Deafheaven, California’s own defenders of the false, seem determined to prove that pastel is the new black. Not that they necessarily care about proving anything—their perpetual nose-thumbing at metal orthodoxy might be the most metal thing about them, even more so than George Clarke’s inchoate screeching. Following in the footsteps of blackgaze trailblazers like Alcest, Envy and Ludicra, they add a bright burst of color to the genre’s preferred monochromatic palette.
After New Bermuda’s darker hues, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love paints a greater variety of shades on top of breakthrough album Sunbather’s gentle pink. While they had to rush out New Bermuda to capitalize on its predecessor’s success, resulting in more of a post-black metal approach, their fourth album gestated longer. That’s allowed them to focus on what they do best: crafting achingly gorgeous ballads out of pieces that should not, by right, work well together at all. Opener “You without End” sounds like Brian May playing guitar for Godspeed! You Black Emperor. “Night People” goes for a cinematic piano ballad, adding femininity to Clarke’s voice by literally doubletracking Chelsea Wolfe over it. The one for the ages, though, is “Canary Yellow,” which perfectly balances blast beats and delicate melodies on the edge of a knife for 12 breathtaking minutes.
Clarke’s voice remains the big sticking point. The ugliness helps accentuate the loveliness of the music, but there ain’t a lot of variety in it. Outside of that, though, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is extraordinary.