In 2006, Deftones released Saturday Night Wrist, an album that was met with critical praise but came during a tumultuous time. The album took two years to write and record, during which vocalist Chino Moreno went through a divorce as well as suffering through drug addiction. The band acknowledges that there were strained relationships during this time, although that anger, that discord, ended up fueling the music and creating something really special.
Fast forward to 2016 and the band is now on the verge of releasing their eighth studio album Gore. Much like Saturday Night Wrist, Gore sees a band that is at odds with each other. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter admits in an interview, “…I didn’t want to play on the record to begin with,” later adding, “When we were coming up with ideas and writing the songs, the stuff that was being written, you know, the other guys’ ideas, I wasn’t too interested in it. It wasn’t the style or the sound I was hoping we would take. It wasn’t what I was expecting or wanting.”
Moreno himself stated that there was competition in the studio. “Make records with Stephen. It’s pretty damned competitive. In a way, it’s a lot of this [referring to table tennis game,] back and forth. [Source]”
While both Moreno and Carpenter later explained that these comments may have been taken out of context, it’s impossible to deny that there is a tension on Gore. Alas, it doesn’t have the same powerful effect as it did on Saturday Night Wrist.
Let’s talk about some good aspects, shall we? The album sounds wonderful and there is a plethora of tones that make each song interesting aurally. There was obviously a lot of care and dedication in making each instrument stand out yet blend harmoniously together.
“Hearts/Wires” has beauty and feels honest. It’s a great example of a song that presents great songwriting as each passage flows from one to the other. “(L)MIRL” has a gorgeous, almost sublime opening that slowly and tastefully introduces dissonance. It’s a brilliantly structured song that feels mysterious and haunting. Clearly a lot of effort and thought went into this track, which moves effortlessly from one moment into the next. And “Phantom Bride” is another example of an absolutely fantastic piece that exudes the unique dreamy haze that Deftones are known for. It pushes the boundaries of what the band has done in the past and feels like a wonderful step forward. It also doesn’t hurt that it features a guitar solo from Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell. Unfortunately, these tracks can’t save an album that ultimately feels disjointed.
“Doomed User” is definitely aggressive and presents an almost thrash metal approach during the verse. However, the transitions between passages feels forced and doesn’t sit well. Unfortunately, this jarring feeling becomes a theme throughout much of the album, including “Acid Hologram”, which features moments that made me wonder if pieces of other songs had somehow mistakenly been copied in. And “Geometric Headdress” is especially frustrating because there are moments in that song that are absolutely wonderful but they’re placed in a song that feels like it doesn’t know where it’s going.
Additionally, “Xenon” feels like a B-side thrown on to pad the album’s length, which is a shame because I know the band is capable of writing amazing music. This song really nails that feeling that this album is a mix of them at their peak and of them not caring enough to really put forth the effort.
At the end of the day, Gore didn’t grab me the same way that Koi No Yokan or Diamond Eyes did. Those albums hooked me from the very first listen. I spun Gore multiple times and each spin I found it harder and harder to listen to the full effort. The songs aren’t memorable nor do they grab my heart like the band’s previous material does.
The Final Word: After two absolutely stellar releases in the form of Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokan, my hopes were high that lightning would strike a third time. Alas, Gore simply isn’t Deftones at their finest. It’s a mediocre release from a stellar band.