Deftones - Gore

by Texacaliago Rating:7 Release Date:2016-04-08

Out of all the alternative-metal bands that rose to prominence during the mid/late 90s, Deftones are practically the only one that still survives to this day with both their popularity and integrity largely intact. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is their ability to authentically combine the contrasting ideas of beautiful, yet sinister melodies with the visceral catharsis and mayhem of metal. While other seemingly like-minded bands attempted to exploit the heavy-with-melody dynamic that had always been Deftones hallmark, they too often came across as both contrived and Bush-league, lacking the subtlety and depth that Deftones consistently bring to the table.

Over 20 years into their career, and with seven mostly solid studio albums under their belt, Deftones return with their first offering in almost four years with Gore, an album that finds the band attempting to expand their sound into more experimental and melodic territory, with mixed results. The band has always been at their best when Chino’s velvety singing is backed up with the band’s powerful, wall-of-sound assault hammering away in the background, or when the ominous nature of the vocals give way to a ferocious and slam-dance-inducing barrage of rhythmic riffs that only Stephen Carpenter and company can cook up.  Chino’s propensity for blood-curdling screams also add to the almost schizophrenic nature of the Deftones music, which usually keeps the listener on their toes and thoroughly engaged.

Unfortunately, you don’t get much of that on Gore, as Chino seems intent on keeping a proverbial lid on things by saturating most of the songs with his trademark singing, which in turns gives Gore a bit of a sedated quality.  But of course there are a few exceptions, like on the standout track “Doomed User”, a tune which could probably hold its own against most any of the band’s classic songs.  The track has an aggressive, energetic vibe that features a thunderously heavy main riff with a lethal low-end rhythm that is highly satisfying.  It’s an instant Deftones classic, but what to make of the rest of the songs on Gore?

The opening tune “Prayers/Triangles” makes sense as the lead single, with its very polished and shimmering Saturday Night Wrist vibe.  It’s another highlight, but outside of that and “Doomed User” it’s basically a mix of some intriguing experimental songs (i.e. the trippy “Acid Hologram” and the claustrophobic “Geometric Headdress”), but also a lot of generally lethargic, overly soft and uninteresting melodic songs that really drain Gore of the type of energy or fire you would expect from a typical Deftones album. This generally insipid sound is particularly prevalent on the back half of the album, and although the title-track attempts to snap you out of the monotony with it’s moderately menacing vibe, it ultimately just kind of blends into the overly atmospheric (and dare I say generic) haze that dominates most of Gore’s back-half.

Often times, Gore sounds a bit too much like Team Sleep, with some lush electronic flourishes popping up occasionally which serve to compliment the album’s generally sedate and plush vibe.  On the other hand, Stephen Carpenter does display some borderline technical, somewhat mechanical guitar playing at times, which is most noticeable on the more dissonant cuts like “Geometric Headdress” and the otherwise underwhelming “Xenon”, but overall it’s hard for him to overcome the overtly melodic tendencies that saturate most of the album.  Case in point, when he attempts to inject some harshness on the final few songs by ending them with some vaguely jarring riffs, it all sounds a little misplaced, tired, and basically phoned in by that point.

Unfortunately, that’s not an inaccurate description of Gore, or at least ½ of the album. With a few exceptions, along with some occasionally dingy experimentation, the Deftones seem to have taken almost 4 years to deliver some of their most uninspiring material to date. Although there is nothing really bad to be found on Gore, similar to Koi No Yokan, it sounds like the band is just going through the motions, striving to create a melodic atmosphere that never quite materializes into anything memorable or compelling.  There’s very little bite or spark to be found in the music here, very little swagger, and their seemingly half-hazard attempts at expanding their sound are underwhelming and simply fail to make much of an impression overall.

And while all of this nit-picking doesn’t necessarily add up to a bad album, it does amount to another underwhelming and slightly disappointing album from a band who’s best days may very well be behind them. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

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