Release Date – 8th April 2016
It’s difficult to recall another band in the metal scene that oozes class in the same way that Deftones does. Since the Sacramento outfit’s debut album Adrenaline in 1995, they have consistently transformed their youthful angst into controlled heaviness juxtaposed by soaring beauty. The ironically-titled Gore successfully builds on the band’s more experimental melodic sound (started on 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist) to create a mature soundscape akin to their latest two releases, yet they have pushed their musical boundaries further still for our listening pleasure.
The selection of Prayers/Triangles as the opening track to Gore was certainly a brave one – a display to seasoned listeners that Deftones desired a fresh approach to this album. While their last two efforts spawned riff-heavy, headbang inducing openers ‘Diamond Eyes’ and ‘Swerve City’, Gore begins with some ambient guitar work to compliment Abe Cunningham’s syncopated drum work, before unleashing a complete full-band assault in the chorus to return to Deftones normality. Indeed, the second release Doomed User acts as a reminder of the typical Deftones formula: pulsating guitar riffs, a tight rhythm section and Chino Moreno adapting his vocal range seamlessly from angelic wail to urgent, harsh screams, harking back to 2001. It still remains one of the album’s standout tracks; a definitive display of the band’s ability to juggle harmony and disharmony with ease.
The release of Hearts/Wires indicated the band’s undoubted flexibility. Prior to release, vocalist Moreno highlighted the “heady” atmosphere of the album, which is apparent in this track’s almost Dave Gilmour inspired introduction, featuring a swirling haze of ambient guitar work, and atmospheric synths courtesy of Frank Delgado, whose ability flourishes more so on Gore than previous efforts. The track is a mesmerising slow burner, musically and vocally the most reminiscent of Moreno’s side project Crosses, whilst the dissonant Acid Hologram shows a furious convergence of Delgado’s haunting synth work and Steven Carpenter’s down-tuned drudgy riffs. Some eerily nostalgic whispers contrast the beautifully crafted verses, with the lyric “blow the clouds from your mouth again” self-consciously describing Moreno’s masterful vocal performance. Elsewhere, (L)MIRL displays some effects-laden guitar, even some pop influences in Moreno’s vocals, and most notably Sergio Vega’s bass work. In their use of a 6-string bass for this record, Deftones’ more measured verses are far more musically developed, allowing for the album’s punishing moments to appear even more hard-hitting. These include Xenon‘s djenty introduction and the title track, Gore, which is a sure fan favourite for its chorus’ effortless hint to their 1997 nu-metal classic My Own Summer (Shove It), as well as an evil doom-metal outro which makes that of Rosemary seem tame in comparison.
The last four tracks of Gore, longer in length, present Deftones’ unrivalled control over the construction of their songs. The layering of both instruments and vocal tracks across the course of (L)MIRL‘s five minute runtime is a delight, as is the musicality of Phantom Bride, with Steven Carpenter’s arpeggios running alongside moody guitar leads, bass slides and bends, and consistent playing from beat master Abe Cunningham. One curveball, a guitar solo courtesy of Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell, pays off perfectly by complimenting yet not overpowering both the melodic verse riffs and the heavy outro, a motif on Gore which assures the listener that Deftones’ existing heaviness exists amongst the experimentation. The album seems more an artistic expression than ever before with the band drawing on many influences to construct a complete work. Moreno’s seductive vocals and the discordant guitars on Geometric Headdress reflect his meretricious lyrical content, whilst the Renaissance Italy-inspired title Pittura Infamante runs alongside the chat-room slang of (L)MIRL, or ‘(Let’s) Meet In Real Life’.
In this sense, it is clear that Deftones have taken precious time to construct Gore. The more melodic, introspective work highlighted on 2012’s success Koi No Yokan becomes the focus here, and whilst this newer sense of experimentation rivals the riffs and solid rhythm section, it does not distract from this trademark that has kept them forerunners in the genre for two decades and an inspiration to all aspiring metal bands. Moreno sings in closing track Rubicon, “You cannot face the crowd all by yourself, embrace the power we have / The record’s ours to break and the more we build the crowd goes wild.” Let’s hope Deftones continue to build from this record.
They’re here to stay and we’ll gladly have them.
Image: Warner Bros. 2016