Deftones has always been a band that walked the line between heavy grunge and atmospheric rock. While their newest record, “Gore," leans more toward their cool and calm sides than any of their previous releases, it still brings with it the creativity and quality that fans have come to expect.
Their opening track, “Prayers / Triangles,” sets the tone of the album with calming vocals juxtaposed with power chords and heavy distortion. As vocalist Chino Moreno sings the opening line, “There’s a new, strange/ Godless demon awake inside me,” it is clear that Deftones is offering something different with their eighth studio album.
After establishing the tone, “Gore” wastes no time and goes straight into the strangest, but also most interesting, song on the album, “Acid Hologram.” The song is another juxtaposition between distorted guitar and melodic vocals, with the catchy chorus periodically interrupted by moments where the music slows to a low crawl and Moreno rumbles in a low sinister voice.
“Gore” certainly leans toward this vocally melodic/heavy guitar vibe with most of its songs, but Deftones hasn’t ditched their high-energy metal side entirely. The second single of the album, “Doomed User,” explodes out of the gate with Moreno shouting and screaming over a pronounced bass line and hard-hitting guitar riff. This song stands out as one of the heaviest on the album, and it helps give more variety to an otherwise repetitive album.
While “Gore” takes a step toward the atmospheric side of Deftones, it doesn’t do it in a predictable or compromising way. With songs such as “Geometric Headdress” and “Pittura Infamante,” Deftones managed to merge the dream-like tone they showed in their “Diamond Eyes” and “Koi No Yokan” albums with a more catchy rock sound while still retaining hints of their old-school chaos and unpredictability.
While some fans may look for elements of the older, heavier Deftones that has been established through their 28 years as a band, some songs on “Gore,” such as “Hearts / Wires,” showcase the band’s modern sound with stand-out style and emotion. The slow but steady instrumentals in “Hearts / Wires” fit perfectly with Moreno’s falsetto vocals to make it a stand-out track.
I have always enjoyed Deftones' albums as being a coherent, collective pieces. With "Gore" and many of their other albums, each song seems to fit together like a puzzle, with the overall feel of the album remaining pleasant and consistent throughout. That being said, “Gore” does suffer from the problem of having songs that sound a bit too similar. With songs such as “Xenon,” the new sound that “Gore” presents starts to sound slightly repetitive. The album might have benefitted from another heavy song in its place.
Fortunately, for every song like “Xenon,” there’s a song like “(L)Mirl” or “Phantom Bride” that exemplifies Deftones’ variety and effortlessly morph together Moreno’s tender and chaotic vocal styles. The guitar work in “Phantom Bride” layers a clean-sounding lead guitar over the grungy riffs Deftones is known for, making it one of the biggest instrumental stand-outs on the album.
“Gore” might have its weight shifted slightly too much toward the new, less heavy sound Deftones has created, but it still packs a powerful punch and makes a great addition to the band’s long discography.