The Deftones have never shied away from sounding different from one album to the next. While most bands explain their transitions as merely experimentation or trying to stay fresh, this band has not. Perhaps it has never really been about experimentation but acting out a self realization of what the band could be. Never one to latch onto one signature style, Chino and company continue to peel back layers upon layers getting closer to the DNA and molecular abstraction that is the true sound of the band. Going back to their earliest origins on Adrenaline, you can see the corners lifting on any genre stamping the band may have been saddled with. "Nu Metal", "rap metal", "aggro" or even "emo" never truly fit the band. While Korn sang about personal "issues" and Limp Bizkit were "breaking stuff", Deftones were going "back to school". With hiked up striped skate socks, oversized hoodies and the power of sledgehammering riffs, their hearts beat closer to Sade than slayer. With abstract lyrics, song titles and a mix of technical/blistering metal, Deftones are a very unique entity.
Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno, is personally one of my favorite artists of any genre. A number of his non Deftones projects are incredible. Moreno carries over many of the elements from those outside endeavors to each new Deftones project. Most specifically Team Sleep, whose influence has been heard on the last several Deftones albums going all the way back to Saturday Night Wrist, a sound that was layered with distortion and effects.
Gore seems to have hit the reset button. It's stripped down, extremely human and wears it's scars for all to see. The production feels like it was scrubbed clean with a white magic sponge. The band hasn't sounded this rubbed raw since their Self Titled album, which was my personal favorite album. There has been plenty of talk in the press about lead guitarist Carpenter's dissatisfaction with the direction of this album. The Self Titled album was also surrounded by the type of turmoil that either destroys a band or brings a band closer together. For the first time in my recollection the band has a true blue guitar solo(provided by Jerry Cantrell) via "Phantom Bride" which is their most radio friendly track on this album.
Gore is an album that fluctuates between beauty and destruction. The full compliment of the band is playing at it's peak. Chino is as adapt at hitting all of the soaring notes as he is at straining his vocals til the point of bursting. Steph takes out his anger with monstrous riffs, while Abe's smooth percussion feels like home. Sergio Vega, who continues to walk in the late Chi Cheng's bassists boots provides truly warm tones that complete the sound of a band relying more on musicianship than layered effects.
If I had to isolate some of my favorite tracks on first listen, the album's three closing tracks would be on my list. "Gore" has a cool pace, lot of space between the lyrics and the riffs have just the right crunch to keep the song interesting. "Phantom Bride" is a vibrant song with a lot of soul. It may be the album's most dynamic track that never wanders too far from the vibe of the chorus and is solidified by that great Cantrell solo. "Rubicon" is an amazing track to close the album. It's full of energy and the percussion on this is highly impactful. All around great musicianship back to front on the track.
It's too soon for me figure out where this rates as far as my favorite Deftones albums. The one element that makes listening to this album as joyful as listening to their last is the return to the stripped down heaviness of their self titled album. While the last album felt like I had to figure out equations while listening to it, this time around I put my pencil down and just took in the sound scape the band builds around me. Sometimes less is a whole lot more.