Review Summary: Finding balance
Deftones have had a trialed and storied history. Remaining relevant and even flourishing following the nu-metal craze they were born into was an achievement in and of itself. The tragic death of bass player Chi Cheng led to even more changes for Deftones, along with balancing family lives and opposing musical ideals within the band itself. This dichotomy of clashing sonic variances was, and is, the source of their continued success. It dosed the band with a powerful, crushing metal sound blissfully infused with experimental rock, dream pop, and shoegazing influences. This stylistic change was crucial to the greatness of albums like White Pony
and Saturday Night Wrist
All seemed well and good for a while regarding this follow-up to the incredible Koi No Yokan
from 2012. However, rumors began circulating of guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s overall dissatisfaction with the musical direction on Gore
, and possible future departure. As the release date of Gore
came closer and closer, it became clear that this worrying gossip was exaggerated, most likely put out there to generate hype. It’s clear that Deftones are still thriving, with this latest release embodying the dreamy, textured qualities of Koi No Yokan
with the aggression of Deftones
in the best of ways.
The instrumental performances heard in Gore
are among the finest aspects of the record. Every band member shines on Gore
, with vocalist Chino Moreno’s contributions and Stephen Carpenter’s guitars being the highlights. The sheer variety of the guitars exhibits how well Deftones marry together so many contrasting elements. Dreamy, shoegazing textures fuse together with crushing heaviness in much the same way as their most recent releases. Tracks like “Hearts/Wires” and “Pittura Infamante” will transition from beautifully melodic guitars to heavy riffing with the grace and subtlety that few bands like the Deftones can achieve. The technical guitar riffing in “Pittura Infamante” is a welcome surprise, as is the variety of what the guitar is actually playing throughout the song, without even any soft sections to rely on. While instrumental technicality was never a main reason for their success, it is nevertheless a welcome display of each band member’s talents when they do shine on Gore
. Abe Cunningham frequently makes use of all facets of his drum kit, impressing especially on “Xenon” and the crushing title track.
One noticeable quality of Gore
is how seamlessly the different facets of Deftones blends together. Lead single and album opener “Prayers/Triangles” is mainly melodic and soaring, with the following tracks embodying a more aggressive edge. While solid, the album's strongest moments come later, during the unpredictable middle run of songs. Most of these blend both heaviness and haunting atmospheres together, much like what was heard in Koi No Yokan
. “Hearts/Wires” and “(L)mirl” are each impressive displays of gradually swelling dynamics throughout, building the intensity brilliantly to the heavier, dramatic endings. “Phantom Bride” uses a similar structure, with the progressive rock influences and contribution by Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains making it the album highlight. “Xenon” and “Geometric Headdress” are comfortably familiar for fans in how they juxtapose dissonant guitars in the verses with atmospheric, beautiful choruses.
Deftones have been slowly shifting away from their heavier roots over the past decade, and Gore
proves to be their mellowest and most varied release to date. Some strange production choices and a few safe songwriting decisions may bring down the experience for some, but Gore
is Deftones further pushing their sound in a more melodic and rewarding direction. The heavy guitars, pounding drums, and Chino’s impressive screams are still there, of course. Most of the album’s heavier moments are reserved for the beginning, while moodier tracks that appear later like “(L)mirl” and “Rubicon” are still heavy, but mainly melodic, with hardly any aggressive qualities. Overall, this is a testament to the band’s brilliant movement from their immature past to a brighter future with a more complex sound that began with White Pony
is Deftones taking chances and experimenting wildly, further cementing the group as among the best metal bands still making music.