REVIEW: DEAFHEAVEN – “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love”
One of the more controversial sub genres in metal among the scourge of the world known as “metal purists” is blackgaze; the merger of cold, aggressive black metal with the warmer, often melodic meditations of shoe gaze and post rock/metal. For any change from the accepted norm that has been done ad nauseam for thirty years must be feared and despised, especially if met with any form of commercial success. Thankfully the bands that make the music and those who consume it can ignore such people, and instead look forward to ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ which will soon be released by genre stalwarts Deafheaven.
The band takes the album title from the Graham Greene novel The End of the Affair and is a reference to looking for love, despite its hardships and imperfections, and that theme works throughout the album, a subtle hope, and uplifting spirit amidst the darkness. The essence of this can be found in the opening track “You Without End,” which opens very quietly before delicate piano music slowly appears and the spoken word performance by Nadia Kury is heard. It is several minutes before any aggressive guitar begins and the shrieks of vocalist George Clarke are heard for the first time. The song is one of several shorter songs on the album and provides a slightly different opener than one might expect.
Things go in a more typical direction with “Honeycomb” and “Canary Yellow,” both of which break the 11 minute mark and provide the layered sounds of guitar and drums that one would expect from a Deafheaven release. “Canary Yellow” is particularly effective in portraying strong emotions and playing on the nature of hope within pain; the music throughout the song (and really the whole album) has a very warm tone to it and an uplifting feel, while at the same time providing a swirling chaos and cacophony of guitars and tortured shrieks. The atmosphere created is thus rather palpable and one that fans of the band will surely be fond of.
The music takes a very different turn with “Night People,” a piano-driven ballad that is performed by guests Chelsea Wolf and Ben Chisolm. None of the band’s signature elements are present and, while opening the album up and allowing some breathing room, it isn’t a terribly remarkable song. It is pretty and pleasant enough but stands out more for its uniqueness on the album than its own merit.
The album closes with “Worthless Animal” and the classic, well established Deafheaven sound. The uplifting nature of the album continues, and as the music fades away I was repeatedly left feeling slightly better about life and in a good place. Not something often associated with metal perhaps, but it was there regardless.
My overall impression of the album is a positive one, though I do feel that a slightly beefier mix would have aided the overall product. The vocals are quite low in the mix and the bass is largely inaudible. Raising both in the mix would, I think, have given the album a heavier and less thin sound and feel, but these things are largely a matter of individual taste, and the things I mention tend to permeate the genre as a whole. Aside from the more uplifting feeling of the album, the music doesn’t really break any new ground, nor deviate from their well established sound which, while not necessarily a bad thing, doesn’t make the album a must hear either.
Deafheaven have delivered a surprisingly uplifting listening experience, and one which their fan base will doubtlessly be very happy with. ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ does some new things for the band while at the same time being very much what one would expect to hear from them. A very solid and enjoyable album, and recommended for fans of blackgaze.