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Ohms Marc Burrows , September 24th, 2020 08:37

Deftones are back with a record of raw, concentrated Deftonage, finds Marc Burrows

“We’re surrounded by debris of the past” sings Chino Moreno on ‘Ohms’, the title track to Deftones ninth album. Behind him, guitars grind forward like the walls of the trash compactor on the Death Star, and a crisp, rolling groove powers the whole thing, prompting those of a certain mindset to screw their face into a gargoyle grimace as they, like, really feel the music, man. Possibly while playing along on an imaginary drum kit. Above it all Moreno soars and growls and damn well emotes. Deftones have made their album again.

The Sacramento band, now well into their third decade, settled on a formula with 2000’s White Pony, in which the alt-metal riffage of their scene-stealing Around The Fur gave way to Moreno’s post-Millennial melancholy (or, as many noted at the time, Mellon Collie, Smashing Pumpkins’ grunge-era highpoint of gen X angst, tenderness and super-heavy riffage providing something of a template). It would be a few years before the term “emo” got locked into its current definition of kohl-eyed punk, but Deftones were already soaking those towering walls of distortion with the soggy aftermath of Moreno’s manly weeping. It made for quite the glorious noise. It still does.

In the twenty-years since White Pony, the band have occasionally leant further into the riffs, or pulled back into the melancholia, but have mostly, just about, more or less, give or take, continued circling the formula they established at the start of the century. It’s no bad thing. They do it really fucking well.

Ohms is Deftones concentrate. The band’s shortest album to date – just ten tracks clocking in at less than 45 minutes – focuses down thirty years of Deftone-ness (Deftonosity? Deftonage?) into a concrete manifestation of their appeal. Terry Date, the producer of the band’s first four records, is back behind the desk for the first time since 2003, the minimalist cover art comes from Frank Maddocks, a collaborator since White Pony itself, and the first song we’re presented with, ‘Genesis’, has a refrain (“Balance! Balance! Balance!”) consciously echoing the “Shove it! Shove it! Shove it!” hook from ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’, the band’s 1997 breakthrough. There’s some of the synthy oddness of 2016’s Gore, a dash of the brick-in-the-face heaviness of 2003’s Deftones, and much of the soul-searching, reflective and occasionally livid poetry regularly to be found in Moreno’s lyrics (”I slipped into the cloak you left – I fiddle around in the ashtray to find your cigarette pinkish/red. I light it and take a drag”). The “debris of the past”, indeed.

Thankfully this isn’t just an attempt at re-writing their own greatest hits. That aforementioned echo of ‘My Own Summer’ might match the younger-Moreno’s words in syllables, syntax and sound, but the sentiment is that of a much more developed man. All the Chino of the twentieth century could do when presented with an obstacle was tell you to “shove it!”, here he’s using the same phrasing to tell us that he’s “finally found balance”. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s recently-found enthusiasm for custom-built nine-string guitars insures that even when Moreno is soaring at his most melodic on ‘Uranatia’, even when Frank Delgado’s synths are doing their best, as on the transition between the majestic ‘Pompeji’ and ‘This Link is Dead’, to evoke the Blade Runner soundtrack, Carpenter’s tone remains ridiculously heavy. This is a band having their cake and eating it, Moreno fulfilling his Billy Corgan fantasies (the “picture perfect straaaa-aaaaaa-aange” moment on the chorus of ‘Urantia’ is a homage so blatant that you can’t help but smile) with Carpenter still having the space to swing his ludicrous guitar like a sledgehammer. It’s emotive, heavy, satisfying. It’s Deftones. They’ve made their album again and, honestly, you wouldn’t have it any other way.