Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (2LP)
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Despite Deafheaven's penchant for sonic and musical experimentation, one of the true constants in their ever-evolving sound is the direct address of emotional expression. Their music shifts focus from album to album but results in something unequivocally their own. After an extended break, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love finds the band sounding both refreshed and renewed after the unrelenting, existentially crushing blackened power assault of New Bermuda. This seven-song album -- produced by the inimitable Jack Shirley -- offers a musical argument more accessible, but simultaneously more complex than any of its three predecessors, while falling in line developmentally. Taking its title from a line in one of Graham Greene's intimate, provocative novel The End of the Affair, itself about personal and spiritual transformation, this set charts human frailty, brokenness, desire, and the search for wholeness. Deafheaven may exist in a musical line that extends from Alcest, Envy, and Jesu, but they're more idiosyncratic, more direct and purposeful in pursuing beautiful sounds through sophisticated melodies, panoramic textures, and landscape dynamics. Their always-tasteful aesthetic makes use of both emotional excess and creative investigation. "You Without End" commences with ocean sounds that whisper the introduction of a gorgeous, repetitive acoustic piano line, followed by sunny, reverbed slide guitar, and Nadia Kury's voice reading from a short story as drums add a pronounced shuffle atop the bassline. Elton John-esque ivory crescendos and a spiky six-string break usher in Clarke's primal yet melodic screaming about a protagonist on a public street thinking of Julio Cortazar watching women walk amid violent men. First single "Honeycomb" is an 11-minute careen through visceral black metal, complete with blastbeats, blistering guitar swells, and tempo shifts, with Clarke screaming through solos and a sonically unruly noisescape. The first third of "Canary Yellow" offers a restrained guitar line that sounds like Robin Guthrie's before exploding into a transcendent Kerry McCoy riff orgy, framing a lyric body that reflects author Georges Bataille's explorations of desire and excess: "On and on we choke on an everlasting handsome night/My lover's blood rushes through me/Wild, fantastic…." "Glint"'s first half is spent shoegazing through blissed-out guitar textures before McCoy, second guitarist Shiv Mehra, and Clarke create a whirl intense enough for the rhythm section to erupt. The lovely "Night People" (featuring Chelsea Wolfe) finds Deafheaven experimenting with an intricate, artful, and haunting ballad form. Closer "Worthless Animal" is a post-rock ballad for half of its ten minutes; it then builds almost imperceptibly toward an explosive, transformative conclusion. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love isn't going to change detractors' minds about Deafheaven. Instead, with its searing depictions of emotional and spiritual struggle in a relentlessly ambitious musical presentation, it should attract a new legion of listeners as well as deliver assurance and solace to those who found their earlier records so compelling.