Deafheaven fancy themselves as a modern-day Bad Brains, but instead of blending hardcore punk and reggae, they combine vicious black metal with expansive space rock. They alternated between the two on their 2013 breakthrough record, Sunbather, and indulged Pink Floyd proclivities like secretly recording a drug deal, before abandoning a lot of the psychedelia that made them interesting on their third record, 2015’s too-heavy-for-its-own-good New Bermuda. Now they’ve returned to their original muse and are splitting the difference between the battering-ram riffage of Darkthrone and the sparkly, soaring melodies of Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky on their fourth offering, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. It sounds much more organic this time, too, as the styles blend in and out of each other like a lava lamp.
Lead track “You Without End” is a nearly eight-minute journey with music that at various points recalls Mazzy Star (dipping slide guitar), Mötley Crüe (piano balladry), Queen (hummable guitar soloing), Explosions in the Sky (glimmering guitar texture) and even the Beatles (those in-between chords that sound neither happy nor depressive), paired with a spoken-word excerpt from a short story by Tom McElravey and frontman George Clarke’s gremlin temper-tantrum vocals. The music is so beautiful and grandiose that the sandpapery growling is sometimes more distracting than textural.
The 11-minute “Honeycomb” is heavier (and has a riff midway through that recalls the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”), while lengthy “Canary Yellow” shows the band’s deft grasp on song structures that can progress between the beautiful and the gritty with relative ease. “Near” recalls the dream pop of Julee Cruise, and Clarke even sings impressionistic lyrics like “Thought I saw you there/Wishing you were near” in a non-growl, making it a standout. Elsewhere, they embrace galloping metal (“Glint”), try out a moody duet with singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe and go full sadcore, right down to a closing sample of running water, with album closer “Worthless Animal.” On just seven songs that run a little over an hour, Deafheaven have finally achieved what they’ve been striving towards for the better part of a decade: true post-metal fusion.