Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Genre: Alternative Rock/Metal
Deftones, a name that has undeniably made its way into the life of a fan of rock or metal in general, for better or for worse. Going through the band’s history would require an essay twice as long as this review will be with all the rumours, addictions and the additions of members as years passed. All you need to know is that Deftones are known for never making the same album twice: constantly evolving their sound into something else with every release… is “Koi No Yokan” a step in another direction again? Yes.
It felt an age since Deftones released anything new, but it’s only been over two years when they released “Diamond Eyes”. Two years prior to the 2010 release, a horrible car accident left bassist Chi Cheung in a coma, and instead of putting their talents to rest the band continued (while garnering moral and financial support for Chi and his family) with the help of Quicksand bassist Sergio Verga, who makes his second album with Deftones via “Koi No Yokan”. However, music is the business here…
To put it bluntly, Deftones have really managed to pull some astonishing feats on this album. Several songs sound like short soundtracks to crumbling of old statues that have finally fallen from time or stars ploughing into cities that have stood through thousands of years of civilisations; like nature the resetting of a score. Then others are some of the most sincere love ballads with a punch that you’ve heard in years. The overall sound is titanic, huge, colossal and any other synonyms for ‘big’ I haven’t included: it’s just massive.
What’s different? Well, Stef’s toned down the obvious Meshuggah-influenced riffs that appeared often in “Diamond Eyes” and has leaned back to style of the hard-hitters on “Saturday Night Wrist”, and it seems that Sergio’s presence is a lot more prominent too, and that his role in the band is a lot more relaxed and creative. Probably the most surprising thing in consideration of the overall sound is that Chino rarely screams on this album – possibly cementing it as the most vocally clean album in their discography to date. Otherwise, Abe and Frank provide their usual attributes to the sound, the former giving his standard powerful and catchy drums while the latter adds keys and moments of ambience to the mix.
Opener Swerve City starts at full pace – no soft introduction, no build-up, just a guitar riff that inspires nothing but high jumps immediately, but then smoothly transcends into an almost drive-at-night soundtrack with its smooth flow and Chino’s alluring vocals. The track just prepares you for what to expect for the rest of the album. Romantic Dreams has an old school alt rock feel, not far from the likes of their favourites Jawbox, and teasingly progresses into one of the catchiest choruses that Deftones have ever penned; which will no doubt have audiences at live performances weeping along to “I’m hypnotised by your name / I wish this night would never end”. Just a powerful track so early into the album that makes you wonder how can they possibly keep the it up.
Leathers starts of softly with some tingling ambience between a clean guitar notes and keys, almost promising a break from the energy of the first two tracks, but then the whole band jumps in and throws a heavy slab of aggressive riffs and generally one of the more metal sounding moments on the album, before dropping into a melodic chorus with the haunting “Shedding your skin / Showing your texture / Time to let everything inside show”. The song could easily have fitted in on “Saturday Night Wrist” too.
Next is Poltergeist, which opens with claps and a rumbling bassline, letting you know that you can expect the same high energy as the previous tracks. In fact, this track feels like it would be at home on “White Pony”, despite the polyrhythmic style of the guitar at parts. Entombed however is the first time where the band mellows out, reminiscing the mood and style of Sextape (from “Diamond Eyes”) with its seductive melody and eloquent chorus, featuring a nice play between synth-keys and drums during the outro.
Sixth track Graphic Nature returns to the aggressive style ,with jarring and slightly disjointed guitars, yet the melody is plentiful. Tempest is the first track to reach to over the 6-minute mark, filled with those driving-through-the-night feeling riffs while mystical lyrics flow over the top, especially with the chorus haunting “Turning in circles / Caught is a stasis / The ancient arrival / Cut to the end”. It’s just hypnotic in its delivery and oddly soothing even with the distorted guitars.
Gauze is yet another track that charges in with aggression as Chino sings warning messages over the top, but there’s no simpler way to describe the following track Rosemary other than if there was a song to describe the beauty of the Universe, this would be it. The sound is on such a grand scale that it feels like it weighs more than the Earth, which peaks with the enormous chorus of “Time shifting / We discover the entry / To other planes”, playing heavily on atmosphere.
Goon Squad, though starting with soft scrapes across clean chords, is full of spiteful aggression – especially with Chino’s opening line “I carve my name across your town when I’m set” and the later “Before we get down you should prepare your heart strings / To cut all the ties and watch the trends begin”. Final track What Happened To You? provides a smooth ending to the album, sounding like a hybrid between the styles of “Saturday Night Wrist” and “Diamond Eyes”, and Sergio’s bassline embeds itself into your memory, as Stef’s guitar sounds more complimentary than being the focus to the overall sound (which isn’t a complaint).
In the end, this may be the most consistently pleasing album since “White Pony”. Every track is memorable and addictive, and there’s nothing that spoils the album or seems out of place in the slightest. Instrumentally, Deftones have tightened the screws since the fairly rough “Diamond Eyes”, and it feels like the band may have been keeping their best riffs and grooves during the last ten years and saved them up for this album alone.
There’s no reason for the hardcore Deftones fan to be disappointed by this. In hindsight, after listening to this album, you might just question what they’ve been doing during the previous few releases, and not because they’re bad, but because you wonder why this album is so much more satisfying than the last few.
It’s been worth the wait.
Favourite tracks: Romantic Dreams, Rosemary, Leathers, Goon Squad.
Review by Rich Reviewz