Deafheaven, “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love”

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

When Deafheaven released Sunbather back in 2013, they quickly became the most popular black metal band for just about everyone who can’t stand black metal, and, consequently, the scourge of Satan for just about everyone who worships at the altar of Hellhammer. Rather than pairing his ungodly snarl with ceremonial chants, vocalist George Clarke wrote a series of elegies for the existence of six-figure incomes—“Dream House” a Manhattan real estate fantasy and “Sunbather” a recollection of a defeated drive through the impossibly wealthy neighborhoods of Southern California. In spite of black metal’s tradition of tackling enormous themes to match its colossal sound—death, spiritualism, carnage euphoria—Clarke’s cryptic lyrics repurposed from legendary drunk text conversations are entirely about feeling small.

Even when the band dialed down the experimentalism for 2015’s New Bermuda, the lyrical themes remained the same. Though the album implied a germination from acoustic guitars and poetry recitations by their French peers to trve atmospheric black metal, their latest, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, is a hybrid of this stormy energy and a handful of genres explicitly outside the realm of metal. From the bar-band piano that nominates “You Without End” as the most Titus-Andronicus song of a year that definitely featured a +@ release, to the Explosions in the Sky–guitar coloring “Canary Yellow” a Texan shade of post-rock, to the mathy Tera Melos riffs fracturing “Glint,” OCHL is a plunderphonic expression of a convoluted, black-metal-sized subject: human love.

Though genre convention shines through in Kerry McCoy’s brutal power chords, Dan Tracy’s double kick drums, and Clarke’s gurgling black-metal accent, such touchstones are inextricable among the many sacrileges of Deafheaven’s shoegazed DNA. Most notably, “Canary Yellow”’s discernibly lyricked outro foreshadows the sung duet of “Night People,” which enlists fellow night person Chelsea Wolfe on the tribal four-minute anthem. Not only does OCHL feel more balanced than the band’s three previous releases—which each placed an enormous burden upon their few moments of passive instrumentation to maintain an even keel—it also feels entirely more transparent, thanks to bouts of audible confession such as “Canary Yellow” and the dreamy longing of “Near.”

Ever a band of extremes, the oxymoronically titled Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is bipolar to say the least, fluently expressing rage as a significant facet of beauty. Yet OCHL is what Fucked Up’s Chemistry of Common Life was to its abrasive hardcore scene ten years ago: an examination of the miracles of everyday existence filled with conjectures on the language of flowers and the influence of love. Surrealist images of “climbing light vines to heaven” complement the band’s how-did-we-get-here? moments of calm within a twelve-minute cut of pounding guitars, turning the iconic Sunbather dialogue on its head: “I’m living / Is it blissful? / It’s a dream / I want to dream.” 


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