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Deafheaven's Fourth LP Builds on the Black-Metal-Meets-Shoegaze They're Known For

While much of the core equation remains the same, the Los Angeles-based quintet has made some subtle tweaks to the sound that has won them near universal critical acclaim.


August 13, 2018 | by Dan Alvarez


Ordinary Corrupt Human Love


Grade: B+

Black metal just isn’t music for New York City in August. I mean, you've never seen someone rock linen shorts and corpse paint. And how the hell are you going to howl into the abyss when you’re surrounded by hoards of the judgiest people on the planet?

However, the urbane, swoopy-haired Deafheaven is the exception, more Kale than Kvlt. And Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, their sharp fourth LP, slices through the dense city humidity with ease. While much of the core equation remains the same — triumphant and expansive major-scale riffing, George Clarke’s wild shriek, Daniel Tracy’s cacophonous drumming— the Los Angeles-based quintet has made some subtle tweaks to the sound that has won them near universal critical acclaim.

The upgrades are most apparent on the disc’s quietest moments. Though we’ve heard moody, slow-core elements before from them in the past, “Near” and “Night People” are as stripped back as anything they’ve ever done. Unlike some other black metal bands forays into softitude, these quiet tracks don’t serve as mere interludes or skip-overs. They stand on their own while providing effective respite from the 10+ minute epics that surround them. Though Clarke has a limited singing voice, his doleful moping is affecting and is quite potent when getting a little help from goth-leaning vocalist Chelsea Wolfe on “Night People.”

That said, Deafheaven still knows where their bread is buttered, and Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is built around the black-metal-meets-shoegaze that they’re known for. The pick of the bunch is 11-minute stunner, “Glint.” Driven by Kerry McCoy’s masterful guitar work, it twists and turns through pensive movements that recall Red House Painters and frenzied ones that sound like Explosions in the Sky jamming with Emperor. Hell, even the outro reminds me a little bit of Mike McCready’s “Alive” solo, so really anything is on the table with these guys. Final track “Worthless Animal” is as feral as they come, as Clark growls through layers of reverb-soaked guitars until the arrangement upshifts into an overwhelming, crashing crescendo.

Across their four LPs, Deafheaven has proven themselves to be a band that has favored evolution over revolution. With every subsequent project, they seem to strike a better balance between melody and maelstrom and are more confident exploring different parts of their sound without forgetting who they are.

Listen to Ordinary Corrupt Human Love in its entirety

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