After a storm comes the calm. Yes, the violent winds and heavy rains of a ghastly disaster will disrupt the life surrounding it, but the calm always follows and prevails. Deafheaven’s fourth full-length album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, is that reprieve following the pulverizing storm of 2015’s New Bermuda. Unforgiving in its scope, New Bermuda was a devastating album that encapsulated all of the darkness surrounding the band after breaking through with 2013’s Sunbather. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love sets out to find the humanity within that devastation. So then maybe it’s not incredibly surprising that OCHL opener “You Without End” begins not only with striking grand piano flourishes but also with actress Nadia Kury sober reading of a short story about Oakland. In fact, George Clarke’s simmering vocals don’t enter until three minutes in, taking a backseat to Kerry McCoy’s arena-ready Queen-sized soaring guitar riffs. It’s a proper reintroduction to Deafheaven in 2018, a band that’s wiser, kinder, and more grateful than ever.
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is exactly as it title suggests – the band taking a candid look around at all the normalcy surrounding them. This approach also suggests why the album seems like a deconstruction of New Bermuda’s sound, resulting in an invigoratingly guitar-focused record. That’s not to say the previous Deafheaven releases were lacking in riffs, but McCoy’s renewed perspective leads to some of the most jaw-dropping guitar work you’ll hear on any record regardless of genre. The captivating “Canary Yellow” is twelve minutes of a band escaping from the suffocating darkness and surrounding themselves with the emerging warmth. Drummer Daniel Tracy provides the backbone of the song while McCoy’s masterful playing transitions between melodic post-hardcore and classic rock with ease. First single “Honeycomb” showcases the band at its black metal best while still pursuing and implementing new challenges for their music (McCoy’s anthemic power riff in the middle of the track is so damn fist-pumping good).
Every Deafheaven album has transient flashes of beauty interspersed throughout, but Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is the first time the band has expanded those moments into full tracks. The shimmering “Near” is a five and a half minute number that channels the intellect of a Slowdive number, while the hauntingly beautiful “Night People” gives Clarke a chance to share some clean vocals alongside Chelsea Wolfe’s ethereal voice. Sandwiched between the two tracks is “Glint,” a scorching reminder that Deafheaven will incorporate the blast beat amongst grungier, alt-rock moments. Everything comes to a head on the album’s colossal finale. Clocking in at just over ten minutes, “Worthless Animal” exhibits the dynamic range of Deafheaven’s musicianship, an Envy-esque post-rock epic that never seems to stop building into blinding crescendos and brings to mind the astounding ambition that possessed Sunbather’s “The Pecan Tree.”
The lasting impression Ordinary Corrupt Human Love wants to leave on the listener is discovering the empathy and love in everyday moments, especially in a world that currently lacks so much of it. Clarke’s lyrics are obscure in nature, meaning to evoke a particular feeling more than to be taken literally. “Honeycomb” is plea to move past the sadness, “Glint” is a moving remembrance of a former lover, and “Worthless Animal” is a study in forgiveness and compassion. The crypticness of each word is the perfect counterpart to McCoy’s visceral guitar work.
Rebuffing the very idea of adhering to any kind of expectations. For as tight of a record New Bermuda was, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love loosens the seams woven within Deafheaven’s brand of black metal, as the record’s seven tracks encompass an array of genres amid its sweeping soundscapes. And honestly, you can kick fucking rocks if you still give a shit that Deafheaven isn’t “trve kvlt” black metal after all these years – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is the band at its creative and transcendent pinnacle.