Despite metal purists being suspicious of Deafheaven‘s initial success, their emergence has proven to be something of a signal post in heavy music, with the combination of blast beats and soundscapes now quite commonplace in metal.
Deafheaven may feel they have to stay ahead of the curve, as opposed to behind it, on their fourth album, ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’.
We kick things off the with the seductive, slow-burning ‘You Without End’– a piano-backed opener that wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. Peoples’ perception of Deafheaven, or ‘blackgaze’, are there to be toyed with. George Clarke‘s vocals aren’t quite at the forefront, but used almost like a background instrument to convey more of an atmosphere.
Their last effort, 2015’s ‘New Bermuda’, was a little more immediate and hard-hitting than what’s on show here, but at the same time it’s the closest thing we get to a raw sounding Deafheaven album, as the production sounds relatively lo-fi in places.
While Deafheaven didn’t exactly invent the combination of shoegaze and metal, their grasp of light and shade is something to be commended. Tracks like ‘Near’ and ‘Glint’ see them reaching for the emotional impact. The latter track is a highlight of the album, proving to tug at the heartstrings even with the vocals used sparingly.
This is further employed with the guest vocals coming from both Chelsea Wolfe and her producer/collaborator-in-chief Ben Chisolm for ‘Night People’. Of course, this shows that Wolfe could sing literally anything and make it sound hauntingly beautiful, but this is also further proof that Deafheaven‘s talents can lend themselves to something other than their signature sound.
Is this metal, strictly speaking? Maybe not. Deafheaven have definitely explored more of their post-rock side here. But isn’t creating an ambidextrous, cathartic body of work that you can lose yourself in more important than sounding like an exact replica of Burzum or Emperor?
This is still typical of Deafheaven‘s style, a journey through the dimensions. On ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’, they have continued to play to no-one’s rules but their own, not giving an inch about apparently “not being black metal enough.” They aren’t quite under the same intense microscope of the music press like they were when ‘Sunbather’ was released, but this may in fact may give them a new lease of life. This is somewhat new territory for Deafheaven, and it’s a job well done.