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Deftones Ohms

2020 Reprise Records

Achieving balance.

Deftones - Ohms

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Amid the initial refrains of “Genesis“—the opening track to Deftones‘ ninth studio album “Ohms“—frontman Chino Moreno in part enthusiastically proclaims “I finally achieve balance.” While Moreno has already openly admitted to undergoing therapy in the lead-up to “Ohms“, he’s also clarified that his lyrical decree of sorts isn’t entirely meant to be taken literally.

And yet the concept of balance and the thought processes one must undertake to ensure it permeates “Ohms“. Though still largely obfuscated by allegory and the like, Moreno feels confident enough here to offer more of himself to his craft. There’s an unexpected level of emotional vulnerability found not just within his performance, but also his lyrics, exposing lingering glimpses of his own truth.

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But the ‘balance’ at play isn’t merely limited to Moreno and his own journey towards mental well-being. It also shapes the entire record—which in case you’re wondering—sports a roaring return of guitarist Stephen Carpenter. His upfront presence is a welcome homecoming after moderately being sidelined on Deftones‘ previous release, 2016’s “Gore“.

Not only do his weighty riffs pack a bite, the thicker tones from some added strings to his arsenal and the bristling array of sawtooth riffs he puts them to use with instill a sense of ominous menace that “Gore” mostly lacked. Don’t worry though, there’s no shortage of articulate riffing and textural ambience to be found.

Further sporting a heightened presence is programmer, sampler, etc., Frank Delgado, who goes as far as implementing some full-fledged synth lines that anchor tracks like “The Spell Of Mathematics” and “Pompeji“.

More so than in the past, dynamic juxtaposition and unified progression serve as a foundation. Moreno‘s pensive croons, wispy melancholy and animalistic screams wither and bloom in parallel to Carpenter‘s surprisingly vicious onslaught.

While Carpenter‘s guitar tones sound a touch more processed than we’ve seen in the past, the hulking swipes he offers are no mere palette swap or part change, but rather fundamentally ingrained throughout the material.

While one could see much of “Ohms” to be a course correction from “Gore“, the extra time the band were able to invest here makes it so much more. The individual parts sound refined and honed, the inclusionary nature of each element singularly aligned.

From the digitally drenched screeching that envelops the guitar in “Error“, to the seagulls found in “Pompeji” and the handclaps that close “The Spell Of Mathematics“, memorable contributions from all members are stacked on top of each other. There’s no need for an  individual spotlight and the music is better for it.

While the song structures present a bolstered sense of solidarity and some added bulk, the melodic maturation of their shoegaze/post-rock, etc. influences offer enthralling buoyancy. The continued presence of heavier elements, be it Moreno‘s pained screams or Carpenter‘s forceful riffs, are certainly no less compelling or diminished by them. Even though the album can feel downright dystopian at times, it’s never without hope.

In turn, there’s little need to skip from one track to the next. Insular genre-bound excursions aren’t a concern. Instead there’s just an astounding level of symmetry that makes each track as essential as the next.

From the excessively thrashy riffs that startlingly kick off (and fade in and out of) the ambitiously structured “Urantia” and the beat drop Delgado splices in it later on, to the Faith No More reminiscent lurching bassline the perpetually restless and imaginative Sergio Vega punctuates “This Link Is Dead” with, no one is left behind or overlooked.

Which leads to drummer Abe Cunningham, whose percussive talents and ability to routinely insert himself almost a beat out of step remain a crucial piece of the Deftones puzzle. Like the very heart in your chest, you may not notice it pumping at every waking moment, but its function is forever pivotal to your continued existence, just as Cunningham‘s playing is here.

Decades into a career that has been torn apart by loss and substance abuse and mended back to health by brotherhood, enduring friendship and a genuine love of what they do; Deftones deliver an album that matches that of their most memorable ventures. Their welcome reunion with producer Terry Date, who helmed several of their earliest outings, only solidifies their reinvigorated pact.

Some may argue that “Ohms” suffers from a lack of peaks and valleys and is too rigidly paced. But its mesmeric density and nearly unwavering momentum once again prove why this group have remained without equal for the better half of 30-plus years.

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