Drama, drama, drama. If you caught any interview with Deftones in the lead up to the release of ‘Gore’ you could be forgiven for thinking this was a record born of conflict, full of songs of frustration and jealousy, played by a band on the edge. It was the light of frontman Chino Moreno versus the dark of guitarist Stephen Carpenter. It’s a simple and apparently still very effective way of ensuring some press coverage in the lead up to a new record. But there are no new fissures here, no great shake-up. ‘Gore’ isn’t a snapshot of a band falling apart, it’s a united front from a group in sync.
It’s worth remembering that there has always been some friction in the California outfit’s camp, it’s their one constant really. But it doesn’t hold them back, it’s exactly what makes them tick. Moreno’s style doesn’t clash with Carpenter’s, it compliments, and they merge to make perfect sense. Sure they might fight but let’s call it competition. It’s the reason these dudes are on their eighth album while most of their peers have disappeared.
You can hear the quality straight away. First track and debut single ‘Prayers/Triangles’ swells to a lush, warm chorus built to swiftly reassure that Deftones have lost none of their distinctive qualities, ‘Hearts/Wires’ feels brand new and familiar all at once, and if Carpenter unearths terrifying new low tones during ‘Doomed User’, then ‘Phantom Bride’ is among Moreno’s sweetest ever vocals. Elsewhere the band (despite the powerful personalities at its centre, Deftones have always been a proper band) expertly channel their soft-heavy groove until the title track contains the least subtle version of their trademark sound yet, jump cutting from glorious neon pop to downtuned, grinding metal. It absolutely shouldn’t work but it absolutely does. Yep, while this is one of the most atmospheric albums the band has ever released, the talk of it being post-rock is a little off.
Go deeper and there are layers, oh man are there layers. Carpenter’s work on ‘Doomed User’ might be aggressive but there are beautiful dancing lines of feedback in there too, Frank Delgado samples up an array of emotional swirls inside ‘Acid Hologram’, and ‘(L)MIRL’ is all hypnotic haze, a sinister but somehow also summery cocktail of bubbling percussion and electronic echoes that could be a lost movie soundtrack. Lie, cheat and steal but please listen to it through the highest quality headphones you can find.
There are few other groups that could accommodate all of these sounds and styles on one album and still have it make sense but here it just… works. And, like the pretty much the entire Deftones back catalogue, it’s guaranteed that ‘Gore’ will only grow and sound better with time.
Not everything is smooth sailing. The mix can be unforgiving, Carpenter’s guitars are occasionally brought so far forward that they chew through the band’s lighter touches, and the sequencing, not something Deftones have ever won accolades for to be fair, is off. ‘Prayers/Triangles’ is graceful and sweet but not a strong opener and the record sags in the middle a little. Also, that hanging final syllable on ‘Pittura Infamante’ is weird. But now we’re nitpicking and that’s how good ‘Gore’ is. It isn’t the best Deftones record (that’s still ‘Around the Fur’, fight me!) but there’s no drama here, just a layered, warm and welcome return from one of the most consistent bands of the last 20 years.