Deftones - Gore
Reprise Records
Experimental Alt Metal
11 songs (48:14)
Release year: 2016
Deftones, Reprise Records
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Six years is a long time in music, and even moreso in real life. It’s been six years since I wrote about Deftones’ last-but-one album, Diamond Eyes, and since then the band have released two new albums and indefinitely shelved the unreleased Eros album after the sad death of former bassist Chi Cheng in 2013, four years after the tragic accident that would put him in the coma that he was ultimately not to recover from. Deaths of musicians are always oddly hard to react to for those of us only connected to them through their music, and given that Cheng seemed to be making a limited recovery, his death was especially tragic. Moving on initially to fund his medical treatment, and then artistically, it’s perhaps easy to relegate Cheng’s accident and passing to just one facet of the band’s multi-layered approach, but it’s also easy to hear how the yearning melancholy that was so much a part of the Deftones sound previously has come to the fore on the bluntly-titled Gore. It’s the gloomiest I’ve heard the band since the self-titled, those flashes of violence coming and going as ever but driven primarily by the melodic interplay of Stephen Carpenter’s guitar lines and Chino Moreno’s voice. ‘Alternate metal’ is the genre on the label, but it has never felt so inadequate to describe such a rich aural and atmospheric tapestry as Deftones serve up, a mix that was already remarkable in 2006 and feels altogether unique in 2016.

It’s interesting, as a long-term fan, to note how Deftones subtly shift this multi-faceted sound – compare this to the much more straightforward Diamond Eyes, for example, and the differences are as clear as the similarities. Gore is less instantaneous and much less easy to get into as an album, the always progressive approach to songwriting coming to the fore and making songs feel more stripped-down and focused on their elemental components as much as any overreaching, Minerva-esque atmospheric impact. ‘Challenging’ can be music reviewer slang for ‘unmemorable’ or the dreaded ‘dull’, but Gore truly is challenging, memorable, and anything but dull. The overall doom metal vibes in both the heavier riffs and the willingness to give songs intros and outros shows that things have moved, however imperturbably, to let feedback and atmosphere work its magic. Ten years ago this would have been called space rock; now, it’s simply Deftones. That the most avant-garde moment present is a guitar solo, courtesy of Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell, speaks volumes; this band have been called metal’s Radiohead before now, but never has that felt so appropriate to this, a collection of obtuse yet given time, strangely catchy songs that enthuse and enthral.

A grower, then? Without doubt. It’s a textural album, built from pieces that work together subtly but well. The title track is a wonderful case in point, contrasting walls of Meshuggah-esque guitar noise with nicely technical drumwork from the underrated Abe Cunningham and alternating howls and croons from Moreno – it opens with electronic pulses and near-showing off from Cunningham, both vocals and guitars staying in the background briefly, and finishes in near drones, riffs slowing and growing heavier as the band let the feedback fade into the same electronic pulses that opened the song. By itself it’s a good reminder that this is a much more cerebral band than it’s generally given credit for; little moments like the juxtaposition of Cantrell’s solo in Phantom Bride with some ensuing groovy doom riffs work very well...

...Yet it’s the less obvious moments that are the best, here. The slow build of opener and first single Prayers/Triangles is intriguingly laid-back, almost lazily inviting you into the album. But it’s far, far from the best work present when taken as an individual song, though; the following Acid Hologram’s slowly grooving riffs and almost occult pleadings to ‘smother me in shapes/and reveal your secret side’ are much more gripping, even with the partial disintegration into distorted spoken vocals at points. Doomed User is amongst the heaviest tracks present, but is clearly a continuation of the previous track’s melodic touchstones and isn’t afraid to allow the atmospheric rumbling free reign when required. Elsewhere, that Radiohead comparison comes to the fore as Moreno sounds like he’s channelling some of Thom Yorke’s earlier choruses on the likes of Rubicon, albeit with a youthful whoop and backed by a heavier backdrop than Oxfordshire’s finest ever managed; ending the song and album sounding more like latter-day Tool than anything. And when even mid-album pieces like Geometric Headdress keep the flow and drama going, not to mention the quiet, subtle opening to Hearts/Wires or the proggy touch of Pittura Infamante, it’s clear Gore is packed with quality. Great stuff from a great band, soon, incredibly, to celebrate their thirtieth year of existence.

Killing Songs :
Acid Hologram, Doomed User, Hearts/Wires, Xenon, Phantom Bride, Rubicon
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Deftones that we have reviewed:
Deftones - Ohms reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Deftones - Koi No Yokan reviewed by Khelek and quoted 87 / 100
Deftones - Around the Fur reviewed by Tyler and quoted 80 / 100
Deftones - Diamond Eyes reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Deftones - Deftones reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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