Deftones Provide a Perfect Melancholic Sonic Roller Coaster

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Rocio Iribe

Deftones released their eighth studio album Gore on April 8, 2016 and it is arguably their best record to date. The alternative metal band from Sacramento, Calif. has come a long way from their nü-metal days of Adrenaline and Around The Fur starting in 1995.
Gore has a more cohesive feel than their last release Koi No Yokan released in 2012, predominantly because Frank Delgado’s electronics are the connecting link tying all the songs together and enveloping them in a dark, atmospheric, melancholy package.

Furthermore, Gore is less guitar-driven than Koi No Yokan was, which further lends to the atmospheric quality of the album. Summarizing the album is difficult as Chino Moreno’s lyrics, and his imagery always project a mood and vague idea rather than a literal story. Themes of addiction, substance abuse, rage, anger and the perils of human relationships all entwine in Gore to leave you with the classic Deftones vibe, which is a combination of unknown melancholy and longing.

There is perfect duality between Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter in their interplay between Moreno’s crooning screams and Carpenter’s chunky guitar riffs. The ebb and flow of Moreno and Carpenter makes listening to the album like riding a new wave roller coaster surrounded by ambient fog.

The album starts off with the first single from the album “Prayers/Triangles” which immediately recalls “Minerva” from the 2003 self-titled album in the explosive way Moreno’s vocals crash with Carpenter’s guitars. The album continues to be hard-hitting for the next three songs, with “Doomed User” being the heaviest and most aggressive song on the album. “Doomed User” centers around Carpenter’s head-banging eight-string-guitar riff that is reminiscent of Meshuggah-style riffs, a known influence of Carpenter.

The sonic roller coaster reaches an emotional peak with “Hearts/Wires”, providing a nice break in the middle of the album from the heavier songs. This song has over a minute of melodic instrumental introduction setting the dark mood for the rest of the song to come. Even though “Hearts/Wires” doesn’t surpass “Teenager” from White Pony in terms of its heart-wrenching emotion, it is the closest Deftones have come in years with lyrics like “Nothing can save me now. It’s what I believe … Cut through this razor wire and died on your heart.”

The album plunges ahead with “Pittura Infamante” and “Xenon,” with Moreno alluding to themes of devotion and desire. The sonic roller coaster reaches its last emotional peak with “(L)MIRL.” The instrumentals are subdued and Moreno’s voice is brought to the forefront as he expresses a sense of emotional detachment and almost resentment for an unknown lover. He starts off with “I don’t miss you. I do not care where you are now. You’re a ghost to me. Left with my taste in your mouth.”

But we are left with no time to reflect on our past romantic resentments as the title track “Gore” kicks off right away, with fast drums and guitar-riffing introducing Moreno’s echoing vocals, easily becoming my favorite song on the album. “Gore” is the perfect example of what makes Deftones who they are: soft and explosive melody juxtaposed and balanced perfectly all within one song.  

The increase in tempo for the last three songs is letting you know this album is not fading out with melancholy and ambiguity, but rather with a hard punch and scream, as “Phantom Bride” features a guitar solo by Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell. “Rubicon,” with its sense of sacrificial finality, is a perfect ending as Moreno promises to end the ache of his counterpart: “Place your faith into me. Your body aches, should be drained out of your life slowly.”

While you can hear the atmospheric influences of Moreno’s side projects Palms and Crosses, Deftones’ new album Gore is the perfect balance of aggression and emotion in a way only Deftones can do. After listening to the album, you are left with a sense of melancholy that you can’t identify the cause of, and yet you hit the replay button again because the sonic ride is too much fun.