In many ways, Deftones’ newest studio album release is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Gore may be a step in the right direction, but there’s no escaping the fact that it is a violent, caustic mess of sounds and images. This is not even a criticism—in fact, for a band that has not released an album in four years, Gore’s tone works surprisingly well. The blood and guts of Deftones is here in the best way possible, even if it is a messy ride along the way.
The previous Deftones album, Koi No Yokan, was an interesting insight into the potential of the band but ultimately failed to deliver any substance, save the second song, “Romantic Dreams.” It is clear that Deftones has learned from its mistakes, shoring up everything from pacing, to lyricism, to instrumental work. Gore opens with the song “Prayers / Triangles,” which does well to set the mood of the work. Lead vocalist Chino Moreno’s first foray into the stylings of Deftones’ trademark metal sound is an impressive homage to the work of Chi Cheng, the band’s previous lead singer. His passing, not only extremely tragic for the band and his family, could have potentially ended the band’s long-running work—however, in this iteration of Deftones, vocals could not be stronger.
Much like the name of the album itself, the title of Gore’s second song, “Acid Hologram,” leads listeners down the path of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Though rooted in its metal upbringings, the work very much sounds as if it were influenced by a more psychedelic style—a risky choice that both helps and hurts the album in a variety of ways.
This laid-back, “trippy” type of work from Deftones gains traction in the category of exploration, proving that the band is not afraid to take risks. In certain areas, it pulls it off well: “Xenon,” “(L)MIRL,” and “Phantom Bride” are heavily layered in this sound, which creates a new foothold for the band in the minds of listeners. On the other end of the spectrum, however, comes the messier pieces of Gore. “Geometric Headdress” and “Hearts / Wires” over-incorporate psychedelics into Deftones’ original metal stylings, a mix that becomes too much to handle for even the most devoted listener.
The problems, unfortunately, do not end here. As with much of new-age-style music, much of Gore has a tendency to run together, failing to denote the beginning and end of each individual track. On the surface level, this is not problematic, but it hints at a larger problem: not enough songs and sounds on Gore are unique enough to make more than a couple of impacts on the listener. This is bound to happen when engaging in the level of genre-mixing that Deftones has taken part in, but it is no less excusable because of it.
“Gore”—the titular song—is unquestionably the highest point of the entire work. It sounds the most like the Deftones of days gone by—raw emotion, pure metal, without too much angst to overwhelm the technicals of the song. And though it is the least innovative, “Gore” is also the most surprising. The band has made a massive, structured transition between genres, lead singers, and styles, but the root of the art they create has remained undoubtedly good. For any Deftones fan, this will be a breath of fresh air.
Though this shift has occurred the story remains the same for Deftones. To remain (or become, perhaps) culturally relevant, one of two things must take place. Deftones must remaster the old or shore up the problems with the new. The band finds its raw skill in the field of metal—should the members choose to return to this road for the next album, no blame would be laid upon their shoulders. With the release of Gore, however, the band has proved that it can innovate how it sees fit. If this continues to take place, Deftones must strike the right balance between psychedelic rock and metal—otherwise, the band may see its following begin to dwindle.
Featured Image By Reprise Records