Deftones astound with “Gore”

Sacramento’s favorite alt-metal quintet resets the standard for the genre.

Maxwell Heilman, Writer

Although commanding notable respect within their sphere of influence, Deftones’ presence on the charts has sadly paled in comparison to their contemporaries. Since the Sacramento natives released their 1995 debut, they have striven to break the alt-metal mold by infusing ethereal and pummeling sounds throughout a career spanning 21 years. In spite of founding bassist Chi Cheng’s tragic death in 2013, Deftones has shown little compromise in using dark heaviness as a springboard into dreampop and shoegaze territory. Four years after releasing the decidedly more run-of-the-mill “Koi No Yokan,” “Gore” brings Deftones back to the compositional prowess on which they built their career.

Tone setter

“Gore” is undoubtedly the most impressive album Deftones has released in over a decade. Every track on this album sports a varied range of emotion and dynamics stemming from a revitalized sense of size and power in complementing their respect for atmosphere.

Tone setter “Prayers / Triangles” introduces oceanic feedback before spacious groove segues into minimalist guitar licks and Chino Moreno’s sensually dissonant voice. The explosive chorus and intimidating bridge maintain atmosphere while adding intensity, setting Deftones apart from the crowd. Even harrowing songs like “Doomed User” and the title track refuse to digress into dunderheaded bounce riffs — something that “Head Up” and “Swerve City” veered dangerously close to on previous outings — choosing to use harshness as one of many steps towards emotional overdrive.

a unique contribution

The juxtaposition of dreaminess and aggression remains present throughout “Gore,” making every song a unique contribution to Deftones’ repertoire. “Doomed User” alternating time signatures between five and six beats, the displaced back beat on the verses of “Xenon,” and the tribal tendencies of “Rubicon” give just a taste of this album’s rhythmic variety. There is always a steadfastly unique backbone provided by drummer Abe Cunningham over which the rest of the band can flex their own creative muscles.

Guitarist Stephen Carpenter intuitively plays exactly what accentuates the song, whether it be reverb soaked ambience, detuned chugging or anything in between, without drawing too much attention to himself. Similarly, bassist Sergio Vega adds low-end punch only where needed, often assuming a harmonic and melodic position in the mix. Frank Delgado’s otherworldly soundscapes remain proof that the use of electronics and synth pads in rock music does not have to amount to shameless cheese. The overarching continuity his input supplies helps “Gore” flow in and out of songs and heightens its moodiness. “Hearts / Wires” and “Phantom Bride” magnificently exemplify these elements coming together.

vibrantly textured outing

Chino Moreno tops off the vibrantly textured outing. His voice is positively stunning. Fully embracing his eccentricities, Moreno’s range reaches wondrous levels. No matter what direction “Gore” goes instrumentally, he always injects his distinctive delivery to a rapturous effect. Everything from his delicate croons to spine tingling wretches remain as unmistakably nuanced as it always has been, but he now boasts much more urgency through soaring over many passages with grandiosity to match his intimate melancholy.

There is certainly a reason Deftones has never reached the mainstream success of some of their peers — they do not appeal to the masses. “Gore” speaks to deeper recesses of the human intellect, often resulting in introspection instead of breaking stuff. As Moreno trills, “I don’t miss you. I don’t care where you are now,” audiences must choose whether to pursue lofty dimensions. Those who do will be immensely rewarded.

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