Can a metal album be musical? Well…YES. While the aforementioned question required some thought given the stereotypes that metal is indiscernible noise – rabid screaming and cacophonous guitars coupled with pummeling drums – metal can/is far more than that. The proof? – Deftones’ latest album Gore, which features both the expected cues of metal as well as more unexpected surprises. Yes Gore definitely has the raw blood, but there are also kinder, gentler moments as well.
Deftones commence Gore magnificently with single “Prayers/Triangles,” which is equally poetic and vicious…devilish! “Prayers, laid on the line / you will never bee free…triangles, placed in your mind / you will never be free.” Guess frontman Chino Moreno wasn’t kidding when he sang, “There’s a new strange / godless demon awake inside me…”
“Acid Hologram” follows consistently, characterized by jagged guitar and bass riffs and led by Moreno’s powerful, angst-laden vocals. The key lyric is clearly “smother me in shapes,” which recurs throughout. As hard rocking’ as “Acid Hologram” is, “Doomed User” is arguably Gore’s most ferocious, maniacal moment. Balance isn’t the M.O. as the angular guitars are beastly; a perfect complement to Moreno’s biting vocals (“There, went your time / say goodbye, now leave here / my fuse has expired / f**king die, just leave here…”)
“Geometric Headdress” lacks stability initially, thanks to asymmetric meter. Much like tracks preceding it, it doesn’t miss a beat. Rather, it keeps metal heads everywhere head banging. If “Doomed User” and “Geometric Headdress” seem to lack ‘dynamic contrast,’ the brilliantly conceived “Hearts/Wires” clearly atones, opening enigmatically and showcasing a surprising, refreshing poise. No, Moreno hasn’t gone soft in the least; by the chorus, he’s back to his raucous, spirited form (“Break through / collect the wires / and writhe in your heart / mine ‘till the end”).
“Pittura Infamente,” which translates to Infamous Picture, manages to balance praise and surefire blasphemy. Regardless, the oxymoronic sentiment makes it standout among the elite. The other thing that makes it tick? It is intense, as is follow-up “Xenon” which thrives off sheer tension. “(L)MIRL” takes a page out of “Hearts/Wires” initially, though with a more foreboding tilt, and doesn’t retain the softness.
It should come as no surprise at how savage title track “Gore” is – it wouldn’t be fitting any other way, right? Every hit feels like a stab right in the heart. Penultimate record “Phantom Bride” takes a step back, at least compared to the frenzied, flipped out nature of “Gore.” Like “Hearts/Wires,” the use of dynamic contrast and a musical approach is a pro. “Rubicon” concludes expectedly ‘excitedly’ (“You cannot face the crowd / all by yourself / embrace the power we have / the record’s ours to break…”).
All in all, Deftones deliver one of the year’s more intriguing efforts with Gore. Yes, it’s predictably loud – aren’t all metal albums? – but the fact that Deftones don’t just throw every guitar riff at you fortississimo throughout all 11 tracks is highly respectable. In other words, there’s nuance, thoughtfulness, and, yep, that thing called musicality. On-point? Definitely.
Favorites: “Prayers/Triangles,” “Doomed User,” “Hearts/Wires,” “Pittura Infamente” and “Phantom Bride”
Deftones • Gore • Reprise • Release Date: 4.8.16