Deftones are back sporting 9-string guitars, seagull sound effects and tighter songwriting.
Looking back at my glowing review of Gore, I was probably a little generous. While the alt metal stalwarts’ last album initially blew me away with how pretty and hypnotic it was, I haven’t returned to it since 2016. The tracks were all very slow, with little to no infectious hooks or riffs. Even metal needs decent earworms.
Ohms by comparison is a much more energetic and immediate record. Chino explores the whole impressive breadth of his vocal range. In doing so, he delivers some of his catchiest hooks in years from the harmonised crooning of ‘it’s all an illuuuuusion’ on ‘Ceremony’ to the snapped out screech of ‘touch it!’ on ‘Radiant City’. Guitarist Stef Carpenter has meanwhile been let off his leash, delivering some of the band’s most aggressive riffs since Diamond Eyes (he's got a 9 string guitar now). The distorted dissonant squeals of ‘Error’ have a noise rock vibe, while the juddery guitars of ‘Urantia’ and ‘Radiant City’ sound like something Meshuggah might come up with if they weren’t allergic to 4/4 time signatures. It’s all a lot less atmospheric and a lot more in-your-face.
There are still brief moments of ambience such as the outro of ‘Pompeji’ (which consists of soft guitar swells and some guest vocals from a flock of seagulls). There’s also the long hypnotic closing instrumental section of ‘The Spell of Mathematics’ with its slinky bassline and rolling percussion. However, for the remainder of the running time the music is all hi-octane. This might upset fans of Deftones’ more graceful side, but personally I feel these energetic headbangers have a lot more replay value.
Beyond the seagulls, the band aren’t doing anything new on this album, however they have refined their style to put out some solid songs. Nine records into their career, it’s the most I could hope for.