Deftones - Gore - Album Review
Deftones have always been a band built on compromise, on working around the clashing styles of their two main songwriting forces, Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter – one focused on ambience and the other on devastating riffs. The difference is so apparent that it’s not hard at all to pinpoint a ‘Chino song’ or a ‘Stef song’, and Deftones’ records usually succeed through this splintered, diverse dynamic. Every Rocket Skates has its Sextape, each Rats!Rats!Rats! its Pink Cellphone. Gore, the band’s eighth full length, appeared to be going the same way based on the media speculation regarding Stephen’s lack of interest. It seemed we were destined to get a Chino driven album with a few of Stephen’s riff-heavy songs jammed in to keep him sweet.
And you know - we sort of got that, almost.
Gore is a record built on cohesion of purpose and supreme focus which sees each band member shine in equal measure, each having moments through which to showcase their full potential but also working towards a greater whole. Largely gone are the extremities of the band’s sound, replaced instead with subtle peaks and valleys to create smooth bell curves rather than sharp lines. In essence, for the Meshuggah fans out there, Gore is this band’s Catch 33 in terms of how it approaches the reworking of a core sound around many themes to construct one long, bombastic piece. Musically though, it drifts further from the smash ‘n grab thrill-seeking formula of White Pony than ever before.
Stephen’s role on the album is the most heavily in question pre-release day, but each of the eleven songs here showcase his multi-faceted skill-set (despite him openly admitting that he’s not technically gifted). Whether he’s providing a vicious pulse on Doomed User, Gore or Rubicon, or thinking-man’s ambience on lead single Prayers/Triangles or Hearts/Wires, Carpenter’s role could not more astute or effective given his apparent dissatisfaction with the song-writing direction this time around. If anything, the lack of reliance on Meshuggahisms makes Gore bloom even more beautifully and organically than any of their previous records. The Jerry Cantrell guitar solo on Phantom Bride is a highlight, too, and lifts everything up into an unprecedented and gorgeous conclusion which should have hairs stood on end.
In a recent interview, Chino described the recording process for Gore, explaining that it was recorded from beginning to end with a great deal of effort applied to how it flowed and the ordering of the tracks. This was evident right from the get-go and resultantly is music which demands your attention. I imagine a lot of people will be put off because of the lack of immediacy which is a shame, but those willing to give this thing five to ten spins will be richly rewarded. Take Geometric Headdress, a song built around an abrasive, ominous build provided by the rhythm section plus synthesiser player Frank Delgado, which defies expectation at every turn and that, despite its short length, feels bottomless. This isn’t especially something which we’re used to from Deftones but gives the song much needed staying power.
Not since 2006’s mind-fuck, Saturday Night Wrist, have Deftones released something which I feel has the potential to grow with me substantially over time rather than wow me on a first listening (although Gore did do that, too). It’s the definition of a grower and, in 2016, is a powerful ode to the full-length format which many are abandoning for singular downloads or selective streaming. For this reason, Gore – with a lack of super-singles and immediate hooks – may pass the majority of rock fans by this year. Don’t be one of them; Deftones have just released a potential career best, a staggering twenty eight years after first putting plectrum to guitar. Believe the hype (but not Stephen Carpenter), it’s fucking fantastic.
Words: Ben Armstrong