Deftones, even at their best, have been a band of dichotomies. That is what makes them a special band in the history of heavy music: opposing forces pulling and pushing them apart and back again. They may have been coming apart at the seams in the run-up to making Diamond Eyes (Reprise), and you couldn’t blame them. If you follow the band closely, you know the history. The band was nearly done tracking their highly anticipated album Eros in the fall of 2008, when founding bassist Chi Cheng was in a car wreck, on his way home from a funeral. Chi was left in a vegetative state, and the band was in shock. As Chi fought for his life (he passed in 2013, RIP), the band was left wondering what to do. They wanted to make music, but the experience with their best friend caused them to shelve Eros, never to be heard (almost never). When they came back together, the results were unexpected and wild. Continue reading
One of the most anticipated albums of 2016 is here with Deftones’ long awaited eighth album, Gore (Reprise). While much has been made in the press by the band themselves of the growing division of styles and tastes between core members Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter, the reality is the band has always thrived on challenging themselves musically. Continuing the arc the band started with 2010’s Diamond Eyes and followed to a logical next step with 2012’s Koi No Yokan (both Reprise), musically they continue to flow back in more of the aggro-heaviness that made them shine early in their career. Meanwhile crafting sweet, dreamy shoe-gaze inspired jams takes equal footing without giving any ground. The blend of the two styles is magical most of the time. If there is any disharmony in the ranks, it doesn’t show in these beautifully crafted tracks. In fact, this is music that screams out “let’s get making with the love! Oooh yeah!”
Lead off track ‘Prayers/Triangles’ could be straight off of the White Pony album. The track has a persistent beat and is not overly heavy, but works well. A hypnotic, multi-layered vocal track from Moreno hits home, as few vocalists in modern music can make you feel what he wants you to in an instant. Considering his penchant for obtuse and poetic lyrics, this is quite a feat.
Much heavier and slower, ‘Acid Hologram’ creeps in with massive riffs and subtle melodies. Turntablist/programmer Frank Delgado adds a lot of sonic heft here as well. When the song pivots toward the end and steps up the sonic urgency, it is one of the best moments on Gore.
‘Doomed User’ is another top track out of the gate. Chopping riffs and that patented super-tight Abe Cunningham beat bring it home. I can’t wait to hear this one performed live. Similarly ‘Geometric Headress’ kicks in with a tribal beat, but has a very different feel by the end, almost a proggy, Tool-flavored affair track Chino’s lovely crooning coming in between periods of yelps of dismay.
‘Hearts/Wires’ finds them exploring their Joy Division jones before the epic chorus kicks in. In terms of dynamic interplay and lyrics, this is easily the best track on Gore.
One standout thing about the last few Deftones releases are the contributions of bassist Sergio Vega. Long past is the time when he was standing in for the late Chi Cheng, and is now a full-fledged, weight-bearing member. Cheng himself was a dynamic writing force on early Deftones albums. Vega has more than picked up that mantle now. Beyond putting his unique stamp on the songs, Vega pushes and pulls the tracks as well now too.
Tracks like ‘Pittura Infamante’ and ‘Xenon’ will call to mind the Around the Fur days of the band, which was the moment they killed off the nu-metal of their youth and became something much more deep and interesting as a band.
If this band made power-ballads in the traditional sense, ‘L(Mirl)’ would be the closest thing to one. Not at all typical, but an easy to digest track that grooves along. Switching it up, the title track comes next and it is like a DNA strand of the bands history. A little metal, a little gaze, and a lot of brilliant.
‘Phantom Bride’ is another standout deep cut. It’s as gorgeous as it is harrowing on the senses. It’s the most “Chino sounding” track here, but isn’t so way out that it sounds out of place. It also has a stellar guest performance from Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains adding some slick lead guitar and his trademark harmonized licks. I kind of wished the ending riff of the track would have gone on for a while longer, but it’s pretty satisfying still. ‘Rubicon’ is the album closer, but it has the energy of an opening track. A soaring, emotive song full of chaos and sadness all at once.
The hallmark of all the great bands is they continue to grow gradually across many albums and ages, without over-shooting when it comes to experimentation. This band remains unique in that they always sound like themselves, even when incorporating new influences and themes. Deftones remain the same, but spreading outward like a glacier. Solitary, beautiful, cold, and unstoppable.
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