|Image Credit: Graham Berry Flickr|
Record Label: Reprise
Release Date: 8th April 2016
Pieces about the Deftones, whether they be considering new music or otherwise, tend to pay keen attention to the band's forward thinking prowess, or how singular they were within the Nu Metal movement with which they got swept up. For me though, it's a secret of personality, both in and outside of the studio. In the lead-up to the release of Gore, their 8th album, much of the hype centered around guitarist Steph Carpenter's disparaging comments about the track 'Hearts/Wires' (which, ironically, happens to be one of the best examples of how well-oiled and unified the band are musically) and the ensuing "are Deftones breaking up?" hyperbole, only to be shot down vigorously by frontman Chino Moreno as par for the course. It's not the first time that the push-and-pull dynamic between Chino and Steph has been amplified by the press, nor is it the first time that the same tension has informed some of their best work.
In person Deftones are modest, subtly intelligent craftsmen, and that is perhaps the biggest secret to their longevity. Their music lives, breathes and exists in complete harmony with their individual characters and mannerisms. It's why their music can be cerebral, devastatingly beautiful and crushingly heavy at any given time. Though Gore can often take its time to unfurl the power of its charms and presence it offers a well-judged and generous helping of everything that makes THEM the Deftones.
Even the most pedestrian moments on this record, like opener and initial single 'Prayers/ Triangles', have at least a snippet of almost all Deftones' idiosyncracies, the aforementioned tune flitting between reverb-drenched noodling, thick, anthemic chord progressions and Frank Delgado's synths acting (as they do for much of the album) as more of a percussive instrument, goading life out of the surrounding, deeper recesses. The crushing antagonism of 'Doomed User' will appease Deftones fans of all calibres; Steph Carpenter's most monstrously riffy moment working perfectly in conjunction with Moreno's huge vocal melodies and bitter delivery rather than either element overriding the other.
Though they don't readily rely on the off-kilter side of their charm on this record, 'Geometric Headdress' is a stonking example of exactly that with Abe Cunningham's drumming providing plenty of tension in the bridge section while climbing up the intense mountain of liquid sonics with the rest of his band and Chino's lyrics exploring the human condition in direct but typically mystical fashion as he sings "vows, secrets, wake me when it's time to walk through...".
'Xenon' and the subtlety-smothered but increasingly massive '(L)mirl' are two of the more pathos-ridden highlights. In 'Phantom Bride' and 'Rubicon' they have one of the most gorgeous closing couplets of their entire career; the former a layered, slow-burning ballad made more expansive by a glistening guitar solo from Alice In Chains' Jerry Cantrell and the latter an anthemic, romantic slice of Smashing Pumpkins-esque alt.rock loveliness.
Though it's more erratic than 2012's Koi No Yokan and less in-your-face than 2010's revered Diamond Eyes, Gore can claim to be another brilliant example of the chemistry and necessity of Deftones. In a world where subtlety in rock music can either be disastrous or almost non-existent, Deftones use tension, technical proficiency and a deep understanding of both human and musical dynamics to provide a platform for a hundred elements to feed off each other and inform progressive steps forward. Though it may take a while to become clear, in terms of what Deftones ACTUALLY do for rock music there's arguably no one to match them.
Key Tracks: 'Phantom Bride', '(L)mirl', 'Doomed User'
For Fans Of: Failure, Smashing Pumpkins