Release Date: Sep 25, 2020
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal
It's been four years since fans were left polarized by the softness of 2016's Gore, but now Deftones are showing their roots, with their ninth full-length LP, Ohms. This album offers 10 pummelling songs and though it may not have been written with the intent to do so, it serves as a perfect musical embodiment of this year: a seemingly endless vessel of dread, despair and existential crisis. A grim descriptor? Perhaps, but it's Deftones — what else would you expect? Chock-full of ferocity and intense negative energy — a recipe beloved by Deftones fans worldwide — Ohms boasts songs like "Urantia," "The Spell of Mathematics" and "Pompeji," which unilaterally scream raw power and desperation.
At the dawn of their fourth decade together as a band, alt-metal stalwarts Deftones crafted one of the best albums in their catalog, Ohms. Reuniting with producer Terry Date, the man behind their first four efforts (five, counting the unreleased Eros), the band attacks with full power, reinvigorated, hungry, and at a creative apex. Their most accessible work since 2000's White Pony, Ohms offers listeners plenty of substance to grab on to: for the first time in a while, tightly executed songs take precedence over heady ideas, resulting in a deeply effective and satisfying experience that balances their eras.
Deftones' vocal force Chino Moreno has a habit of retrospectively reassessing the band's albums. He reportedly revealed that 2006's 'Saturday Night Wrist' has since become unlistenable, citing his own lack of confidence. Of 2016's 'Gore' - the predecessor to this ninth studio release - he accepted a lack of shared direction within the band. In response, it's not surprising then that 'Ohms' presents itself with such clarity, speaking of rebirth and balance in its opening track, and returning production duties to Terry Date - the man behind Deftones' widely celebrated initial quartet of powerhouse releases.
In truth, a sense of balance has always been the axis around which the Sacramento outfit have revolved. That goes for the delicate parity between the differing musical predispositions of the five members; Moreno, an avowed fan of The Cure and The Smiths , leans melodic, whilst guitarist Stef Carpenter seems happiest crafting battering-ram metal riffs, keyboardist Frank Delgado has a grounding in turntablism, and bassist Sergio Vega cut his teeth in New York's post-hardcore scene. It applies, too, to the push-pull between an adherence to the signature sound that they've spent so long fine-tuning and their ever-insatiable appetite for testing its boundaries.
The sauntering and sonically devastating rock that Deftones have worked decades to pioneer is the blueprint for many other acts looking to emulate that particular sound. Crushing guitar riffs and heart-racing percussion, paired with Chino Moreno’s sublimely haunting vocals, have secured the group’s place in modern music history. And on their ninth studio album, Ohms, the formula doesn’t change as much as it evolves.
As the only band to make it out of the nu-metal vanguard with their integrity and fanbase still intact, Deftones have weathered more storms than most bands of their vintage. Despite forming in 1988, Deftones released their first album 25 years ago in 1995, and haven’t stopped pushing forward – refining and experimenting with their particular blend of alternative metal ever since. Ohms is Deftones’ ninth studio album, and their fourth with bassist Sergio Vega, who replaced the sadly departed Chi Cheng in 2009.
Now in their fourth decade of existence, and with 20 years distance from their commercial and critical peak 'White Pony', you'd forgive Deftones for taking things easy - but as 'Ohms' can forcibly confirm, these veterans are still happily firing on all cylinders. Key to the band's longevity has always been their ability to weave lightness and dark, to be slightly unclassifiable when stood next to their peers. Thankfully the lazy nu-metal tags of old are long gone, the band quietly building a discography other groups would kill for.
For Deftones fans, the relationship between frontman Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter carries mythological importance: two opposing gravitational pulls that keep the band's beautiful and bludgeoning music hovering precariously in between. Carpenter is the proudly unreconstructed metalhead, delivering slabs of distorted low end on 7- and 8-string guitars and publicly airing grievances about songs that aren't heavy enough. Moreno is the sonic experimenter and starry romantic, with a voice that sounds misty and ethereal even when it breaks into a scream--the man whose band gave a generation of angry young rock radio listeners their first exposure to the Cocteau Twins.
The Lowdown: Sacramento alt-metallers Deftones tend to transform at the turns of decades. In 2000, they released their conceptual high-water mark White Pony, while 2010's Diamond Eyes is a stellar collection of catchy-but-clever skate rock tracks. On the other hand, 2020's Ohms isn't a radical reinvention, but it's a solid addition to their legacy -- a surprisingly heavy one, at that.
"We're surrounded by debris of the past" sings Chino Moreno on 'Ohms', the title track to Deftones ninth album. Behind him, guitars grind forward like the walls of the trash compactor on the Death Star, and a crisp, rolling groove powers the whole thing, prompting those of a certain mindset to screw their face into a gargoyle grimace as they, like, really feel the music, man. Possibly while playing along on an imaginary drum kit.