Ohms by DeftonesRelease date: September 25, 2020
Label: Warner Records
I’ve been collecting Deftones albums since Around The Fur, but it’s only really in the last few years that I’ve come to truly appreciate their music the way I do now. Ohms is the Sacramento band’s ninth studio album. Steadily releasing quality records every four years since 2006, the band’s way with melody, infused with immense levels of noise, hits the spot with me like no-one else. With vocalist Chino Moreno’s superb singing style, the band have a unique sound, though it would appear some fans don’t always appreciate what they are presented with. The press release for Ohms amounted to nothing more than a request to not tell anyone I had the album as it’s so desperately sought, so I don’t have anything else to tell you other than Wikipedia says Stephen Carpenter plays a 9-string guitar for the first time.
Some of the interviews the band have been giving prior to the release of the album have hinted at a heavier sounding record. Their last album Gore didn’t appease everyone for this very reason. If you liked Gore’s predecessor, Koi No Yokan, then Ohms should be an album that pleases. Opening with ‘Genesis’ the waspish synth intro and Stephen’s tender guitar tones brings a warm air of familiarity. A squall of feedback is the signal for the rest of the band to launch head first into a heaving moshpit with Chino in full on shriek mode. We all know the blueprint of Deftones songs and a calming chorus eases the storm. Date’s production is top class with the dense guitars heaving and swaying as Abe Cunningham pulverises his drums with precise beats. The song builds to an immaculate crescendo, Chino layers up the melodies and switches between his soothing croon and wild anguished yelps to stunning effect.
After the choppy ‘Genesis’ the band settle into a teasing groove for ‘Ceremony’, there are massive drops into heavy riffs and to paraphrase a lyric from Gore, the crowd will go wild for this track. The swell of heavy guitars throughout generates heart palpitations and Chino shows no sign of age catching up with him as his voice is as strong as ever. ‘Urantia’ erupts into some heavy riffs but it’s a red herring as the song slips into a sexy slinky groove. Chino turns into his lounge lizard persona creepily singing “I slipped into the cloak you left, I fiddle around in the ashtray to find your cigarette pinkish/red. I light it and take a drag, I swear, I’m losing it”. The melody is sublime and this is what I love about Deftones, the band create an immense heavy sound while Chino brings serious soul tones from his various influences outside of metal. Special mention too for Sergio Vega’s bass which is deep and powerful throughout the track.
The first song to up the tempo is the bouncy ‘Error’ which has a pop-pop-pop drumbeat that allows Sergio to really execute some lethal bass. The song is possibly one of the most elastic and erratic songs Deftones have recorded, in terms of dynamics, as it switches up many different genres. ‘The Spell of Mathematics’ lurches into one of those off kilter mathy grooves, with an impossible timing, Deftones are notorious for, while Frank Delgado fires synth rockets over the brooding intensity. Chino ties himself up in knots before cutting loose in the slippery bridge, then soars in the blissed out chorus with the yearning “I believe your love has placed its spell on me, and I believe your love is the only thing needed to survive, I believe your love creates this space where we can breathe, but I believe your love beholds this sacred key to life”. The band collectively seek the urge to experiment with textures and atmospherics with stunning effect as the song fades to a close.
The atmospherics carry over into the start of ‘Pompeji’ before Chino launches a scathing “Jeeeee-sus Chriiiist!” to smash up the calm. The song’s verses are reflective and meditative and the last line leads directly into that startling bridge before the melodic chorus washes over you. Breaking into a passage of Van Halen synths and soothing sounds the song segues neatly into the fierce and chaotic ‘This Link Is Dead’. Savage with his delivery, Chino is angry and pumped, but bordering on the edge of collapse. Stephen’s guitars are acerbic and scorching and on this occasion, there is no relief in the chorus, the song goes for the throat and isn’t for letting go.
‘Radiant City’ is edgy and raw, like a track from Around The Fur, Chino is hunched into full on anguished/fury mode for the tetchy verse before the sweeping and melodic chorus wraps it’s self around you. Frank’s keyboards sky high over the mix adding a golden hour hue. Whirring keyboards crank ‘Headless’ into life, tender guitars shimmer and this is what separates Deftones from the rest, they shift in a nanosecond into a brutal groove as the guitars chug and churn with a gut wrenching twist. Chino coos “We’re entirely insane they claim, yet they’d like violate our brain waves.” and we melt into his hands.
As ‘Headless’ powers down into the sublime ‘Ohms’, a ghostly train sound rides over your head as the descending riffs drop like glitter from the sky. When that awesome groove kicks in and Chino sings passionately ”We’re surrounded by debris of the past, and it’s too late to cause a change in the tides, so we slip into our hopeless sea of regret, as I stare… through… the haunted maze in your eyes”, it is a thrill with every note. I didn’t know it when I first heard it but ‘Ohms’ is one of Deftones’ finest songs. A perfect synopsis of their sound, all crushing riffs and beautiful melodies, tenderness and brutality all wrapped up together. Chino bows out with a defiant life affirming “Yeah time won’t change this, this promise we made, and time won’t change this, we shall remain”. That insane riff winds to a halt and the ghost train reappears to drag us off into the ether. Awesome.
As a fan of everything Deftones do, this album pleased me greatly, albeit it took multiple plays for it to be completely absorbed. The band have reached a level of success now that allows them to try out different sounds and rock music fans’ spectrum of interest seems to have widened so that synthetic flourishes are acceptable. Chino’s much talked about love of bands like The Cure and Cocteau Twins brings in that element of tenderness and melody that compliments the metallic crunch and power the band create. With Ohms, Deftones have yet again created another excellent album of great songs that will fit in perfectly to an already immaculate repertoire.