The Deftones have written another chapter, a new chapter, in their still unfinished book.
Bands tend to be a lot like books or movies, right? The plot is pretty similar in that you know the feel of it and you understand the expectations, but you would probably just stop watching movies and never open another book if even single thing was the same. Even from the same author, if each "new" work was simply the previous work, it gets old. This like what I am writing at this moment, it has been done before.
Thankfully, some artists continue to create new material in a fresh way without overpowering you or leaving you disoriented. Enter the Deftones new album, Gore.
By my count this is the eighth studio release from the band and like each of its predecessors, a new element emerges that was not present on previous releases. Still, so much is the same sound that made Deftones unique and still relevant after multiple decades plying their trade of aggressive master-riffs that somehow border on Meshuggah-heavy, while also staying true to the classic alternative, distortion soaked sounds of the 1990s that helped establish their legacy.
Gore has taken another step forward. The information regarding the recording process indicated that the band began writing while frontman Chino Moreno was performing a string of shows with his other project, Crosses. It is reasonable to assume that perhaps some influence from projects would bleed into one another creating some similarity. While Moreno was not present, their is a certain amount of similarity between the projects. My ear cannot tell if it hears the distinct Moreno and everything then blurs after or if there really is some similarity in sound between projects that goes beyond sharing a voice.
To be clear - this is the Deftones. That is unmistakable. Songs like the title track, "Gore," and "Geometric Headdress" sound like classic Deftones cuts. There is a heaviness that lingers on this album, linking it to the past. But some combination of songwriting and production has toned that down on other parts of the new record. In the place of the heaviness, songwriting shines through.
The pummeling of past songs dating all the way back to "Bored" and spanning forward still exist, but are much more contained. The bizarre, unique atmosphere from White Pony has been fleshed out more and now has taken on the more nuanced songwriting that lies within all talented musicians. Skilled musicians who play heavy music mostly seem not to tire of playing heavier music, but they have skills that go beyond the simple profoundness of a song like "My Own Summer (Shove It)."
The lead songs from the new record, "Hearts/Wires" and "Prayers/Triangles" both reveal a great deal of what the band is doing with their desire for heavy, skilled songwriting that shows off the classic sound unique to Deftones, while delving into a new songwriting territory. They go even deeper on "Phantom Bride," which takes the listener to territory altogether separate from everything Deftones - a guitar solo of sorts. I hate them. But I'm not a musician, I'm a simple man. However, the solo qualities of the guitar work on this song make it stick out in my mind as memorable without being overbearing. It seems as if the band also was aware of this new territory, creating a fun segue into one of the heaviest moments of the entire album. As if to tell the listener that they know this is new territory, but they have the map.
A new, progressive sound that may be present for the band going forward makes itself known in the tracks that fall between the new sonic adventures and the trademark sounds of the past. "(L)MIRL" is a great example of this. The song is grand a building, based around a simple idea - where Deftones are always at their best. And also on the albums close, "Rubicon."
The entire album is solid. A remarkable feat for a band that has been putting out albums for over 20 years and has yet to produce a dud. The band has always made it easy for the listener to become emotionally, paying attention to the work the artist has created. This is what good art does. For this set of ears, the entire album seems to be a journey, set up the grand conclusion in "Rubicon" that reveals a unique and addictive harmony that seems to end all too soon.
But that is why we listen again.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)