Friday, December 07, 2012

Deftones: Koi No Yokan (2012)

Masterpiece 2.0

Since 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

Buy Koi No Yokan


  1. I wrote them off in the past, not because of either of those reasons, but because I just don't care for them at all. I bought White Pony when I was still into a lot of nu metal bands and the album never clicked with me at all. Mostly Chino's vocals annoy the hell out of me. While there has been the occasional decent song that I kind of enjoyed, it's never been enough to get me over the vocals.

  2. I suspect you are not quite the same breed of metalhead as most people who read this site, even though 2/5 of the reviews for the past month or two were written by you. (Thanks, by the way. I need to figure out how I'm going to schedule that big backlog of other reviews you wrote.)

    Considering that you don't like the Neurosis approach to songwriting, and you don't like Chino's vocals (which I've always found to be amazing), I wouldn't recommend this to you. To anyone else, I would.

  3. I actually didn't like this album but loved everything that came before. I see this album as extremely self-conscious attempt to maintain the pop-like sensibilities of Diamond Eyes and keep themselves relevant to mainstream music fans. I feel like even the Deftones were surprised with how well Diamond Eyes was received by big media outlets. This album is a shoddy attempt to write a Diamond Eyes part 2. Almost all of the songs fall flat (pun intended) to me. Even down to the faux japanese name (Koi No Yokan is, if anything, a phonetic pronunciation of Japanese characters), Deftones are tying to assemble a hip yet hard-eged, radio-friendly persona.

  4. Interesting. We agree that it seems to be rooted strongly in Diamond Eyes. I personally thought that album was weak overall, but with just a couple incredible tracks. Where we diverge, it seems is whether this is a shoddy DE2 re-make or the perfection of the DE formula. History will ultimately judge, but you know where I stand.