The road to the release of Deftones‘ eighth full-length album “Gore” has been a rocky one as far as the press is concerned. There were missed release dates thanks to issues with mixing. Then the details for the album were leaked months in advance thanks to a journalist’s screencap, forcing the band to readjust their rollout strategy. And of course, there was the elephant in the room: the negative comments guitarist Stephen Carpenter made about his initial lack of interest in taking part in the writing sessions.
A solid listen to “Gore” is all it takes to assure you that Carpenter did indeed show up on the effort. His crushing input populates a number of the included songs, and not just here and there. He may be somewhat underutilized to a small degree, but he certainly makes his presence felt. What stands out most about “Gore” though isn’t his aggression or frontman Chino Moreno‘s melancholic shades of new wave and sparkling alt rock. No, it’s the spacious room to breathe and fine attention paid to the smaller details in each song.
For “Gore” the band decided to write at their own pace, getting together numerous times over the period of a few months to put the effort together. You can tell there was no looming deadline or clock ticking on studio time. Sure they may have traded some parts back and forth via a Dropbox or the like, but refreshingly you can feel that these songs were worked on in a room together. It’s this unencumbered style of songwriting and freedom to analyze and refine things over time that makes up the connective tissue of this release.
Because on “Gore” the Deftones feel more like an actual band than they have in years. A scrappier, almost happier version of themselves, flush with gnarled guitars, emotional outbursts and intricate details. No one element or idea pervades the album. It’s a diverse collection of songs, that often at their core, sound like a mutated strain of 90’s space rock that somehow got mixed up with chunky modern metal.
There’s gnawing guitar parts, big looming riffs, a deeper oomph thanks to Sergio Vega‘s utilization of a Bass VI and some understated—yet no less crucial—work by drummer Abe Cunningham and sampler/programmer Frank Delgado. Indeed it’s the little things that shine brightest this time out, be it the hushed drumming techniques Cunningham opens “Hearts/Wires” with, the guitar squeals that pop up in “Xenon” or Delgado‘s ever jittering ambiance regularly hovering just out of reach.
There’s even times, such as on album highlight “Rubicon“, where the band can feel like a busier, more embittered version of Failure. It’s all Deftones to be sure, but more confident and substantial. Thanks to the wealth of organic interplay, it doesn’t feel Frankensteined together like so many other albums these days.
So much of “Gore” has a nervous pulsing energy. Be it spacey and majestic or gleefully destructive, the band have delivered a scratchy guitar-filled opus that captures the better traits of their past few albums and adds a humbling amount of gravity and excitement. They’re trying out new things and the results are interesting and heady. From obtuse ethereal riffs to Vega‘s drifting bass on “Phantom Bride” sounding like he took cliff notes from Glassjaw‘s “Coloring Book“.
That track in particular also features a soaring guest appearance from Alice In Chains‘ Jerry Cantrell, who emerges mid-song, cutting through the ethereal haze with some tastefully soulful licks that could have sprung out of the fingers of Satriani or Vai. What’s interesting in particular about his cameo isn’t just the sense of levity and contrast it brings to the track. It’s that it almost goes to war against Carpenter‘s sinister chug that comes like an approaching thunderstorm near the end.
As with any Deftones release, “Gore” isn’t an album that you’ll easily digest. It’s something you’ll likely be dissecting and finding new puzzle pieces for with each listen for weeks to come. A brave display of just how far this band have come since their nu metal days and definitive proof that the creative flame they share is still burning bright.