Release Date: Apr 8, 2016
Record label: Reprise
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal
Deftones have been going for 28 years. If that’s the first time you’ve realised that, I know there’s a rapid plethora of emotions involved in the typical response. First of all, it’s surprising to realise just how young the three remaining original members were when they started playing together; frontman Chino Moreno, for instance, would have been 15.
Deftones’ eighth studio album, Gore, is a stunning achievement. When so much rock music in 2016 feels dead, vapid, and recycled, here comes an album so vividly alive and inspired that it could turn even the most curmudgeon-y doomsayer into a worshipper of the guitar once again. Honestly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Every few years, the Deftones drop a remarkable record, methodically building an empire of cred and acclaim that’s taken them a career to accumulate.
Deftones have always been a different kind of beast. Timeless, engaging and riddled with intensity. So good that even their weaker material stands a cut above the rest. They've been through a rough couple years, dealing with loss and re-energizing that passion that lit the '90s and 2000s up; and in the face of all this adversity, they've overcome.
Is Gore Deftones‘ best album since White Pony? It’s certainly a grower. They may have transcended their nu-metal origins a few albums ago, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped innovating. With their classic juxtaposition of brutality and beauty, the Sacramento collective employ a musical arsenal that covers goth, dream pop, math metal, classic old school thrash, and much more besides.
It’s the sort of loosely structured experimentalism they’re masters of and Moreno is in his element: ‘Doomed User’, ‘Pittura Infamante’ and ‘Geometric Headdress’ find him exploring dislocated vocal lines like a metal Morrissey, singing along to the riffs his band aren’t playing. There are also screaming episodes in the title track where you’re surprised no one took him down with a tranquiliser gun as he tried to chew his way out through the studio walls. Largely flirting with conformity from a distance, ‘Gore’ really comes into its own in the latter half, when Deftones open the silo doors on their buried missiles of epic melody.
Anyone who's written off Deftones as a '90s nostalgia act within the past decade is doing themselves a disservice. Though they still share stages with the likes of Incubus and other acts of their heyday, the Sacramento, CA crew are often the ones that outperform their counterparts both live and in studio. Gore, in following the beauty/brutality-straddling Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokan, is no exception to this rule.It's a musical dichotomy the band have been writing and playing with since their landmark LP White Pony, and one they've truly honed and mastered with their last two records.
Long since distanced from their early nu-metal roots, Deftones are these days a far more intriguing proposition: a metal band more than happy to dip their toes into the ambient and experimental genres. Gore is the group’s first album since the death of bassist Chi Cheng in 2013, though those looking for some sort of direct reckoning with his passing will likely come away unfulfilled. Instead the preoccupation here is with tone and atmosphere, with the band continuing to explore the tension between Chino Moreno’s soulful croon and opaque, koan-like lyrics, and Steven Carpenter’s pile-driving guitar work.
New Deftones. Get excited. Still unique and still inspired, Deftones return to the ring for another round of beauty and brutality. Dragging their new wave and post-punk influences to the fore, the Sacramento crew have produced their most dynamic, adventurous and downright strange album in years.From the claustrophobic guitars and woozy melodic highs of ‘Acid Hologram’ to the thrash metal riffs of ‘Doomed User’ and slow-burning menace of ‘(L)MIRL’, ‘Gore’ makes for an unsettling ride.
More of the atmospherically bleak and beautiful. Throw a rock and five times out of six you’ll hit a band that’ll tell you how distinctive their sound is. Those bands are liars. Not so Deftones, whose elegiac paeans (it’s a contradiction, but it works) to longing ring out loud and true..
As the title Gore suggests, the contents within are bloody and visceral. Yet considering the cover art -- which shows a flamboyance of pretty pink flamingoes flying against a grey-blue sky -- thoughts of pure violence are subverted. This dichotomy has been central to the Deftones ethos since their start. By combining brutality with beauty, the Californian quintet elicits deep vulnerability, all while assaulting the senses.
Over the past two decades, Deftones have been a band set on continuously evolving. While some groups struggle to stay ahead of the curve without alienating their audience, it’s something that the Californians have managed to continually master. With their eighth album ‘Gore’, things are no different. Balancing their sound on a knife edge, this is an album that sees their own heaviness redefined.
The Sacramento survivors continue to evolve and compel in their 28th year. What keeps us leaning in is the visceral push and pull between frontman Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter; if Moreno’s stargazing lyricism and ambient adventures on guitar evoke the ‘dream’ then Carpenter’s doomy low-end frequencies certainly pepper it with the ‘metal’. Gore is unquestionably weighted towards the former.
Deftones were going through a particularly rough patch and Chino Moreno just had to vent: “I hate all my friends, they lack taste sometimes. ” This wasn’t from an interview: it’s a lyric from “Hole in the Earth”, the lead single from their self-described artistic nadir, one where Dan the Automator, Kanye-skeptic Bob Ezrin, Ric Ocasek, and label-appointed song doctors were of no avail for a band that was alternately exhausted and apathetic. Meanwhile, their 2000 masterwork White Pony was plagued with so much in-fighting that Moreno admits, “it almost killed us.
We’re over 20 years and 8 albums on from Deftones debut LP now, and their ability to constantly synthesize and refine the chemistry of their sound has enabled them to remain as compelling an entity today as they ever have been. As a result, they are a band that boasts one of the most consistently strong discographies of any band still at work. Deftones worked out early on that metal music didn’t have to be brutish in its hostility, and despite being more monochrome than its technicolour predecessors, Gore picks up not far from where Koi No Yokan, and Diamond Eyes before that, left off.
Cultural reappraisal and cultural cycling are things, and they’re never going away — even the best DJs in the world are starting to toy with sampling System of a Down and KoRn. No one’s quite certain of the degree of irony appropriate to approaching nu-metal yet, a genre so deeply imbued with monomaniacal k-holes of white male misogynist angst and weakly appropriated hip-hop elements that it seems doubtful whether the rehabilitation of the genre is all that worthwhile of a project. It’s worth noting that the best of early-2000s nu-metal was made by folks who either weren’t white — and much of Deftones aren’t — and/or who performed a strange flip whereby that masculinist angst was flung into relief via a gesture toward a “left politic” while still leaving that politic as little more than a vague framework for that male-grief fest.
If the Deftones felt out of place when White Pony came out, before most of their fans had “shoegaze” or “dream pop” on the tip of their tongues, they must feel really out of place with latest LP Gore, in which the ex-hardcore kids and Ozzfest survivors alike are hip to — but don’t quite get — chorus pedals and sans-serif fonts. They’re still ahead of their contemporaries despite not making wholesale changes to their sound from their self-titled 2003 album onwards, which tells you more about the state of mainstream radio rock than the band themselves. Gore feels more unified than its predecessor, 2012’s Koi No Yokan, in part because the turbulence, a new-wave hangover nightmare, is ever-present.
"There's a new strange godless demon awake inside of me," Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno sings at the start of the band's eighth album. But if the lyrics suggest demonic possession, his honey-toned delivery seems more suited to suited to separating a prospective sexual partner from their clothes. It’s a startling juxtaposition that's handled so smoothly it's easy to miss – which is a trick the Deftones have been perfecting over the course of their entire career.
Cynics might comment that Deftones’ songs have a simple template based on gothic, Cure-indebted textures, massive downtuned riffs and singer Chino Moreno’s emo vocals, and they’d be right, to an extent. You know what you’re getting with a Deftones’ album, at least since the Sacramento quintet broke big in 1999 with their album Around The Fur. This time – as the uncomfortable title of their eighth album indicates – Moreno and his chums are painting from a slightly different palette of sounds.
Deftones have milked the tension between vocalist Chino Moreno's tendency towards poppy fey melody and guitarist Stephen Carpenter's tendency towards the heaviest metal imaginable for a long, successful career. Each album becomes a reflection of whether that creative antagonism pushes them to soar (Diamond Eyes, White Pony) or coast (Saturday Night Wrist). Despite the promise of first single "Prayers/Triangles," most of Gore sits in the latter category—a hillock of doomy pop that cowers beside the band's formidable peaks.
I’M ASTONISHED. I’ve always respected Deftones—White Pony is one of my favorite 2000s metal albums—but I never thought they’d be capable of releasing something that I liked as much as Gore. This album surprises at every turn, seamlessly transitioning from contemplative quietude into manic chaos on a whim, all the while meshing their tried-and-true alternative metal aesthetic with as many elements of different genres as they can.
Perhaps no band on the planet is more deserving of reevaluation than Deftones. The Sacramento five-piece were initially lumped in with artists like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Staind around the release of 1995’s Adrenaline and 1997’s Around The Fur due to their fondness for seven-string guitars and the hip-hop indebted delivery of frontman Chino Moreno’s teen angst-ridden lyrics—all hallmarks of a burgeoning scene termed “nu-metal” that brought brief yet tremendous commercial success to Jonathan Davis, Fred Durst, Aaron Lewis and many others before flaming out entirely with the arrival of emo and indie. But Deftones always transcended that tag, and the release of their defining and (perhaps until now) undeniably best album White Pony in 2000 challenged any notion of what a supposed “rap-metal” band could do.
The name of the eighth album by the Sacramento metalgaze band Deftones implies ugliness brought up from buried depths, and “Gore” offers the opposite of a light touch; guitars grind against each other, drums bash in the distance, and frontman Chino Moreno’s voice weaves through the chaos, yelping or crooning depending on the mood. But for every moment where the listener is reminded that Deftones are, frequently and not entirely unfairly, grouped with various strains of muck-plumbing metal — the galloping drums and abstracted thrashing of “Geometric Headdress,” the liquid-mercury riff that propels “Pittura Infamante” — there’s an opposite reaction, a sparkling guitar melody or a vocal that soars toward a night sky’s faintest stars. Take “Acid Hologram,” the album’s second song.
Few bands are as engaging and intense as Deftones. Each of their full-length records stands alone as an individual animal, yet ideas such as passion and disruption unite their body of work. Even fewer bands skillfully walk the tightrope of melodic-and-heavy and harmonious-yet-dissonant as the Sacramento quintet have over the course of 21 years and seven albums.