Review Summary: not quite the newest model, but yet another vehicle for Chino’s melodramatic vocals
When Deftones’ always-angsty frontman Chino Moreno coupled with post-hardcore outfit Far
’s guitarist Shaun Lopez to release four EP’s, I expected a starkly different output. Instead of crunchy guitars, distortion, and heavy riffs, we’re treated to a product all the more soothing-- Crosses
. All punk underpinnings are set to the side as Crosses is awash in loops, synth, and lush electronic percussion galore. Deftones’ frontman has certainly taken a turn towards the downtempo (not that this is his first time visiting, see: Team Sleep
). The mellow EP works not because the tracks are flawless, but because the sample space is so small. With only five, rather short tracks, Crosses prove their pulsing points without pushing too far. Most tracks are not as big a departure from Deftones as the witch-housely-named project will have you believe, but there’s still a deep enough aesthetic here to lose yourself... in the mellow in-between Chino’s bellowing, of course.
With the instrumentals shifting so dramatically towards the electronic spectrum, I thought it would be safe to assume Chino and Lopez would want to highlight these aspects. The first few seconds of the first track, “This Is A Trick,” is the most forthright exposure of the collaborations exploration into this new terrain making an appearance in the foreground. It’s an overpowering, grungy aesthetic, and one that would have been more interesting had they chosen to continue utilizing it as the main focus. Alas, that is not the case besides the purely instrumental outro, which offers a subdued, background-music aesthetic to the project when compared to the brunt of the EP’s instrumental side.
Often overpowering the impressive, moody and percussion-heavy electronic base that Crosses is built upon is Chino’s vocals. Drawn-out, temperamental (sometimes borderline-forced as always), and attention-grubbing, Moreno’s voice steals the spotlight from the instrumentals, and turns what could have been a rather extreme departure from Deftones into a project that clearly is
a sideproject, after all. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. The only time this style hits a bit of a dead end is when the tracks begin sounding like mere vehicles to exhibit Chino’s vocals than anything. “Options,” for instance, isn’t drastically different than something you’d find on White Pony
. Oddly enough, it’s hard to give Crosses too much flak for this, because said track is one of the most outstanding on the EP. The track locks itself into a groove a few seconds in and is an entrancing, engrossing piece-- an example of everything gone right on Crosses when the elements seem to mesh.
As far as potential complaints go, Crosses’ production tends to be a bit haphazard and grimy when compared to Team Sleep. Though, I think the effect is deliberate; and if not, it’s at least advantageous. Crosses is unrefined, but always to the point where it interlocks with the aesthetic and never hinders it. This is most evident on the slower, lush likes of “Thholyghst” in-between its lyrics about funeral parties and ghosts. Again, Chino insists on yelling too loudly now and then and stretchinggggg out his voooooooocals too long to the point where they become borderline cheesy, but it never approaches self-parody territory. It only brings what has been labeled a “witch house” (all the more evidenced by the collaboration’s name) project by some back into Deftones territory. Even on what could have been missteps like this one though, Crosses find ways to make it enjoyable and interesting even the departure isn’t as dramatic as Chino is. Then again, Crosses would have to delve a little further past genres like witch house to achieve a jump that
dramatic. It’ll be interesting to see how the forthcoming EP’s grow on this one, and rather Crosses can pull anything out of their arsenal a little more gripping; but until then, Crosses
is more than enough to hold me over.