Review Summary: Deftones shed their superficial skin as an Alt-Metal band and finally show their textures as mature artists.
Let's look at the general perception the music community has had of Deftones since unleashing White Pony. On one hand it was greatly received by both critics and fans alike. It was considered post-modern within its Alt-mall Metal sphere and has aged gracefully while reaching many top ten lists. On the other hand, it has put every subsequent album by the band up to scrutiny against, what many perceive to be, their magnum opus.
Since 2000, with each new album they have been improving. Maybe not always taking a step forward but making the mostly necessary mistakes to grow as a band and further refine the Deftones sound until it reached its logical conclusion. At the time of Diamond Eyes release, they seemed to have reached that conclusion. Still there were many who felt, "yeah it was great, but not a classic like White Pony". I guess they never will escape from that shadow after all.
Enter Koi No Yokan.
Out of the gate we are floored by one of Stephen Carpenter’s most swinging riffs. We Swerve through the City, drunk, barely missing pedestrians and we are having one of the best nights of our lives. Then we catch a speed trap up ahead and our Romantic Dreams seem to have been crushed. As we stop for some munchies at the nearest mart, we realize that we are so drunk that the rhythm of the scenery keeps changing all around us. There is no natural progression from one event to the next. It is startling but also exciting. Then it dawns on us that this night never has to end.
Koi No Yokan is all about dynamics. As we pass through the mysterious yet enticing door found on the cover, we begin the roller coaster ride through space with sounds as wide ranging as soaring choruses, earth-shattering bass breakdowns, brooding rockers, peaceful atmospherics, beautiful ballads, and deceptively simple vocals/lyrics. The best examples of these dynamic sounds are found in “Tempest” and “Rosemary”. The former goes through many familiar styles for the Tones, and if each of them were individual songs they wouldn’t stand out too much among their discography. But the ambition and cohesion of the track alone makes it one of the albums standouts. The best example of the band’s new direction and focus resides in “Rosemary”. It’s an absolutely epic track. It changes moods so sharply, from melancholic instrumental to heavy guitar crunch and everything in between, that a whole album could have been constructed from it.
Crushing brutality, Deftones bread and butter, is best demonstrated by tracks “Leathers” and “Poltergeist”. They might be their most pointed aural attacks since “When Girls Telephone Boys” from Self-Titled. And with “Poltergeist” they somehow get away with using a similar hand-clapping sample also used in a song by an oft-maligned Nu-Metal group (not named here) and do it better in the process. “Graphic Nature” has a sinister guitar vibe that is also weirdly sexual, like some kind of demon-orgy. Both of those vibes are also brought out in Chino Moreno’s vocals within this track. He gives his most down to earth performance on this album, juxtaposing DJ Frank Delgado, who brings the band into outer space with his sampling. Moreno the screamer is fully alive on this record, but it is Moreno the crooner who wins our heart. His performance on "What Happened To You?" is hard to describe. It's other-worldliness is similar to Diamond Eyes closer "This Place is Death". When he sings "We're alive somewhere else" we believe him. This song couldn't possibly have come form our time and place. Special mention should be made of bassist Sergio Vega, who's lines are audible and integral to the aforementioned track. Paragraphs could be written for each song and performer, but Koi No Yokan is best experienced in a single uninterrupted ride, not track-by-track.
Have Deftones finally escaped from the shadow of that large White Pony? Only time will tell if fans will be excepting of calling the 7th release by a 24 year old band their 'defining moment'. One thing is for sure though: Deftones have shed the skin of their past glories and are showing their textures as one of the best rock bands of our generation.
What Happened To You?