Review: Deafheaven's 'Ordinary Corrupt Human Love' is Unapologetically Beautiful

Deafheaven. The name itself invokes a curious image… Fitting for a band as polarizing as they are. Critics and fans alike have tried to place them in a style of music, but Deafheaven prove with each subsequent release that they are more than just a one trick pony. While to a certain degree they are credited with expanding and pioneering the genre of ‘blackgaze’ (a combination of black metal and shoegaze), they really prove they are more than just a label. Deafheaven have carved their own niche in the style of which they were pigeonholed into; combining elements of post-rock, and simply playing in major keys. With their critically acclaimed 2013 release, Sunbather, Deafheaven showed that black metal didn’t always need to be dark and disturbing, but rather could exude positivity or otherwise longing melancholia. In 2015, New Bermuda showed that the band also was capable of more dark and sinister sounding metal, while still retaining their shoegaze-influenced style. In 2018, Deafheaven bring us Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. Some may call it a return to form, and while it surely shows the band returning to their familiar upbeat and happy/melancholy sound, it also shows a progression within the elements described by their genre tag.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love makes it apparent that Deafheaven do not care much about what the black metal purists have to say about their style. There is obvious black metal influence on this album, but more often than not, it is used to tinge the post-rock and shoegaze aspects with a taste of black metal. A major element that Deafheaven have always incorporated are black metal style vocals. George Clarke has a howling shriek that would be familiar to any black metal fan. On top of the beautiful instrumentals, it invokes a way more melancholy and longing emotion, rather than a typical feeling of eeriness and evil from the likes of ‘pure’ black metal.

The instrumentation on this album is almost flawlessly executed. Deafheaven have found a way to perfectly craft and combine their styles into something fun, interesting, and beautiful. The album opens with "You Without End," a beautiful piano passage, accompanied by longing, reverberating lead guitar notes and spectacular drums. A spoken word passage by Nadia Kury is broken up into two parts throughout this song, and fits perfectly into the aesthetic and sound that the band is producing. Everything on this beginning track introduces what this album is all about right from the get-go, and as the album continues, the elements introduced here are fleshed out to a well above standard degree.


After "You Without End," we get the lead single "Honeycomb," which kicks off with a slightly (but noticeably) more dark sound. The double bass drumming is subtle but present enough to have an effect, and the switch to black metal style blast beats is so flawlessly and smoothly transitioned that you would never stop to think that it sounds out of place mixed with the shoegaze elements.

So often on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, we find beautiful lead guitars accompanied by drum parts that, while not overly complex, are interesting enough and fit just right into the music. The drumming by Daniel Tracy is certainly a highlight of this record. He knows how to fit his parts perfectly into what is happening with the rest of the instruments. He is essential to the buildups and beautiful swells that are ever present on this record. There are so many subtleties present throughout the record that are too small to need to point out, but should be experienced through listening. This album isn’t perfect, though. There are things that seem a bit hokey sometimes. Some moments where the lead guitars are playing a solo or lick sounds like an amateur just noodling over a little chord progression. Simplicity is key sometimes, but at the same time, one note every couple seconds doesn’t exactly scream “I know what I’m doing.” It is apparent that Deafheaven know what they’re doing, but the execution on the occasional lead part falls a little short. Almost everything that Deafheaven do here is executed (seemingly) with ease, though. They don’t skip a beat, and almost everything feels very perfectly placed, metaphorically and literally. The styles blend so beautifully that it is sometimes hard to imagine them as separate.

This album is done no justice by sitting here and reading a fanatic’s words on a screen. While I appreciate your time, please go listen to Ordinary Corrupt Human Love for yourself. It is a work of art by so many definitions. It pushes boundaries further than they were already pushed. It is an introspective look at life masked by a layer of wall of sound music and masterful lyrical imagery. Any fan of previous Deafheaven work will love this, and any fan of music and furthering the music scene is sure to appreciate what these guys are doing. Catch them on their summer tour and buy or stream the album out TODAY on ANTI- Records.


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