It’s really hard to digest the full extent of growth in Deafheaven’s musical evolution. From West Coast black metal to blackgaze to introspective metal to where they are now is quite an astonishing feat. I didn’t jump into their swirl of guitars, screams, and melancholy till after Roads To Judah. I wasn’t a fan of black metal. Most of what I’d heard just didn’t grab me. But once I’d heard Sunbather they could’ve called it anything and I still would’ve been sold on it. George Clarke’s poetic words mixed with a mix of thrash, speed, and this beautiful melancholy just felt like something so very right in my brain. They followed that up with New Bermuda which was a quick shot of perfect and sad annihilation.
Now Deafheaven have returned three years later with the near perfect Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. An epic hour-long journey into the heart of darkness. That dark heart is the one beating in our own chests; all tore up and confused from emotions. This album really does feel like the culmination of years of toiling from nearl homelessness, drugs, and scratching back to the surface of a mucked up world for this band. Singer Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy have made no bones about the rough road they’ve traveled getting to this point, and that honesty has always been a huge part of the band. That honesty continues throughout Ordinary Corrupt Human Love and the results are astonishing and one of the best records of the year.
What can I say, “You Without End” is absolutely gorgeous. This exquisite opening that’s part latter half of “Layla”, Elton John’s “Funeral For A Friend”, and a darkness that makes its way to the surface. That darkness never takes over, but it leaves scars. The piano, slide guitar, Clarke’s barks, and the ghostly disconnected voice that speaks in the distance all come together to make a mark.
Then we enter “Honeycomb”.
First single and our first taste into the new record was a hell of a first impression. Speed metal precision mixed with emotional discourse create one hell of a visceral bite, man. New Bermuda showed that Deafheaven have a penchant for 80s speed metal in the vein of Slayer(the Dave Lombardo-like double kicks are a welcome battering of the senses) and (enter favorite speed metal band here.) But with Deafheaven, their secret weapon is the engrossing and engaging George Clarke. He’s this raw nerve that belts out emotional shots of glass and metal shrapnel. Instead of songs about Satan, murder, and the evils of politics Clarke sticks to introspective bites of the emotional life of humans. Poetic prose painted to meticulous beauty. “Honeycomb” an epic 11 minutes.
“Canary Yellow” feels like sunset on some non-existent plane. Shards of sadness and introspection swirl beautifully into nothingness. Bits of dreamy guitar echo on like a post-rock seizure before waking to an explosion of distortion and voice. “Staring out onto the earthly, pottery of/Pottery of existence, climbing light/Climbing light vines to heaven/Clay ribbons descend/Swirl downward against” Clarke screams as the song builds to a cataclysmic crescendo. Regardless of how heavy the band gets(and they do get heavy) there’s still this air of beauty. In the tragic lean in the melody that McCoy creates in his guitar parts, or the interludes of dream-like quiet, there’s always something ethereal happening. The sing-a-long towards the end works to lift you out of the storm and get an aerial view of the emotional damage.
We’re three songs in and it feels like we’ve been pulled through some existential wringer. But we want more. “Near” is a calming respite from the noise and bombast. “Night People” is the outlier in the Deafheaven canon. A piano-driven ballad with lead vocals performed by Chelsea Wolfe and multi-instrumentalist Ben Chisholm. It sounds more like Cocteau Twins than Godflesh.
Songs like “Glint” and album closer “Worthless Animal” further encapsulate everything Deafheaven have come to perfect over their musical career. A building of musical worlds where those building blocks aren’t made of outside brick and mortar, but things found on the inside. Past triumphs, failures, and psychic wounds that never quite heal. Raw nerves healing in the open air. That’s what Deafheaven are about.
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is the best Deafheaven album yet, and one of the best albums you will hear this year.
8.6 out of 10