cracks in the finish, the flaws and foibles that make us human and lead us wherever life takes us, one step at a time. It’s about the cliché that love conquers all and that holding onto it is like clinging to a slippery bar of soap. It’s about maintaining individuality, cherishing and celebrating life and waiting to die. In the end, Deafheaven has created an album that’s impossible to ignore.

-Jon Wiederhorn

2 Comments

  1. Beatrice
    Posted July 19, 2018 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    I loved reading this article, good job at expressing things that can only be found in music.

  2. Posted July 18, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Great to see this here! Love this album!

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