The Deftones have been plagued with bad luck and turmoil throughout their 20+ years in existence. From high-tensions between them and their label, to crippling addictions, to the tragic loss of bassist and original member Chi Cheng from a car accident in 2008, and his subsequent death in April of 2013. While those circumstances, as well as many others, have challenged and nearly broken the band, they’ve also been the source for motivation and creative passion for them and have helped birthed some of the best metal/rock albums you will ever hear.
Even now, with the release of Gore they’re not immune to controversy. In a February interview with UltimateGuitar.com, founder and guitarist Stephen Carpenter said (among other things) that he “didn’t want to play on the record to begin with.” That’s a pretty bold statement to make when your band in on the cusp of releasing a new record. After listening to Gore however, I think I better understand what was going on in his mind. I urge you to read the interview for yourself, but basically some of his statements could give you the impression that there is a lack of guitar overall on the album. That is simply not the case. Is there less of it? Maybe? Honestly, I was intentionally listening to see if I could find lengthy sections with no guitar and I can’t really pinpoint any. The thing about it is, the majority of the guitar parts and tone is not what one would necessarily describe as “metal” and Carpenter is definitely the “metal guy” of the group. He’s stated that he learned to play guitar when he was a teenager by listening to bands like Anthrax and Metallica. Thrash and metal bands. When that’s your biggest influence for becoming a musician, it’s easy to see how you’d place a big emphasis on that style of guitar work. For the most part you could describe the Deftones’ early albums as metal, and there are some very heavy songs on their last couple albums, Diamond Eyes (2010) and Koi No Yokan (2012), but I think you could also say their “experimental rock” side is equivocal to their “metal” side. (I swear to you that I didn’t mean for this to turn into an “In Defense Of” article.)
The first track on the album is also the first single, “Prayers/Triangles” (above), and it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the band. It has a very ambient vibe with the rhythm pulling slightly off-time, and the chorus rushes in, is very intense, and then just as quickly moves right back out again. It’s a solid track that makes a great introduction to the record.
The second track released as a single is “Doomed User”, and it features more of the aggressive and crushing side of the Deftones. There’s a satisfyingly heavy bass line in the verses and a guitar riff throughout the track that is reminiscent of 80’s bands like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. It also showcases another evolving aspect of the band’s songwriting structure. Which is, there really isn’t one. We live in a world where the lines and “black & white” nature of things is fading more and more each day, and music no exception. Not just this one but with some of their other songs also, it’s difficult to distinguish where the verses are, and the choruses too. I’m not saying they’re all like that, but a fair number of them are. The Deftones don’t seem to just write songs by a method or formula. They write what feels right and go with it. More bands should be that intuitive.
The most recent single dropped is “Hearts/Wires”, and it’s probably my personal favorite. It begins with a slow, atmospheric intro that stretches around a minute and a half, and then moves into a moody sounding verse that’s juxtaposed by a quick-paced rhythm guitar part. The chorus is big and loud, but still almost sludgy in a way. It’s not so much hard, as it is heavy. (That’s what she said.) I get the same vibe from it that I get from songs like “Digital Bath” or “RX Queen”, from White Pony, which I’ll just go ahead and admit is still my favorite of their albums.
The rest of the album, beyond just the singles, is fantastic. Seeing as how I’ve already used the words “Ambient” and “Atmospheric” I’ll just say that those pretty accurately capture the feel of it. One of my favorite songs is “(L)Mirl”. It opens somewhat abstractly (which we’ve already discussed is basically normal for the band) and vocalist Chino Moren softly delivering the line “I don’t miss you. I don’t care where you are now. You’re a ghost to me, left with with my taste in your mouth.” That one line, I feel, encapsulates the entire temperament of Gore. They’ve washed their hands of any concern over what people expect and they’re just moving on and continuing to create music without worrying about what bullshit opinion someone has.
I think that sucks. – asshole on the internet
Cool. We don’t give a shit. – Deftones *continues to sell out concerts and make lots of money*
Probably the heaviest song on the album is the title track, “Gore.” While the verse parts are mostly an echo-y guitar tone and cymbal-focused drums, the chorus section is really heavy, utilizing deep bass and Moreno’s classic screeching vocals.
There’s also an appearance by Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell on the song “Phantom Bride”. He has a very distinct sound and when you hear his solo you know without a doubt that it’s undeniably him.
While White Pony may be my favorite album, I believe that Koi No Yokan is their best all around. At this point, I would put Gore on par with Diamond Eyes. I’ve avoided making this comparison until now on purpose. The reason is, that album was also noted for showcasing a more shoegaze style than the band had previously incorporated, which continued on through Koi No Yokan. Since Shoegaze is sort of the “it” (hipster) thing right now in music, I didn’t want to stigmatize my review with it early on and risk some people going, “Nope. Nuh uh. F— that.” Personally, I like shoegaze, so I like hearing the Deftones incorporate it more into their sound. That’s not to say that Gore, or really any of their records, could be defined by that genre. Just that, it’s an element that makes up the larger part of their unique sound.
Overall, Gore is a very, very good album. It’s quite complex, almost ethereal, and rich in heaviness when it needs to be. It solidifies that the Deftones we’ve heard for the last 2 albums is clearly the Deftones that’s here to stay and I for one am perfectly happy about it.