Hello Deftones, welcome back. We missed you.
I would have written this review earlier, but I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather the past two weeks. I wasn’t in the right mind to write about these albums until now, so this particular review is about an album that was released last Friday. I’ve been chewing on this album for over a week now, but couldn’t put thoughts to paper very well. I’m glad to be back writing again, and I hope you are just as glad that there is a new Deftones album out.
Before going too far, I’ll say something that should be uncontroversial – this album is their best album since White Pony. I rather enjoyed Koi No Yokan, and even wrote about it back in 2012 although who knows where that review is now. This album, Gore, is even better.
This track, Prayers/Triangles, is likely the first song you may have heard when getting hyped for this new album. It was released by the band months ago, and is also the first track on Gore. It starts nice and smooth, and it doesn’t punch you in the face with the same deep intensity that we were hammered with from the very beginning of Koi. It quickly remedies that in 45 seconds, but it actually gives you a minute to get Chino’s voice back in your mind again. The video itself is visually arresting, with distorted colors and shapes, and it’s a fair visualization of the music itself. The first time I heard this track, I got goosebumps because it sent me back to when I first heard Deftones almost 20 years ago. In this first track, I felt echoes of White Pony and Around the Fur coming back to me again.
For those of you who don’t have this album yet or haven’t heard it, I actually have four songs for you in this review that the band released. I’m sure it’s on Spotify and you could easily find it one way or another, but it’s over 1/3 of the album that they released. I’m not used to an 11 track album having four singles, but that’s Deftones for you. This video above, however, is the official music video, and it really gives you a clear picture of what the band is all about and where they are today. It’s amazing to think this band has been around for over 20 years and still hits just as hard as they one did. Most of the alternative metal scene has dissipated over the years, and shoegaze has come and gone and come again. However, Deftones still remain, and haven’t missed a beat. It could even be argued that they’re better than ever now.
Unlike my previous review of the new Mogwai album (which you can find here), I won’t go track by track through the album. That ended up taking much longer than I expected, and that Atomic review was my longest of the year thus far. I’ll try not to digress too much or go into a debate over genre, but I make no promises. I’d hate to feel like I was giving you a homework assignment by having to read these long and listless reviews. Anyways, this track, Doomed User, feels like something that would be yanked right from the b-sides of Koi, with its heavy guitar and crunching bass slamming you in the face. It starts strong and hard, and doesn’t really let up until the chorus. Something very intriguing about this song is that the guitar starts strong and very firm, and as the song progresses, it starts to get distorted and wanders a little. It comes back to center and then drifts away again, until at the end it all falls away. The intensity picks right up again for Geometric Headdress, but then the bottom falls out with the next track, Hearts/Wires.
If I were to pick a highlight track to this album, it would be Hearts/Wires. They pulled out all the stops for this one. It’s quite different from all the others, and breaks up the momentum the album picked up over the past few songs. It starts softly and electronically, with a guitar fading in and out. It sounds like something out of a post-rock album for a short while, until it gradually develops into a song. It does have the makings of that kind of music, because instruments slowly drift in and add upon each other. At around 1:20, the guitar finally kicks in, and the percussion shortly follows along with the vocals. For those of you a little tired of the intensity of a few of the previous tracks, this is a great respite as the longest song on the album and something completely different. This is Deftones’ version of a soundscape, and I approve strongly. At around 2:30, Stef Carpenter must have gotten bored with the quiet guitar he was strumming and stomped on a pedal to turn things up a notch.
Despite me describing this track as a soundscape, it still has the trademark Deftones sound here and there. Chino is anything but quiet on this album, and sounds as good as ever. He can still hit the higher notes, hold long notes, and is just on point across the board. Speaking of on point, I feel that this album is the first album where Sergio Vega truly felt at home with the band. Vega’s bass presence is much more powerful, but not as loud as Koi or Diamond Eyes. Part of the change is that Vega switched to a six string bass, which adds a lot more depth to the music. With Chi Cheng’s passing in 2013, the band abandoned its previous album of Eros (including the released track Smile, which was special and I’m glad was not included on this album) and moved instead to Gore. I’m sure there is some connection between this album being titled Gore and the previous album Eros (which is sore spelled backwards) but I am unaware of what it is. This album, which is the first Deftones release since Cheng’s passing, isn’t exactly an album of mourning. It’s not quite a happy album, it isn’t quite an angry album, and hits a lot of emotions as you go through it. The moods go up and down in waves, and not simply track by track.
The fourth track the band released from this album is the penultimate track, Phantom Bride. As you can tell from the title of the video, Deftones were joined in this track by Alice in Chains lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell. This track, like Hearts/Wires, is very different from its surrounding tracks. It almost sounds out of place on a Deftones album, and yet it provides some balance and relief from the intensity of previous songs like Gore and Geometric Headdress. For a brief moment, I heard something in this track that sounded like Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes, but then it moved on to something better and far more interesting.
This review has taken me a lot longer than I first anticipated. During the course of my writing, I have listened to this album at least three times start to finish, just to pick up on more things. The first several listens to a Deftones album, I generally find myself ignoring the lyrics to listen for the instruments. The first listen, I focused on the guitars. The second, I focused on the bass. Next, the percussion, and you get the rest. Deftones albums are deep and thorough. In the past, I have listened to a Deftones album and not enjoyed it on the first or even second or third listens. I delve deeper into the music to get more out of it, because I know when it comes to this band, there’s something greater beneath the surface. I’m not sure if it’s because this band is an acquired taste, or because it’s surprisingly complex. I won’t get into the nitty gritty (I promised I wouldn’t) but try classifying Deftones into one particular genre. Alt Metal? Sure, I guess. But then you have to think about the shoegazing elements, the post-rock twinges, the ambient influences, the drone, and more. This band is an amalgamation of sound, and whatever sound that may be, it is better than it has been in quite some time. I didn’t find many weak points in this album, and while the pacing was uneven, the songs I mentioned above broke up the relentless heavy pace and aggressiveness instead of beating the listener into submission. I give this album 13.5 out of 15 Ratings Units. It was a great listen.
I have something big in store for you readers soon. Be sure to come back for a review of another album I want to dive into. Gore was great, but this next one is no joke.