At long last, Deftones’ eighth studio album, Gore, has been unleashed to the public. There are several surprises in the album instrumentally by Stephen Carpenter and Sergio Vega. Chino Moreno’s mix of smooth, almost trippy singing and screaming that’s truly characteristic of being in a screamo band is as good as ever, though screaming is much less prevalent. Although the band’s mainstream success has died down, the band surely isn’t losing popularity with the fans that have been with them since their biggest success with White Pony (2000).
It looks like they might even be getting some new fans. In the United States, Gore entered the Billboard 200 at number 2. If The Lumineers’ Cleopatra hadn’t beaten them to it, Gore would’ve been Deftones’ first number-one album. (Wait, The Lumineers are number-one!? I thought they were going to become a one-hit wonder. But I digress.) Deftones were so close, and have now managed to have three albums enter at number two or three.
The band has been put through several setbacks between Gore and the release of their previous album Koi No Yokan in 2012. Chi Cheng, the band’s former bassist, who had been recovering from a serious automobile accident since November of 2008, suffered a fatal cardiac arrest in April 2013. The band had hoped to reunite with Cheng at some point. After Cheng’s death, Sergio Vega, a good friend of the band, became a permanent member after standing in for Cheng while he was recovering.
Another issue that held back the album was disagreement with how the band wanted to make it. While it did not result in any splits, Carpenter originally did not want to participate in the recording of the album, as he couldn’t get a good feel out of what the band was aiming to make.
In an interview with online magazine Loudwire, he said, “My band is going one direction and I am going another one currently.” Although he never wants to leave the band, he said that he felt like the band started leaving him instead. Eventually, he came around to the band’s more collaborative approach, taking in ideas from every point of view, thus creating a stronger album as a whole.
As for the resulting sounds and effects, Gore has a more intense effect than Deftones’ previous efforts. The more chunky, metallic side of the band is even tougher, though there isn’t as much in the way of screaming heard in these songs.
The second single and third track “Doomed User” is a great example of this sound, though the guitars heard in this song’s chorus are more of what you’d expect in a standard hard rock or heavy metal band. A couple online reviewers compared those guitars to Iron Maiden. Doesn’t that sound just wrong for Deftones? In truth, the song does sound more like Maiden’s style, but just adapted to fit a 2010s mainstream hard rock band (still not what Deftones are). “Doomed User” is undoubtedly the heaviest one on the album, with mostly semi-screamed or screamed vocals used the song. In fact, it’s probably three times more heavy than the others on Gore. It still ends up sounding good after a few listens. “Rubicon” and “Prayers/Triangles” have that loud, low-tuned and distorted post-metal guitar sound that Deftones fans are accustomed to, but they sound really slick, like the kind of guitars present on “Change” (2000).
“Phantom Bride” is a pleasant surprise. It has a similar intro and mood to “Prayers/Triangles”, but it has a different sound instrumentally, most notably with the guitars. “Phantom Bride” contains a solo, which is incredibly rare for Deftones, and it’s one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever heard from an electric guitar. When the guitars weren’t pulling a solo, they sound grungy and strangely appealing.
Oh, wait, they’ve got Jerry Cantrell guesting on the track! That explains everything! For those of you who don’t know, he was, and still is, the guitarist for grunge-metal titans Alice in Chains. He provided the solo for the song. With about forty seconds remaining in the track, Carpenter’s part comes back in, and it’s startlingly heavy. He’s just grinding on one really low riff pattern, but I feel that it’s too loud, because when Carpenter’s part comes in, Cantrell hasn’t finished yet. I think the timing of when Carpenter’s part arrives is either too early or too loud at that one point. But everything else on this song is absolutely perfect.
While some songs are more embracing to the heavier side of Deftones (and more heavy, at that), most of the more experimental songs on this album are even more mellow than their previous efforts. The eighth track, “(L)Mirl” (“Let’s Meet In Real Life”), is a really relaxing song to listen to, though it doesn’t beat “Sextape” from Diamond Eyes (2010). It has a polished guitar and bass drone behind the vocals throughout the chorus, and after the first chorus, those sounds become more prominent, though they remain unobtrusive to the relaxed mood. They blend perfectly, and I really love the new six-string bass sound that bassist Sergio Vega decided to implement. It’s really trippy, slow, and enjoyable overall. In the final minute, however, it gets heavier, and we get a tiny little taste of what Moreno’s screams are like.
“Hearts/Wires”, the third single and fifth track, is similar to “Prayers/Triangles”. It has an excellent guitar harmony, and it feels natural and fluid. The lyrics don’t feel as harrowing as what the band has made in the past, rather, they’re slightly more optimistic, with lyrics such as “Stuck with illusion now / I drown in your sea / I hope that you’ll first save yourself / And then come for me.”
Gore is definitely the strongest album in alternative metal and rock right now, and it very well might end up being the best one of the year. It’s full of pleasant surprises for alternative music lovers and heavy metal fans alike.