Revisited this oldie for the first time in ages this week. I picked the CD up upon release back in the day after being impressed by Enslaved on the Emperor split & the album didn't disappoint me either. The majority of the tracklisting takes an expansive Norwegian black metal approach but there's also a Viking Metal component that differentiated it from some of the competition along with the regular use of keyboards without ever threatening to push out into "symphonic black metal" territory. I have to say that time hasn't been that kind to those synthesizers as they sound very dated & more than a little cheesy these days. Grutle Kjellson's vocals were pretty gurgly at this point too & could have been a little better. There's some wonderfully classic black metal on here though & I was heading towards awarding it a premier rating until the decidedly Moonsorrow-ish closing instrumental piece "Norvegr" popped up at the last minute to bring me back to earth. It's not a bad track but it's folky Viking Metal stylings aren't anywhere near as much to my taste as a blasting black metal monster like "Vetrarnótt" (my album highlight) or "Midgards eldar" with it's obvious early-90's Bathory influence. After revisiting Enslaved's super-popular 2003 album "Below the Lights" recently I'd have to say that I prefer "Vikingligr veldi" these days & I wonder how much of that is nostalgia. I'm not too sure but I can't say that I think of "Vikingligr veldi" as sitting amongst the elite Norwegian black metal releases. It's a second tier record for mine but a strong one at that.
For fans of early Emperor/Windir & Viking-era Bathory.
2013's "Sunbather" record was one of the most divisive I can remember in my extreme metal journey & it's not hard to see why either but I'm not afraid to confidently state that I fell firmly into the camp that thought it was a masterstroke. Deafheaven's debut album "Roads to Judah" was a really solid example of post-blackgaze however "Sunbather" saw the band maximizing all aspects of their sound &, in doing so, set the metal world alight. Given the magnitude of that album, future Deafheaven releases were always going to be compared to it & that can probably be seen as a disadvantage, particularly given the tendency for people to prejudge based on past experiences. And this brings us to Deafheaven's fourth full-length album "Ordinary Corrupt Human Love" which sees the band taking their sound even further away from the black metal scene's comfort zone.
If you come in looking for black metal here then you'll be disappointed as there's really very little on offer apart from George Clarke's Ihsahn-like gurgles. In fact, it's quite hard to identify much in the way of any sort of metal for most of the record to tell you the truth. Instead the instrumentation draws from widely disparate (yet universally accessible) forms of rock music & manages to pull it all off with an ease that only the elite artists in the scene can manage. Melodic shoegaze? Tick. Stripped-back post-rock meanderings? Tick. Whispy dream pop vocals? Tick. Lush & progressive art rock excursions? Tick. Ethereal darkwave atmosphere? Tick.... & all executed with aplomb too. Opening track "You Without End" offers about the only weak point on the record via some ill-guided black metal shrieks layered over some particularly easy-listening art rock instrumentation which sounds well out of place. Thankfully the musicians execute their parts with enough sophistication to leave the track feeling predominantly positive as a whole but I have to admit that it was a strange decision to open with the weakest number on the tracklisting. From that point on Deafheaven don't put a foot wrong but in saying that they don't ever really see me thinking about reaching for my higher scores either. I guess the musical positivity that Deafheaven surround themselves with is still a little too far away from my sweet spot for that however I can't deny that they've managed to fully realize yet another brave & ambitious artistic undertaking here.
The more intense parts are still my favourite parts which won't surprise anyone but the indulgent post-rock sections are nothing short of lovely too. It's interesting that, despite the lack of genuine metal here, I still think the album is best described as post-blackgaze, mainly because George's vocals simply don't belong anywhere outside of the metal spectrum. There's not even all that much shoegaze on offer here either but there isn't another black metal-related subgenre that could possibly encompass the positivity in these melodic themes so it just seems to fit.
I'm honestly not sure that Deafheaven can put a foot wrong at this point no matter what subgenre they tackle & "Ordinary Corrupt Human Love" is yet another strong release that sees them flexing their creative muscles. Thankfully the extreme metal world seems to be ready for it too.
Main takeaway from this month's list was Danish atmo-black band Sunken with their WITTR laden track Void and I have already made note to listen to that album more now I have completed the playlist. The other standout was In Aphelion who are also now on my Trello board. I remain on the fence with White Ward, perfectly acceptable atmo-black but that sax is irritating, although better applied than I feared it might be. The tracklisting here is out of sync with the playlist btw, not that I noticed until now because I was just following on Spotify but that Sunken track is actually at position 15 in the list and not 2nd as above. Good list again though.