Gore. What is it good for? Well in the case of the Deftones’ eighth album quite a lot, actually. Emerging from a five-year hiatus after the slow-burning Koi No Yokan it employs compelling atmospherics, clever use of harmonies and majestic dissonance only been hinted at on 2006’s spellbinding Bob Ezrin-produced Saturday Night Wrist.
While SNW served as the band’s compositional high-water mark thanks to the deft playing of Chi Cheng, the band seemed to side-step to a comfort zone of raw power and edgy nocturnal riffs following the larger-than-life bassist’s 2008 car accident, hospitalisation and (eventual) death in 2013. So Gore is a milestone for the band’s second incarnation, on the strength of its songs and complexity of the writing.
The moody opener ‘Prayers/Triangles’ is impressive and straight out of The Cure’s playbook circa Disintegration with its submerged bassline and shimmering guitar work. But by the time it opens up, you can catch echoes of The Cult, Swervedriver and The Misfits as it ever-so-gently snakes its way from weirdo love song to threatening attack – all in just three-and-a-half minutes.
Another element that makes the album so beguiling is its deceptive timekeeping. Credit should go to stickman Abe Cunningham for turning in his most mature display to date, allowing the tunes to unfold while he prods them along masterfully with a minimum of fuss. And shhhhhh, but some of his syncopations are downright jazzy at times. Other than on the title track, of course, where he capitalises on being given a bit more space to properly let loose.
In many ways, Gore bears a strong resemblance to vocalist Chino Moreno’s recent side projects – be it Crosses, Palms or Team Sleep – which were always heavy stylised if occasionally lacking in substance. This may explain why guitarist Stephen Carpenter was so unconvinced if he should, or even could, execute the ideas that Moreno and the band’s sonic tinkerer Frank Delgado desired when they reached the studio with precisely zero songs.
But you’d never guess it because Carpenter’s playing is absolutely immense. From the title track with its crackling monster riffs, to ‘Doomed User’, where he channels the spirit of passed Slayer axeman Jeff Hanneman, or on the elliptical Hearts and Wires with its nod to the delicate fingerpicking of Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour.
Regardless of their hiatus or the studio troubles, the album sees the band play more convincingly as unit than ever before. Combined with their most gutsy songwriting and burgeoning maturity this is an essential listen for fans and newcomers alike. Or as Moreno sings on closer Rubicon: “And the crowd goes wild / Goes wild!”
Buy: Deftones – Gore
Live: Wembley – June 3rd