“Shedding your skin, showing your texture
Time to let everything inside show”
– from “Leathers”
Rebirth. Revival. Renewal. Call it whatever you want, but Deftones have it. The dreamy alt-metal band almost didn’t, though, after 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist left critics and fans underwhelmed, and bassist Chi Cheng’s still-rehabilitating auto accident left their then-upcoming album Eros in limbo. But in 2010, they made a remarkable return to the music scene with Diamond Eyes, an album released on a new label with former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega. The band exhibited a new sense of direction from this built-up emotional energy and seemed ready for carnage.
As I stated in my Top 5 Albums That “Could Have Been” article about the indefinitely postponed Eros, since these tragic events, the band has gone on to finally harness each of their individual member’s strengths and construct a unified vision and sound. But as someone who has followed the band since the beginning of their Maverick label days and been witness to the Diamond in the (very deep) rough that resulted from the aforementioned obstacles, I find it hard to deny that the 2006 wake-up call gave Deftones the necessary push to focus on the tighter song craft and experimental ventures that will put them on the fast track to reclaiming their former glory.
With that said, Deftones continue their current successful stride with Koi No Yokan, which actually manages to do Diamond Eyes one better (just when you thought that wasn’t possible). I’m happy to inform you that Koi No Yokan — the band’s slickest, most immersive, and most supple outing since 2000’s White Pony — is the best album from Deftones in years and quite possibly the best in their entire career.
Deftones waste no time at all on the album, plunging the listener head-first into their thickest-sounding track to date with album opener “Swerve City.” Densely layered like the atmospherics that surround it, the song’s riff is loud and fragile and so eager to break open to reveal its light, which eventually happens when Chino Moreno’s always-lofty vocals enter and the instrumentals fog. The production of the mix is particularly masterful in capturing each band member’s contribution, shaping a high-octane opener into a satisfyingly focused effort that recalls the title track off Diamond Eyes, meaning that those anticipating Deftones would continue to sound more like their most recent iteration will find themselves at ease.
But that’s not the track’s only allure; there’s also a glowing balance to its abrasiveness, this ability to generate a pulsation from its heartbeat-like song structure that, in hindsight, sets us up for and represents how the album’s overall flow will play out — a thematic and internal concept I rarely see in albums anymore. “Romantic Dreams” immediately follows with a noticeably slower tempo and (title-appropriate) ballroom-dance arrangement, only to segue into the unsuspecting drift that opens and dives us right back into the heavy and enormous single “Leathers.” The teeter-totter patterning of harsh versus soft sounds that is reflected both within the individual tracks and in the track list as a whole is a pretty ingenious calculation on Deftones’ part, ensuring a lasting experience that brings definition back to the word “album.”
And even though most of Koi No Yokan has prepared listeners for the Deftones of post-2010, they aren’t afraid to hearken back to their older selves on the album as well. “Poltergeist,” the fourth track and a clear album highlight, is a thrashing and blood-boiling metal stunner, evoking the best of Deftones’ loudest tracks from their discography (off the top of my head: “Lotion,” “Elite,” “Rapture,” “Royal”). It’s also Deftones at their tightest; the track delivers exactly what it has to, exerting the perfect amount of power and crunching change-ups. It’s the “Now you see it / Now you don’t” track of the album, exhibiting a texture and mechanical sensibility that is markedly that of Deftones and what made them such a unique act to begin with.
“Entombed” and “Rosemary” dip back into softer territory, albeit in the same ethereal and ambitiously experimental manner that made tracks like “Sextape” or “Change (In The House Of Flies)” such career highlights. Deftones have always been known to envelop listeners with atmospherics, and the tracks allow us to enter their void with sensual and steady arrangements that include singular guitar scaling, emulated rhythms, and reverberated vocals. When the tracks burst out of the atmosphere and their volumes rise, the occasions are revelatory and expansive in a way that — because of their grandiosity — will linger in your mind long after the song is over.
Deftones released the track “Tempest” as a single before Koi No Yokan’s release, and while the track worked well enough on its own terms, sandwiched between the wonderfully constructed “Graphic Nature” and seismic “Gauze” (featuring some of Chino’s best vocal work), the song has much better footing. It’s essentially the crux of the album, melding together both the harshest and softest elements of the band’s discography to create a middle-ground that works well within the confines.
“Goon Squad” and “What Happened To You?” comprise the album closers, with “What Happened To You?” marking the most experimental of the Koi No Yokan’s tracks, in that it’s also Deftones’ “poppiest” song, with varying, almost relaxing production and instrumentation that is borderline “against type” for Deftones. But given that Deftones have already established the prior forty-eight minutes of the album with tinkering soundscapes and differing pathways, the track is most certainly welcome.
It’s an interesting choice for a closer, though, working like a light dimming switch that starts at the highest capacity but slowly and gently lowers itself before the light disappears completely. As listeners, we’ve experienced a flowing, natural, and exuberant piece of Deftones up to this point, and “What Happened To You?” treats us by being the last sentence to a novel we’ve come to thoroughly enjoy over its journeying course.
Like Diamond Eyes proved to us before, Deftones are back at their creative peaks, performing tracks that leap into new territories as well as dig back into older ones, resulting in an extremely wholesome and satisfying return. But Koi No Yokan isn’t just a repeat performance — it’s the work of a group of ultra-talented individuals who have put their differences aside in order to fully realize and guide their energies from the emotional complexities that have wrought them into something flourishing and highly memorable. The differences between the albums rest in the group’s ability this time around to deliver their power from the moment the album begins to the time it ends, cementing a new era of Deftones that I hope continues to keep them in the top tier of musical entities.
Deftones’ Koi No Yokan is available on November 13th via Reprise Records. Tickets are still available for their show at the Hollywood Palladium on November 21st in support of the album as well. Check out remaining U.S. tour dates below.
Deftones U.S. Tour Dates:
11/14 – Palladium Ballroom – Dallas, TX
11/15 – Sunken Gardens – San Antonio, TX
11/17 – The Marquee – Tempe, AZ
11/18 – House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV
11/19 – House of Blues – San Diego, CA
11/21 – Hollywood Palladium – Hollywood, CA
For more info: