Masterpiece 2.0Since I’ve been listening to the Deftones for such a long time, I feel like I must begin with a small history lesson. If their seventh album is your first experience with the band, you could not make yourself believe the Deftones were--seventeen years ago--considered a lesser alternative to Korn. Korn has since lost all relevance (ironically while making conscious shifts to stay relevant), but the Deftones managed to be perhaps the only nu metal band to garner widespread critical acclaim as well as the acceptance of (at least a large part of) metal’s core audience.
There is a story arc here that has repeated itself. Around the Fur marked the band’s first experiments into carving out their own territory. It was followed by 2000’s White Pony, long considered the band’s masterpiece. They spent a decade struggling to repeat that level of success. 2010’s Diamond Eyes seemed to be a new Around the Fur, exploring industrial metal-cum-Neurosis. Koi No Yokan perfects that formula, becoming the Deftones’ new masterpiece. Yes, it’s at least as good as WP.
What has marked the band since the beginning is their clever, catchy riffs and interesting take on rhythm. That has never changed, and it’s present here as well (“Romantic Dreams,” “Poltergeist”). Over the last couple years, though, they’ve found a common thread with Neurosis. Those incredibly heavy riffs are augmented by lush soundscapes, woven into the music so expertly that you might not even notice them unless you’re really paying attention. They now share with Neurosis a mastery of dynamics, beautifully shifting from heavy to soft to something else and back again.
The thing about Deftones which is truly unique in metal is their sensuality, thanks mostly to Chino Moreno’s soulful, off-key vocal style. That has been maintained, and has, in truth, never been better. That is the key element which elevates the record far above its predecessor. Diamond Eyes was plagued by a generally weepy, sad mood, but that has been corrected by a much stronger balance and more powerful Moreno performance. There are still a couple soft ones (“Entombed” and “What Happened to You?”) but they are kept at an appropriate level.
If you have ever written the Deftones off in the past, either because you don’t trust anything from a post-nu-metal band or because you think they’ve lost their spark, it is time to reconsider.
The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars
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