rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Prayers/Triangles
02. Acid Hologram
03. Doomed User
04. Geometric Headdress
05. Hearts/Wires
06. Pittura Infamante
07. Xenon
08. (L) MIRL
09. Gore
10. Phantom Bride
11. Rubicon

Will "Eros" ever surface? Throwing fans a tease last year from the mythic album-in-waiting, the DEFTONES continue to leave a question mark hovering over its uncertain release. Instead, they pick up where they left off with 2012's evolved "Koi No Yokan" by firing a bullet strike at number two on the Billboard chart with "Gore". Itself delayed many times, "Gore" is being met with both praise and skepticism. Consider this review on the band's side.

As it's unlikely the DEFTONES will ever replicate the cynical street crunch of "Bored" and "7 Words" from "Adrenaline", fans still throwing darts at the band for moving toward an effervescent, shoegazing style of alt metal should get with the program or simply move on. The DEFTONES hit a wee bit of a quandary with its self-titled album from 2003 and "Saturday Night Wrist" thereafter (despite having handfuls of glorious tracks on each) following what remains its masterpiece, "White Pony". 2010's brilliant "Diamond Eyes" was the next logical step they'd been seeking from "Hole in the Earth", while "Koi No Yokan" recycled the band's core riffs with more alt luster befitting of its CURE adorations.

"Gore" thus continues this trend by regurgitating the DEFTONES's crunched-up leitmotifs with more concentration on vivacity to mask the band's inherent pugnaciousness and gravity, the latter exacerbated by the death of bassist Chi Cheng. Of course, the DEFTONES have made its bread and butter by glory holing violence—"Rocket Skates" from "Diamond Eyes" being one of the most horrifically joyous odes to nihilism anyone's ever written. Thus naming its new album "Gore" is an elegiac exclamation point for a band that, particularly in recent years, has uncorked grandeur amidst its coarse pitches. The choruses on "Acid Hologram" running with some of this album's most sinister slides, it's no surprise Chino Moreno, Stephen Carpenter and the guys turn the track into an ear-tickling wonderland before spilling drop-tuned bombs all over your canals.

By now, the DEFTONES are experts at kicking off an album with an attention-getter, be it the title track for "Diamond Eyes", "Hole in the Earth" from "Saturday Night Wrist", "Swerve City" on "Koi No Yokan" and, of course, "Feiticeira" from "White Pony". On "Prayers/Pinnacles", they reserve the detonations for the choruses, inviting the listener to swim in Stephen Carpenter's ether before dropping the band's hammers, as they do later with the bruising screamo choruses on the vet fan-pleasing title track.

You've heard the primary riffs on "Doomed User" more than a few times since the "Deftones" album, even while the band reached back further to "Around the Fur" by crunking and squawking the track up. Chino Moreno wails like a madman where he's supposed to, while summoning his gentler voice of reason on the choruses. "Geometric Headdress" and " (L) MIRL" whirl sweaty riffs while Chino Moreno shimmies vocally like a shaman, loosens his hinges on the anticipatory bridges (on "(L) MIRL" he cuts loose during the finale),then settles into placid choruses that, even hearing them schemed before, still shrewdly razzes "Gotcha!"

"Hearts/Wires" and later "Phantom Bride", featuring a guest appearance by ALICE IN CHAINS guitarist Jerry Cantrell, hail some of the most gorgeous chords and climaxes since "Sextape" from "Diamond Eyes". Yet, there's still a carryover moroseness (what Sergio Vega must feel in the midst of a bourgeoning yet mournful period for the DEFTONES) to these sonically beautiful pieces as there is a sulkiness behind the poignant sway of "Xenon" and the winding march of "Pittura Infamante".

"Phantom Bride" swings as gutturally despondent as "Digital Bath" or "Change (In the House of Flies)"making "Gore" a fascinating and subtly heartbreaking album with the band's spangled guitar and keyboard finery on parade. Leave the knife party at home; after two decades "Gore" finds the DEFTONES right where they should be. The band is a prime example of embracing the current trends as much as finding new, meaningful ways to rewrite its own scripts, and Chino Moreno remains one of the most stunningly tortured voices in this scene—his twittering swoons on the waltz-dropped "Phantom Bride" are indicative enough.

Author: Ray Van Horn, Jr.
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