Review Summary: Beauty that assaults your ears for an hour, begging you to tell her she's pretty the whole time.
I never got into classical music all that much. Oh, sure, I've got plenty of friends that can listen to any piece for half a second and tell me not only who wrote it and what it's called, but probably when it was written, what category it falls into, and where it ranks on their personal list of favorite pieces. But it was never quite my thing -- I just don't listen to Bach or Mozart on a daily basis. Yet, if I ever find myself listening to it, it's hard not to appreciate it on some level as a work of great art and a display of prodigious talent.
My views on Deftones are much the same. I'm late to the band's party, despite spending many years listening to a lot of bands for whom Deftones appeared in the "Recommended" section. I've had plenty of people tell me why I should listen to them. And for Koi No Yokan
, I bought into the hype. The teaser of "Leathers" had me convinced that this was going to make a mark on me, that this would finally convince me to appreciate this wondrous band that everyone told me I should love. So I listened, and listened, and listened, and finally convinced myself that for all its artsy trappings, there was really nothing special about it.
Okay, maybe one thing. The production is spectacular. Most of the atmospheres that pervade this album simply would not succeed with a lesser producer. The drums and bass are clearly audible; the guitars are aggressive without losing clarity, and Chino Moreno's voice is just clear enough to grab the listener's attention. And no song showcases this better than the album's highlight, "Leathers," as it alternates between a punchy, chug-laden verse and a bombastic, soaring chorus.
But as the album progresses, it becomes clear that Deftones have dug themselves a hole: when every song's success hinges on the hugeness of the chorus, the impact of each huge chorus is lessened. Take "Poltergeist" -- structurally, it's identical to most of the songs on the album, but the chorus, while better than most in the genre, has the misfortune to come right after "Leathers", and it can't measure up. The much-hyped "Tempest" absolutely demands a massive chorus, befitting its lengthy, slow introduction, but instead the listeners are given a disappointingly average stanza that goes nowhere.
Some of these missteps would be forgiven if a few songs tried to deviate from that formula...and a few do, to some extent. Unfortunately they don't fare much better. "Entombed" tries to be sparser and more delicate, but its 5:00 runtime feels excruciatingly long thanks to a frustrating amount of repetition (hope you like arpeggios!). "Graphic Nature" turns the formula on its head, with Abe Cunningham's grooves fueling serpentine, hypnotic verses, but the droning chorus is a buzzkill. "What Happened To You?" ends the album not with a grand finale, but an enigmatic, puzzlingly simple whisper that might have better served the album somewhere else in the tracklist.
Of course, there are a handful of moments when everything does come together. "Swerve City" might have the simplest riff of any song on here, but it's nothing if not catchy. "Gauze" doesn't save the huge sound for the chorus; the verses are laden with barely restrained intensity that erupts into possibly the album's most beautiful chorus, largely thanks to an impressive vocal performance by Moreno.
Koi No Yokan
ultimately feels like Deftones are trying too hard. Chino and company are trying to elevate relatively simple songs by sheer force of will, hoping that with enough big choruses, their album will be made into something more than what it is. And while that effort yields a few gems, it can't quite hide the notable flaws. As a technical achievement, this is hard to ignore. But all the pretty sounds and polish don't necessarily make a song enjoyable.
I probably won't be listening to this on a daily basis. But that means they're in pretty good company.