Deftones are undoubtedly one of the most enduring success stories of the mid to late-90s nu-metal explosion; the Sacramento, CA, 5-piece are arguably as popular now as they’ve ever been. It’s not been an easy ride though, with delayed album releases, personal problems and of course the tragic coma and death of founding bass player Chi Cheng making things particularly tough in recent years.
While preceding albums Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokan retained much of the excitement and dynamism from the earlier releases that made Deftones such a big name, 8th album Gore is unfortunately nowhere near as engaging. Creative differences and disagreements within the Deftones camp about the direction of the music on Gore had been widely reported leading up to its release, with guitarist Stephen Carpenter apparently being particularly displeased with several aspects of the album. Having given Gore a few listens now, I can sadly say that he’s not the only one.
Credit where credit’s due though, there are plenty of positive elements on Gore that can stand proudly alongside much of Deftones’ earlier work. “Doomed User” conjures up memories of Grammy-winning “Elite” from White Pony, with a punchy post-thrash riff that will work well live. At the other end of Deftones’ musical palate, “(L)Mirl” is a great example of the shoegaze/post-rock side of their sound, with lush, evocative guitar melodies blending well with the vocals; if nothing else, Chino Moreno’s still got it. The album also ends pretty well with the one-two punch of “Phantom Bride” and “Rubicon”. Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell pops up to deliver a great guitar solo that dovetails well with a good, atmospheric chorus on the former, while the latter hearkens back to the heyday of nu-metal, when Deftones built a strong reputation of blending intricate, thoughtful melodies with the genre’s more standard elements.
These few tracks aside, there’s not a great deal to write home about elsewhere on the album. “Hearts/Wires” is an introspective number, but lacks any kind of hook to sustain the listener’s attention, whereas “Pittura Infamante” contains a distinctly uninspiring, droning riff; this is where Stephen Carpenter’s alleged boredom and dissatisfaction is most painfully apparent. Elsewhere, we have various shades of atmospheric post-rock, industrial and nu-metal elements with the occasional positive moment (“Geometric Headdress” has an alright chorus melody, and the title-track has a good heavy riff), but the overwhelming feeling, I’m afraid, is that this is a very DULL album. Occasional good moments do not a good album make; there just aren’t enough ideas here to sustain an entire album.
I’m someone who’s enjoyed much of Deftones’ earlier work, so this is not an attack on their general style; it doesn’t bother me that they’re arguably more introspective and less in-your-face than several other bands of their generation. But they have done much, MUCH better than Gore in the past. Hopefully, by the time Deftones come to record their next album, the creative differences they suffered here will have dissipated and they’ll be back to doing what they do best. Regrettably, Gore is a generally forgettable album that is far from essential listening; NOT recommended if you’re new to Deftones.