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Ordinary Corrupt Human Love Michael Siebert , July 16th, 2018 07:59

The San Francisco quintet move beyond genre and delight beyond measure

Plenty of bands combined shoegaze and black metal before Deafheaven. They were not the first to play bright, sunny black metal in a major key, nor were they the first to channel hopelessness, despondency and genuine human emotion. But no other band has done all this with as much passion, skill and cohesion.

Sunbather put them on the map, and made them a target for genre purist ire. New Bermuda saw them expand their horizons, channeling metal of all persuasions and at times escaping the genre altogether. But it’s on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, the band’s fourth and best release, that Deafheaven reach transcendence. This is the band’s definitive statement: a gorgeous, sweeping epic full of uncompromising beauty.

What’s immediately noticeable about Ordinary Corrupt Human Love - and what single ‘Honeycomb’ hinted at - is the role that place plays in the record’s overall sound. It feels like California, full of sunny reverberance and oceanic malaise. It’s a remarkably sad record, in the same way that so many California Sound bands of the 1960s were sad. Sun, beaches and high temperatures mix with the boredom and gloom of aging. Here, Deafheaven have more in common with Fleetwood Mac than Oathbreaker, they’re more Beach Boys circa Surf’s Up than Alcest.

All this is in large part due to Kerry McCoy’s ever-inspired guitar work. The bluesy soloing that sounded slightly hokey on New Bermuda has evolved into decadence, inspired in ways that are all but impossible to achieve for lesser guitarists. A good portion of the tracks on this album pass the 10 minute mark, and yet they don’t move slowly or with proggy excess. McCoy creates lush soundscapes, shredding riffs and gorgeous clean sections that glide effortlessly between each other. Memorable guitar leads occur so frequently that it would be pointless to list them. Much of the success of metal lies in memorable instrumentals, and Deafheaven make some of metals’ hardest working bands look like child’s play.

George Clarke is in top form, sounding more confident than ever. His howls and shrieks are grounded by occasional clean vocals, including features from Chelsea Wolfe and Ben Chisholm on ‘Night People’. On Sunbather Deafheaven fumbled with heartbreak; here, every track is tailor made for tears.

Deafheaven have not just made one of the best metal albums in recent memory, they’ve made one of the best albums of the decade, full stop. It’s a powerful, honest record, and further proof that music always has new places to travel.