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Album Review: Deafheaven’s ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’

Few bands are as suitably named as Deafheaven, whose explosive mixture of black-metal ferocity, majestic melodies and complex song structures makes for a volatile and continually shifting sound. Blistering riffs, blast beats and George Clarke’s throat-shredding snarl morph into serene instrumental passages that recall Radiohead or the calmer moments from avant-metal outfits like Pelican and Mono; they’re the kind of band where you’ll adjust the volume multiple times over the course of an album or even a single song (and Deafheaven’s songs regularly break the 10-minute mark).

Those extremes are thrown into more dramatic relief than ever on the veteran Bay Area outfit’s fourth album, “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love,” which opens with a bucolic, piano-driven instrumental section (including a female spoken-word voiceover) that doesn’t shift into aggro mode until the end. Indeed, the band’s quiet side is more prominent here than on any of their previous albums: “Near” is a ballad sung relatively conventionally (and almost intelligibly), and the gothic “Night People” is a gentle duet with NoCal singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe, whose soft, stern tones add yet another dimension to the band.

Yet there’s plenty here to keep the faithful sated: The 11-minute “Honeycomb” is possibly the definitive Deafheaven song to date, with the first half combining full-scale aggression with towering, anthemic riffs before the second half eases into a gorgeous, gentle instrumental lilt (the band has a bright future in soundtrack work if they ever decide to take that course). And while guitarists Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra have simplified their approach, going for resonant melodies rather than shredding, longer tracks like “Canary Yellow” and “Glint” have the trademark ferocious, spiraling middle sections that send fans into frenzies during the band’s live shows, and the closing “Worthless Animal” has twin lead guitars that would do Thin Lizzy proud.

“Ordinary Corrupt Human Love” is the album fans would hope for — one that finds the band evolving from the high bar set by their last effort, 2015’s “New Bermuda,” while still remaining unmistakably themselves. And most crucially, it’s the first album of 2018 that’s made me want to play air-guitar.

 

Album Review: Deafheaven's 'Ordinary Corrupt Human Love'

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