California alt-metal heads Deftones have proven that old age hasn’t tamed their raucous attitudes and propensity toward roaring riffs and startling volumes. With a romantic title (Koi No Yokan—Japanese for “premonition of love”) and a gorgeous cover, the entire packaging of Deftones’ seventh release reveals the concept of this vibrant new sound—sharp and angular, while glittering with vulnerability.
While previous releases may have served as a logical sounding board for Koi No Yokan, there are undeniable changes present in this adoption of melody and tameness. Sergio Vega is in full swing and being utilized to his full potential as longtime bassist Chi Cheng continues to recover from an accident during the recording of Diamond Eyes that left him in a coma. From these lineup tune-ups and mourning tragedy comes a newfound romanticism and optimism in Deftones usual onslaught of razor blade riffs.
“Swerve City” serves an attention-grabbing opener; with the booming opening riff pummeling through listeners and reassuring that no ground was tread softly in this album. The track grabs listeners by the shirt collar and throws them into a vortex of suspenseful guitar riffs and strained wails. Chino Moreno’s ringing vocals drape nicely over the choppy riff, maintaining melodic structure while still remaining powerful. Aggressive chopped drums and high octave trills in the bridge add versatility to the song.
Side stepping typical alt-metal conventions in favor of the road less traveled, the album continues with slow (by Deftones standards, which equates to about the same vigorousness of a brisk sprint) stunner, “Romantic Dreams.” Moreno does indeed touch on the quixotic with the tender delivery of lines like “I promise to watch and raise your babies.” The maturing quintet flaunts their experimentation with emotional exposure, a welcomed continuation of 2010 idealist-rock release Diamond Eyes.
Guitarist Stephen Carpenter squanders no time with tiptoeing behind math metal or dramatic build-ups—it’s an immediate tangle of guitars accompanied by Abe Cunningham’s angular percussion. A brief calm before the storm introduces “Leathers,” quickly tailed by an explosive beginning to one of the album’s more aggressive tunes. Moreno exercises his unrivaled ability to oscillate between the throat shredding wails and reserved melodies to much avail.
Stephen Carpenter’s heavy blankets of distortion occasionally muddle the innovative tunings that distinguish Deftones from their guitar-noodling contemporaries, but still retains their signature high-intensity sludge. This artistic integrity is most evident in “Graphic Nature.” The weighty riff overpowers Moreno’s vocals in a skuzzy, confusing mess, but muscles out with redemption that can be credited to a pleasantly metallic drum fills and Moreno’s glassy vocals.
Koi No Yokan seems to be engineered for parading Deftones’ newfound maturity achieved by hanging up the bloody knuckled aggression of career cornerstones, most notably, their debut album Adrenaline. But the rockers still manage to reminisce about their more blunt-edged days with the album’s lead single “Tempest.” Heavy on ambient vocals and cheeky rock hooks, the song is infectious while maintaining a blunt-edged appeal. Moreno exercises some artistic license with the questionable—albeit infectious—chorus, “I’d like to be taken apart from the inside, then spit through the cycle right to the end.” Once the song seems to be settling in a hesitant calm, Moreno unleashes a trademark shriek and drives the chorus through one final stretch, leaving listeners’ spiraling into a glorious tailspin.
The eleven-track album closes with “What Happened To You,” the album’s most melodic number, with Moreno’s liberally sweetened vocals and Carpenter reeling in his guitar riffery madness with a steady, bread-and-butter strum. The track’s poignancy and finality identifies itself as an appropriate closer but it serves as an awkward coupling with the acerbity of the album as a whole.
Deftones trudged along the straight-and-narrow track of contemporary alt-metal while incorporating melodic subtleties. This eleven-track expedition revealed an evolution of sound and desire to remain one of the pinnacle artists of their genre. Deftones prove that volume doesn’t always equate to anger by exposing the nuances of metal and the emotional tug-of-war that exists in loud rock. Certainly not bearing the same knuckle pounding force or creative solidity of albums prior, Koi No Yokan still houses some rip-roaring rock and a vibrant new sound.
Deftones – Koi No Yokan tracklist:
- “Swerve City”
- “Romantic Dreams”
- “Graphic Nature”
- “Goon Squad”
- “What Happened To You?”