Deftones emerged from the wave of nu metal bands that took the music world by storm in the late 90s. Even though they somehow fitted perfectly in the commercially successful concept, Deftones managed to form a unique sound which has defined their development ever since. More than twenty years after their debute ‘Adrenaline’ (1995, Maverick) the Sacramento-based band release their eight studio album ‘Gore’ which ventures even deeper into the progressive nature of their music.
Fans of the oldschool anger-infused Deftones will probably be disappointed from the predominantly experimental flavour of ‘Gore’. This being said, it follows the direction set by their recent albums and it is the logical continuation in their discography. The album is challenging and takes a few spins to fully comprehend its complex composition and ideas. It is much more in line with Koi No Yokan’s ‘Tempest’ and ‘Rosamary’ than it is reminiscent to tracks like ‘Bored’ or ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’. However, with Deftones’ metal roots somewhat neglected in the background, ‘Gore’ is still as heavy as it gets with its dark atmosphere and lyrical themes.
When the single ‘Prayers/Triangles’ came out it left fans and critics with mixed feelings bordering to pure scepticism. However, placed within the evolving ideas and dominant moods of the album the track gives ‘Gore’ its suitable opening. Followed by ‘Acid Hologram’, the songs set the tempo and feel of the record with a wirlwind of guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s low-tuned riffs and Moreno’s signature high-pitched singing. ‘Gore’ offers a diverse palette of moods, raging from the somewhat sinister playfulness of ‘Geometric Headdress’ to the nostalgia of ‘Hearts/Wires’ which resolves as a gentle and melancholic sequence of the opening track both musically and symbolically.
Although the album arguably cuts all ties with the band’s nu metal roots, ‘Doomed User’ reminds of Deftones‘s past with its raging screams and underlying anger, along with the alternative rock compositions of ‘Pittura Infamante’ and ‘Xenon’. ‘(L)Mirl’ crawls at the back of your neck and slowly revolves its doom atmoshpere to build up for the title track ‘Gore’. Both songs serve as the absolute highlight of the album with ‘Gore’ placed as a culmination of the record’s diverse musical ideas and feelings. The following ‘Phantom Bride’ and ‘Rubicon’ end the album in the best possible way with the latter giving the epic instrumental conclusion it deserves.
It was speculated before that the creative differences within the band led to arguments between Carpenter and the other members. With the rumours generally renounced after a series of interviews, ‘Gore’ still sounds with a certain unease. Instrumental parts and musical ideas evolve individually pulling the focus to themselves, only then to blend in a perfect harmony. On top of the clever composition and arrangement, it is Moreno’s stunning vocal vesratility that once again gives Deftones the defining edge with a mixture of gentle singing and coarse screams.
At first ‘Gore’ seems difficult and even peculiar, and needs continuous concentrated listening to reveal its true riches. After years on the scene Deftones sound with apparent maturity and bold determination to explore and expand their music. Although ‘Koi No Yokan’ (2014, Reprise) remains somewhat superior, ‘Gore’ offers the logical experimental progression and gives the lyrical and musical transition of the new Deftones, hopefuly yet to reveal their full potential.
‘Gore’ is out now via Reprise.
This Deftones review was written by Viktor Balchikliev, a GIGsoup contributor.