Review Summary: Yeah, it’s a Deftones release, but it ain’t just another Deftones release. They’ve outdone themselves again.
Though singles get the majority of fans hyped for a release, they also bring about some paranoia. With singles like “Leathers” and “Tempest”, Deftones fans saw new material which topped everything they heard on “Diamond Eyes”. With singles like this you have two different opinions at work; the people chanting “AOTY” and the avid listener now unsure if the album will compare to the other gems of the Deftones discography. The latter opinion thinks of the times when good singles brought about terrible albums and wonders “is this album going to disappoint?” Over the years, Deftones have released great album after great album, and after 24 years, they don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. In 2010, “Diamond Eyes” finally saw the band making material which stood up to the seemingly unreachable benchmark set by their magnum opus, “White Pony”. Certainly an album of that stature is hard to follow up, is it not? Well worry not Deftones fans, they’ve outdone themselves yet again.
The sonic exploration we heard on “Diamond Eyes” is much more refined here. The massive wall of guitar heard on the aforementioned 2010 LP is still massive but more discernible, not overpowering any other part of the band. This refinement of sound reveals a pleasant surprise; the ambient textures from keyboard/turntable man Frank Delgado. The textures are simply magical, highlighting every stylistic nuance perfectly. The ever skilled vocalist Chino Moreno is in top form here, hitting notes that were never thought to exist and sounding incredible in the process. Stephen Carpenter is the riff machine that he’s always been and Sergio Vega has now proven that he isn’t just the replacement bassist; grooving melodically along with Abe Cunningham’s innovative approach to modern rock drumming. Yeah it’s basically like it’s always been, but when your sound is so enthralling and invigorating, why change it?
Like usual, when Chino and the boys make music, you better know that they make ***ing music. “Swerve City” kicks the newest Deftones offering off in a lively manner; the primordial sledge of an intro riff makes way for an absolutely delicious bass line from the likes of Sergio Vega. The bridge features something different from Stephen Carpenter, as he delivers a soaring high end melody opposed to the usual low end slab of chunky riffage. The band delves more into their newly refined sound on “Romantic Dreams”, featuring a chorus riff that sounds almost exactly like the bass line from their 2003 hit “Minerva”. Even with the haunting similarity, don’t think for a second that their running out of ideas; Deftones aren’t a band that simply runs out of ideas. My guess is that they did this intentionally to recall their past successes, or something along those lines. The first two tracks of “Koi No Yokan” are pretty “win”.
First single “Leathers” lights a fuse with its ominous intro and then explodes like C4, startling the listener even more than the infamous “Scary Maze Game” startled the poor man who punched a hole through his computer monitor. Now, before you flail at your surroundings from the onset of hysteria, at least listen to the rest of the song, its damn good. Usually, the singles off of Deftones LP’s tend to pale in comparison to the other tracks but contrary to popular belief, this is a surefire highlight. I know, I know most Deftones songs have the soaring tendency, but with this one you’ll be in outer space, kicking your feet helplessly as you’re wrapped in the distortion emanating from Stephen Carpenter’s guitar. This is a great track. Surely now there has to be a low point somewhere in this album, right? Not here. “Poltergeist” pummels through the headphones with the intensity that were used to seeing from the Sacremento alternative metal quintet. The low end is certainly being taken full advantage of on this track, as we hear Vega and Carpenter chugging along. The sludgy “Poltergeist” stops and makes way for the softer, illusory affair of “Entombed”. Also a highlight, “Entombed” shows Deftones in full emotional control of the listener. Mr. Carpenter is heard experimenting with different tones and in this experimentation he’s simply magic; the riffs contained in this offering are simply ear candy. Frank Delgado is also heard experimenting with a lush, retro sounding synthesizer. The band progresses into the somewhat lackluster “Graphic Nature” which drifts by a bit monotonously but interestingly enough we can hear Abe Cunningham recalling the drum track from “Digital Bath” near the end of the track. The album's second single “Tempest” lets the listener into more of that wonderful refinement that seems to be a recurring theme across the LP.
Now, the listener through 8 tracks will arrive on the sprawling “Rosemary”. The softer intro recalls “Sextape” from “Diamond Eyes”, and it was at this moment where I thought Deftones had finally tripped up and gaffed. Around the 1 minute mark however, Chino and Co. show us why they’re considered the “Radiohead of alternative metal”. We see a stylistic shift as well mood shift from almost fleshly melancholia to brooding low dynamic motifs. They continue on this softer path until a jewel of a riff appears as a wonderful bolt from the blue. Deftones have certainly mastered their dynamic changes and this track makes that notion so very apparent. In other mastered facets of music, Deftones sure know how to keep a listener on edge. Another revelation apparent in this progressively tinged offering is the soft ending. Usually, Deftones end with a surprise chorus, knocking the listener for six, but the real surprise here is the apparent lack of one, so to say.
Continuing on, I would have to say that the strongest performer here is vocalist Chino Moreno. It’s astonishing how seamlessly he goes from an angry snarl to an otherworldly display of melodic supremacy in one song. I know of many attempted singer/screamers that just don’t do very well (Greg Puciato, anyone?) but Chino proves he’s not only a coveted screaming vocalist but a master of the “cleans”. In “Goon Squad” we hear that visceral, frantic howl we know and love possibly in its best quality since, dare I say, “Around the Fur”? Also in the same track, he’s got those clean vocals at their melodic height. It’s just plain incredible how a man can go from singing his heart out to wanting to rip someone’s heart out. The band then progresses on to closing number “What Happened To You?” which more applies the idea of recalling other tracks from their discography perhaps as a dose of nostalgia for the Deftones fan. The soft, but not anti-climactic closer idea has been used in albums like “OK Computer” from Radiohead with “The Tourist”, providing a moment to reflect on what was just heard, and this song does its job wonderfully without tarnishing the overall effect of the album.
In the end, Deftones provide another absolutely brilliant release to fans and new listeners alike drawing ideas from previous albums as well as refining their blueprint making for a new, invigorating sound not too alienated from the former. “Koi No Yokan” gets its strengths from feelings like nostalgia, as motifs from past albums are recalled, possibly to show the listener how much progress they’ve made as a band over their 24 year existence. It’s recommended that you listen to the album as a whole but small hints of redundancy might turn off some, though not many, as much of it is completely original and enjoyable material. Chino and Co. distance themselves even further from their contemporaries with this release, but perhaps they’ve always been in a league of their own.