Deafheaven have been provoking debate ever since they broke through with 2013’s genre-bending ‘Sunbather’.
The San Francisco band’s sound, which melds swirling, visceral black metal with luscious post-rock and shoegaze, has polarised, entranced and infuriated listeners in equal measure. A lot of energy has been spent on the internet arguing the toss over how to pigeonhole the band’s music, where they belong and if they have the right to popularise extreme music.
In truth though, that’s energy wasted because Deafheaven transcend all that nonsense. Their tracks are about creating atmosphere that sits outside the regular genre boundaries but that plays right into the hands of hyperbole: layers of melody that sit on top of swooning ambience, or a vivid dance of aurora-esque colours that mask vicious bruising.
After starting out initially as a duo, vocalist George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy have expanded the band’s lineup and its sound, from a raw hybrid on debut ‘Roads To Judah’, to blissfully abrasive shoegaze on ‘Sunbather’ and nihilistically bleak post-rock on 2015’s ‘New Bermuda’. Now however, it seems the sun-drenched skies of their home state, California have finally seeped into their music.
‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ is easily their brightest album yet. There’s little of the band’s usual aggression to be found here, save for ‘Glint’, a razor-sharp track that stabs and slices with lethal and brutal precision. Lead single ‘Honeycomb’, an 11-minute, hypnotic epic, could even pass as - whisper it - happy, with a sparkling guitar solo that recalls Dinosaur Jr. and an affirmation from Clarke: “I'm reluctant to stay sad”. The frontman still howls with anguish throughout this album of course, but the pain of his serrated edges has been numbed by golden hues on ‘Canary Yellow’ and closer ‘Worthless Animal’.
‘Near’, shrouded in twinkling reverb, could be a Slowdive track, while the dreamy piano-led ‘Night People’ is almost skeletal in its lack of extremity and resembles nothing Deafheaven have done before, featuring cleanly sung vocals and an appearance from Chelsea Wolfe.
Although the band have spent their last three albums developing a cohesive, distinct sound that’s all their own, on ‘OCHL’ they’re keen to take risks, side step that familiar territory and play with the formula. That consistent need to innovate and grow is what makes Deafheaven so divisive, so unpredictable and so extraordinary.
Dig it? Dig Deeper: Alcest, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine
Words: Dannii Leivers
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