The theme of this review is consistency. For twenty years Deftones have put out consistently adept albums steeped in their own style of what could be whittled down to, in layman’s terms, as “metal.” But, it’s so much more than that.
Gore is the band’s eighth and was released on April 8th. The number eight, the vertical symbol of an infinite loop, is a most accurate figure to associate with this album. Deftones continue to deliver, expanding their sound in subtle and intricate ways. They remain rooted in the punk metal headrush of their debut Adrenaline, but with each album since the sound has grown heavier and more melodic in equal parts. Gore furthers the formula into peak Deftones territory.
Gore is undeniably a Deftones record, but there are a lot of new elements that on past albums were never fully explored: the use of feedback, Frank Delgado’s effects being the focal point during a song, elongated intros and outros and thick layering. Song structure is rarely straightforward. Each song has about five or six different parts that clamp down on each other, bleed into, collide and break through each other jerking the listener into awareness. It’ll catch you off guard.
There are so many little fine twists and turns at first it can be unsettling. When I first listened, it felt overloaded, like there was too much going on, like they were trying to cram too much into each song. But, that becomes the winning mark after stepping back and letting the songs soak in. Like most Deftones albums, it gets better with age. Gore may be the heaviest record to leave shadows of songs in your head afterwards.
Guitarist Stephen Carpenter, drummer Abe Cunningham and bassist Sergio Vega are stitching together some wildly inaccurate metal grooves. If you headbang to this without knowing the song, you’ll fast get off beat. They’re starting to develop their own sense of timing and it really turns things inside out.
The first proper single, “Prayers/Triangles,” opens the album. It is a fine representative of their sound currently. A slow, meandering guitar lulls the listener before the drums break and the chorus slashes through. Throw the bottle at the wall when “Doomed User” comes on. Deftones to the core. Carpenter plays with shades of Slayer then hits the time change with an evil guitar groan. Cunningham hits every accented cymbal with pinwheels rolling in his eye sockets.
“Geometric Headdress” erupts like a tank through a wall. Chino Moreno’s scream scorches like a propane tank left to explode. Then ten seconds in it flips to an offbeat rumble with a wily guitar pushing the listener out of rhythm. Midway through “Hearts/Wires” settles over the album like the final rays of sunlight. A few simple guitar pluckings crawl over each other while Moreno sings of a memory lost. “The slit in the sky where you left / is all I see,” he aches. The slow build is hypnotizing.
The heaviest song on the album is the title track. The pitter patter of Cunningham’s hi-hat leads into a devastating guitar butcher stab from Carpenter. Oh yeah, this one is a classic. Careful with this one here. Moreno howls likes he’s burning alive. The pit will blow like a hazardous chemical reaction whenever they play it live. Get the gore on the final minute. Thunderous feedback beating your head in.
“Phantom Bride” enlists the help of Jerry Cantrell, from Alice In Chains, on guitar. Midway through Cantrell releases a reflective guitar solo that weaves into the song. Jerry wails. Lord, Jerry wails. The guitars spill out reminding me of mid-90s Smashing Pumpkins before getting obliterated by Carpenter’s heavy strings. Beautiful. Sets the heart racing. It’s a new turn and it works.
Deftones just continue to breathe new life into an old sound. They keep the rigid metalhead fans happy, but still find room to expand sonically, creating new categories of genre. Gore, the third album since Vega took over for the late Chi Ching on bass, follows Koi No Yokan and Diamond Eyes on a continuing upscale of creativity that doesn’t seem to be slipping any time soon.