This crushing and expansive comeback makes it easy to see why Muse and Biffy love the metal fivesome so much
When Robert Smith died, the remaining members of The Cure did the only thing they could – detuned their instruments, employed a screaming banshee as their frontman and called themselves Deftones. OK, that never happened. But listening to the band the Sacramento quintet have evolved into since forming in 1988, it’s not such a crazy idea, such is their fondness for new wave atmos, disarming melodies and sadistic, low-slung riffs. Their seventh album ‘Koi No Yokan’ – named after a Japanese proverb meaning “promise of love” – comes 17 years after the powering assault of their debut, ‘Adrenaline’. It sees them rediscover the venomous snarl of their early years after 2010’s slightly limp ‘Diamond Eyes’, which the band made as they struggled to come to terms with a car accident that left bassist Chi Cheng in a coma. The reflection and experimentation of that record remains, but they sound more bloodthirsty this time around.
From the start, Deftones’ songwriting nous is obvious on ‘Koi No Yokan’, even if it isn’t the return to the melancholic sound or sublime character of their 2000 masterpiece ‘White Pony’ that people have been touting it as. Opener ‘Swerve City’ is every bit the dangerous change of direction its title suggests, freewheeling between sludgy mounds of guitar and airy melodies while singer Chino Moreno’s vocals writhe at its centre. The 39-year-old’s lyrics remain crucial to Deftones, providing lightness in contrast to the blunt force trauma of Stephen Carpenter’s dark guitar shreds. “Time to let everything inside show”, he implores on ‘Leathers’, the album’s thundering centrepiece. “Wear your insides on your outsides”. So guttural are his screams, you sometimes wonder if he might be about to follow his advice literally.
It’s one of the band’s most consistent listens. No song reaches the sledgehammer brutality of 2003 tune ‘When Girls Telephone Boys’ or the ghostly tenderness of 2010’s ‘Sextape’, but they settle into a mid-paced groove early on that allows their sumptuous textures to breathe. By the time the chug of ‘Gauze’ stomps into view destroying everything in its past like a guitar-limbed Godzilla, you’ll be utterly transfixed.
A good measure of Deftones’ importance beyond the world of metal in 2012 is that some of the biggest bands in the world consider them the blueprint of how a band should evolve. Muse snuck a cover of their 1997 track ‘Headup’ into one of their European arena shows a few weeks back, while Biffy Clyro have modelled their career progression on the way Deftones grew more expansive with each record. Going on ‘Koi No Yokan’ it’s easy to see why they’re so revered, even as they enter their third decade. It’s a shotgun blast of cranked guitars, bruising hardcore and canyon-sized choruses, and it’s mesmerising.