Review Summary: Error
Life, for better or worse, is little more than decision-making. We spend our lives perpetually weighing options and evaluating the best path forward. What sort of values do we want? What sort of relationships? What skills do we want to acquire? These decisions, both big and small, ultimately define who we are. It’s humanity’s cosmic plight and, while some have more options than others, our legacy hinges on how we pick and choose. This was no different for Sacramento’s Deftones upon entering the studio to record their ninth full-length album, Ohms. The band had a plethora of options and some very important questions. Do they make another safe, somewhat mellow record like Gore? Do they make another smash hit like Around the Fur or White Pony? Or do they make what is perhaps the most vile, abysmally terrible music ever recorded? The answer, I’m afraid, is plain to see.
If there is one compliment I can give this record, it’s that it wastes no time revealing itself. From the moment I press play, I’m greeted with an obnoxious, shrill note of static much like horseflies swirling around my eardrums. I’m immediately unsettled and placed in a state of acute vertigo. This unpleasant introduction precedes the hilarious opening line: “I reject.” Here, the band succinctly describes what my ears are doing and falls at the first hurdle. The lyrics’ comedic value is matched only by their cadence. While Chino has given solid vocal performances in the past, namely on tracks like Digital Bath and Leathers, his delivery here is the genesis of nightmares. It’s virtually identical to that of a freshman sorority girl who over-indulged in jungle juice and finds herself vigorously regurgitating the beverage into a megaphone. Hearing it in any other context would have me alarmed and gravely concerned for the perpetrator. However, this is the new Deftones record, and the commitment to sonic unpleasantry is admirable if nothing else.
Let’s go over my primary grievance: Chino. From start to finish, his vocals engulf me in excruciating waves of hot garbage. It’s as if he’s drilling a hole into my skull and filling my head with fire ants. I must admit the range is rather impressive. Just when I think I’ve heard the worst, somehow he manages to one-up himself. Whether it’s the grating shrieks of Genesis, the painfully awkward whispers of Headless, the cringey “it’s an illusion” lines of Ceremony, or the off-key high cleans of the title track, every song makes me feel submerged in a bath of hot feces. This Link Is Dead opens with some semi-interesting synth notes, but any hope of enjoyment is immediately quashed by Chino as he belches and squeals his way into the mix. While every track offers an array of horrors, the greatest offender is without a doubt Radiant City. The track opens with a repetitive bassline that sounds like a thousand Ladas stuck in gridlock, but when the vocals enter the pain really begins. The cleans are flatter than Kansas and the shrieks sound like my unstable mother-in-law discussing politics after a bottle of white whine (ahem). It was at this moment that I realized the band had made history. They had produced what was perhaps the single worst song I had ever heard in my life. This is the moment Deftones became Wishiwasdeaftones, and as a fan it pains me to admit. Frankly, I would rather be tied to a chair, blindfolded, and have Richard Simmons spoon-feed me a jar of Hulk Hogan’s *** than listen to these vocals. The experience would be almost identical, but at least I’d have a good story to tell.
Although the vocals are obviously quite objectionable, they’re not the only element gone awry. The songwriting is painfully bland and devoid of the hooks fans have come to love. There are no Knife Parties, Be Quiet and Drives, Engine No. 9s or Sextapes on this record. Instead, we have a cumbersome 46 minutes of monotonous sludge. There isn’t a single positive standout moment I could point out. The guitar offers little more than generic chugging and lacks the signature Deftones dynamics. The title track opens with what feels like a feeble homage to Devin Townsend’s Ocean Machine, before launching into more repetitive chugging and a handful of familiar chords. Simplistic guitar riffs can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately Ohms lacks the frenetic intensity and catchiness that made prior releases enjoyable. The guitar could’ve been a counterweight for the vocals, but there just isn’t enough creativity, energy, or technical prowess to stand out. Stephen may be a Carpenter, but I’m afraid he couldn’t build any compelling riffs.
The rhythm arrangements, while not groundbreaking, are the most salvageable part of the album. Abe delivers some tasteful fills on The Spell of Mathematics and great snare work on This Link Is Dead. He is the best part of the record, and although the drums are at the service of milquetoast riffs and some of the worst vocals I’ve ever heard, I must give credit where it’s due. There is nothing he could’ve done to salvage this album. The bass is hardly worth mentioning, since the lines mostly follow the guitar, and there’s very little going on there. Ceremony and Pompeji have some interesting work in the upper-register, but when you factor in how bad Radiant City is, it still comes out negative.
The production also leaves much to be desired, and sounds incredibly flat when compared to an album like Koi No Yokan. The drums are way too low in the mix and the snare lacks any driving punch. If the drums were given the attention they deserved, it could’ve elevated the songs a bit. Instead, pretty much all we get is dollar store Meshuggah tone and Chino Supremo’s Garbage Cuisino vocals. I don’t want to dwell on the production too much, because it’s so subjective and frankly I don’t feel sophisticated enough to describe it, but I had to acknowledge that it sounds quite bad.
There is another glaring issue with this record: a lack of innovation. Judging by this album, it appears they’re completely out of ideas and want to sub-optimally repeat themselves in every way possible. Repetition isn’t an issue for some bands, but Deftones already set a precedent for evolving their sound. They’ve gradually shifted from intense nu-metal to a more restrained, almost shoegaze style. I honestly commend them for this, because it’s a progression I would call successful. Until now.
I would like to posit an analogy. Let’s say you have a favorite sub shop in town. It’s right by your house, the ingredients are always fresh, the prices are modest, the staff is friendly, and it’s a great experience every time you go. Now imagine it becomes a franchise, and another one of those shops opens a couple towns over. In good spirits and continued support, you decide to patron the new establishment. But upon arriving, you realize something is terribly wrong. The shop is in a really bad neighborhood, and you’re greeted with an employee screaming “I reject” instead of the usual “hello”. You’re then served a sandwich of rotted meats and veggies, cussed out by the staff, charged twice the normal price, and you can’t drive home because your car has been stolen. Now, taking all this into account, why would you EVER, in your right mind, choose to visit that other shop again? It may have the same name, but it is NOT the same experience. To me, that is the practical equivalent of this album. Is it a Deftones album? Sure. Is it a similar offering? Hell no.
Ohms are standard units of electrical resistance, which as a title I can’t help but glean amusement from. I feel as if the band is describing me and my general aversion to this release. Before I close, I feel obligated to state this is just my opinion. Based on this album’s reception, there will be many who vehemently disagree with me. That is totally fine, and although scathing reviews can seem harsh, I felt compelled to share my two cents at the behest of some users. In summation, Ohms is a dreadful album and one I would recommend avoiding. There is nothing on display here they haven’t done much better before. From the horrid vocals, to stale riffs, to the flat production, to the generally awful songwriting, it’s an album for the ages and might just be the worst thing I’ve ever heard.
Final verdict: unlistenable/5