Deftones have been rocking their little cotton-socks off for over two decades, with eight studio albums documenting their aural growth as a band. By rights Gore should be album number nine for the Sacramento based alt-metallers, but the band decided to shelve an unreleased album, Eros, after bassist Chi Cheng was left semi-comatose following a motor vehicle accident in 2008. Understandably this incident had a major impact on the band, but it also seems to have sparked a renewed focus on the group’s art with 2010’s Diamond Eyes and 2012’s Koi No Yokan being the most coherent albums Deftones have released, while also representing a rising high watermark for the band in terms of quality. This is a trend that continues with Gore.
Lapping at the listeners ears with swelling feedback, lead single Prayers/Triangles opens Gore, and as you brace for an aural assault Chino Moreno’s croon greets you, gently supported by a sweetly descending melodic line from guitarist Stephen Carpenter, and rhythmically guided by Abe Cunningham’s drums and Sergio Vega’s bass. Just as you settle in for a softer song Cunningham whales on his drum-kit, Carpenter kicks in the overdrive, and Moreno lets loose his howl. This is the Deftones you paid to see, and it is clear why the band chose to tease fans with this song leading up to Gore’s release. Acid Hologram sets the stage for the shifting rhythms of the rest of the record and prepares the listener for second single, Doomed User, which kicks off with Deftones in full flight; all punk energy, palm-mutes, and gain for days. Doomed User almost rhapsodically drifts across sounds and styles, clearly demonstrating that Deftones don’t think progressive is a dirty word.
Geometric Headdress induces plenty of head nodding and foot tapping with its math-metal syncopations, which seamlessly gives way to the romantic Deftones sound that the band fully refined on Koi No Yokan, and the song effortlessly crossfades into the airy extended intro – provided by Carpenter and Frank Delgado (samples and keyboard) – of Hearts/Wires, another song which feints at being a softer offering, with hints of ISIS and Palms in the melodic and rhythmic play of the verses, but again becomes incendiary at the chorus, which is unable to contain the angst and tension. (L)MIRL spends two of its five minutes expertly creating an oppressive, paranoid, atmosphere that builds into singing guitar tones that calms the tension enough that a brief spasm right at the end is all that is required to restore balance.
The eponymous Gore is insistent rhythm built upon insistent rhythm, starting with a mellow, repeated, tone which is quickly overwhelmed by Cunningham’s high-hat and a faint, but chugging, guitar. Moreno’s vocals build from breathy and wistful to frantic and squealing, sometimes reflecting the music’s tension, sometimes running counter to it. Jerry Cantrell, of Alice in Chains fame, lends his guitar to Phantom Bride, with his lead work and tone fitting in perfectly, and sounding so natural, that it becomes possible to forget that Deftones are a guitar band driven by rhythms and riffs, not searing solos and screaming melodies. Rubicon finalises Gore in a rain of pounding beats and cascading riffs.
Cheng never fully recovered from the accident of 2008 and he passed away in April of 2013, barely five months after Koi No Yokan’s release. While Deftones had released two albums without Cheng in the line-up, it is difficult to believe that his death did not weigh on the band as they wrote and recorded Gore. Deftones could offer no better tribute to their missing friend than releasing their best album to date.