There are certain bands that evolve and remain relevant as the tides of music wax and wane over the years and decades. I consider Deftones to be that kind of band, and with their latest release “Koi No Yokan”, they continue to set new standards for themselves. I’ve been a big fan since “Adrenaline”, and over the years they’ve managed to stay atop my frequent playlists, even if I didn’t consciously realize how much I was listening to them at the time.
Adrenaline and Around the Fur are without a doubt, fantastic albums. I even covered “7 Words” when I was in a band way back in the day sporting pork chops, corduroy pants, and a beanie hanging out of my back pocket. It was about a year after they released “Saturday Night Wrist” that I became conscious of how much I had been listening to their self-titled album, and SNW. But it wasn’t until Diamond Eyes came out that it became apparent that these guys were hitting new strides and evolving, after nearly 17 years after the release of Adrenaline, into something entirely new like a Phoenix from the ashes. In a way, it was, as their bassist Chi Cheng had been seriously injured in a car accident while they were working on their sixth studio album titled “Eros”. It was put on hold indefinitely, and in the meantime, Diamond Eyes was the result of their renewed effort after the accident. The Apple ITunes store named the album the “2010 Rock Album of the Year”.
Koi No Yokan builds tremendously off of Diamond Eyes, blending their signature atmospheric rock and ethereal vocals with their old-school style that conjures up memories of songs from Adrenaline and Around the Fur. They have managed to seamlessly blend these two styles into a sound that is uniquely Deftones, and also unique to their discography. It’s as if they have found the sound they were always destined to have, and the future seems brighter than ever for the boys from Sacramento, CA.
“Leathers” is a perfect example of their evolved metal roots, and Chino’s melodic, soaring vocals that creates beauty with the hard charging chords. They have mastered the “Beautiful Metal”, somehow conjuring the hardened spirits of metal past and orchestrating them to a melody that simply wouldn’t have existed back during their Adrenaline days. White Pony really began exploring Chino’s vocals, but it would be years before they would be able to perfect both to create the music we get now with Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokan. Chino continues to amaze and surprise me with his evolution, retaining his signature singing style throughout.
If you want the example of what Deftones has truly evolved into, the song that takes you into the heart and soul of what the band has become, fire up “Entombed”. This isn’t an example of their best metal, or the best of their experimental side, it’s just the sound of their evolution perfectly done. Their opening track, “Swerve City”, is the Deftones we’ve been accustomed to in recent years and mixes heavy, driving riffs with Chino’s signature melodic parade that leads us all into the rest of the album. Along with “Leathers”, “Tempest” was one of the two singles released for the album. Chosen wisely, as both provide a true taste of the album, offering curious listeners a glimpse into the heart of the music and what you can expect from the rest of the album. “Tempest” builds slowly, drawing you into a dream-like world, then sets you off with an old-school riff, overlaid with Chino’s lamenting chorus that never comes off as some depressing ode to self-loathing. Instead, he manages to deliver the lyrics in some epic way, as if we’re listening to the lament of something greater. If Chino were to channel his pain from the near-loss of Chi Cheng, it would come as something not only the band experiences, but the entire Deftones fan base. To me, Chino manages to capture the sorrow of something on a grand scale, rather than personalizing the angst. It never feels trite, and his melodies never come off as if he alone suffers.
If Deftones had released Diamond Eyes under a new band name, they would be considered set to release another decade of great music, with Koi No Yokan a knock-out sophomore effort. Instead, this is their 7th studio album over a period of 17 years and are considered old war horses by now (which in turn, make me feel damn old). If you’ve never listened to Deftones, now is the time. You won’t hear them on the radio, and you won’t see them on the MTV Music Awards, but they may be the best music you aren’t listening to.