Review Summary: Deftones in their new record have managed to navigate the close gap between staying true to their identity, yet providing enough innovation to move forward and innovate.
“It’s just more Deftones”. That’s my kneejerk response to this record, can anyone blame me? After all anyone that listens this record for the first time can hardly disagree that this is a band that sounds like hardcore Metal got in bed with an 80s Cure record., you know, just like every single Deftones record since 2000’s White Pony. Vocalist Chino Moreno still runs the gamut from quiet melodies to hardcore screams, guitarist Stephan Carpenter still brings heavy downtuned chords, bassist Sergio Vega still carries the tradition of providing bass that accentuates but is hardly heard. Frank Delgado still provides dreamy samples and floaty keyboards that expand songs and drummer Abe Cunningham is still the same amazing, yet subtle drummer that provides so much energy to the songs. In a way it’s as if 12 years have passed in vain. Yet thinking that way is not listening closely, Deftones in their new record have managed to navigate the close gap between staying true to their identity, yet providing enough innovation to move forward and innovate.
It’s always the smaller things that are harder to notice that denote change. Koi no Yokan is a Japanese phrase that means that you are you can’t fully explain the situation but you feel like you’re going to fall in love, the cd cover shows a mysterious, yet dreamy image that sets the mood perfectly for the record. All this is very much expected for the Deftones, but the mystery this time goes somewhat beyond what you expect. The record starts with Swerve City, Romantic Dreams and Leathers. These songs sound like tracks that could easily fit inside White Pony or Saturday Night Wrist, they are not big saturated Metal songs like you would find in Diamond Eyes or the Self-titled cd, they are songs that are less saturated yet remain unmistakably Deftones. Poltergeist takes you in while you start getting comfortable, it’s a heavy, saturated industrial song, not unlike their own Pins and Needles or CMND/CTRL. After that comes the slower song of the record, Entombed sounds very much like an alternative song that would feature on Chino Moreno’s alternate projects Crosses or Team Sleep; it’s a dreamy song that features rock elements instead of a metal song that features quiet parts. Graphic Nature is a song that is heavy and feels more like Poltergeist, and it bridges the last part of the record which feels more experimental. Tempest is the first song that starts to feel like something the band has never done, it’s a soft rock song that feels more melodic and almost feels out of place, almost like something you would hear in a Staind cd, as the single its surprising that it takes some time to getting used to, but in time it feels like a great song, the lyrics talk of voyage and altered states, something that is not usual for the band. After that is the great song Gauze, which features very similar heavy industrial Deftones sound, but wraps it all up in a neat delay oscillation effect which makes it all feel fresh. Rosemary ends up being the highlight of the cd, it starts with a quiet clean dreamy intro and transitions into a heavy song that is also inspirational on its own and fills up so much of the sound spectrum, the song ends with a melody that brings the best of the band. Goon Squad also ends up being a big highlight on the record, it starts with a very soft intro that is very reminiscent of Crosses while transitioning into a heavy song that feels so familiar yet is so fresh in a way that is hard to describe in words, it breaks down into a song that is so saturated yet also feels like a melody that would not feel out of place into an 80s alternative rock band like The Cure. What happened to you? Is just a soft song that wraps the whole cd together and continues the whole theme of “Metal melody”.
There is a lot going on in this record that makes it different from other Deftones releases, many things you have to listen closely with headphones to notice, such as Chino Morenos added melodies with a second guitar, or the way Carpenter adds or subtracts mids into his guitar to add or subtract saturation. Looking back at this review its clear that even on first listens the Deftones made a record which blends all their best ideas and adds in enough new ideas to satisfy all their loyal fanbase. However its hard to think of this as a groundbreaking cd, much like Pearl Jam, Deftones manages to avoid disappointment, but do they have room to grow into something else that the heavy/soft sound that has defined them for decades? As great as Koi No Yokan is, that is a question that the band will have to inevitably answer in their next release.