Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
I’ll say this at the top; I know nothing about metal music, but I do appreciate how the genre tends to splinter into a great number of compositional structures. That’s why I wanted to review Deafheaven’s latest release Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. It’s important to challenge our ears with music that is unfamiliar, and Deafheaven is challenged with trying to define the many ingredients that make up the ‘post-metal’ genre where the group resides.
To help me navigate the album from front-to-back, I enlisted the help of my metal head mates Djan Irianto and Ahmad Farran to listen along and help me make sense of Deafheaven’s new body of work. On a cold and rainy Monday night, the three of us ordered a couple of large pizzas and sat down in my living room to hit play.
Album opener You Without End sets the stage for much of this record. The group kicks off with a psychedelic progression, slowly building up a collection of instruments into a pleasant roll driven by the piano. Finally, the song twirls into a stunning and bright guitar solo which makes way for George Clark to sneer his screamed vocals across the now-galloping track.
Honeycomb is a punch in the face. What becomes apparent to us is how each track has one instrument lead the charge. In this one it’s drummer Daniel Tracey’s murderous double kick pedal. We endure Tracey’s percussive pummelling and are all slightly delighted to hear it come to an end. Then the song starts up again and slaps us in the face. Honeycomb is lengthy which is alright, but it’s unclear what Deafheaven wanted us to remember the most out of all the different pieces in this composition.
Canary Yellow, the second single, is a strong track. It is here that the three of us realise Deafheaven’s ability to create atmosphere and feeling through the many genres the group dips into. The music is cinematic and helps to paint pictures in our minds. For some reason Canary Yellow transports me to a dance in a high school gymnasium. Deafheaven shows us in this track that metal doesn’t have to be dark and aggressive; it can be uplifting.
Near creates another psychedelic ripple in the water and swims in reverb. This is something the group does really well. However, we are on edge, waiting for the moment we are blasted in the face again. It comes. If you are someone who enjoys those two moments – peaceful, moving music that explodes into a double kick pedal massacre—then you will absolutely love this band.
Glint is wonderful. I find myself quietly swaying into a gentle headbang as the tune transitions in and out of each movement. You can clearly notice how the sections in this track differ. In particular, Deafheaven finally displays how much can be done with two guitarists as Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra use their instruments to flirt with the each other through the track.
Night People is a shocker, not because it’s loud or brash, but because it feels like a melodramatic stage play. This is a stretch for us. For a moment we even questioned if this was the same band.
Worthless Animal, the final track, is incredibly busy. The flashy frills destroys the group’s ability to make some really beautiful melodies. The three of us were disappointed to hear Deafheaven make use of the fade-out to end the album. It’s a little lazy; when you’ve ended every other song on the record with a good finish, why not construct one for the last track, too?
Post-metal is deliberately genre-defying. It says that metal can play in many spaces. Deafheaven is not the first group to champion this style, but they are certainly creating stepping stones for entirely new breeds of metal music to emerge. This group and this album could be a defining moment for the genre, it’s just unclear why and when we’ll appreciate it.