Album Review: Deftones – Ohms

Deftones return with Ohms, an album charged with peerless power and precision...

Album Review: Deftones – Ohms
David McLaughlin

When you share a quarter of a century of recording experience and even longer than that as friends and bandmates, summoning the will to go back to the well to find something new to say can’t be all that easy. Something ‘new’ may even cease to be the point of the enterprise when you know each other so intimately, especially within a unit that boasts several legitimate master craftsmen. For Deftones, finding the sweet spots between compromise and balance, factoring in each member’s duties and creative inputs may be a more appropriate way of assessing the delicacy of the task at hand. It’s within that push and pull, that the aptly-named, tension-charged Ohms proves itself a fascinating entry into the band’s canon.

If you want powerhouse playing, well, that comes as standard now of course. Vocalist Chino Moreno’s got his signature shrieks and breathy punctuations down to a tee, too, with lyrics that tease, intrigue and skirt around specificity, creating an aura of mystique as per. Serpentine riffs and rhythms duel and whip up a sense of peril and panic, alongside offsetting atmospheric passages of lush electronics. The sum total reinforces the fact that Deftones operate in their own realm at this stage in the game – it’s a sound, it’s a feeling, and it’s something entirely theirs and theirs alone. The problem with existing in a league of one, however, is that the only point of comparison can be your own impossibly high past standards. Perhaps that’s why Ohms feels so warm and familiar from the off – like a greatest hits from a parallel plane of existence, yet dense enough to demand deeper exploration.

As heard on latest single Genesis, following Frank Delgado’s disarmingly soothing synth intro, they bound into the record with Stef Carpenter taking heads off, plucking another ominous, plundering guitar line from his armoury. It was on the self-titled first single and album closer, though, where a soaring, almost uplifting-sounding riff signalled something fresh and surprising from the Sacramento gang. On the eight songs in between you’ll find lots to love and ponder upon, with a planet of nuance to unpack. There’s loss, lust, religion and rebirth in the details, or at least hints of those themes anyway. Most intriguing may be the juxtaposition of the apparent soul-searching journey Pompeji embarks upon (complete with the sound of water – representing baptism? – in its final third), which bleeds into the jittery fury of This Link Is Dead, ultimately coming to the repeated mantra and none-more-nihilistic conclusion that well, no actually, ‘You’re on your own.’ Ohms may feel like a record you instinctively know because of its waypoints, but the destinations may only reveal themselves fully over time. If ever.

With a band so universally adored as Deftones are it’s almost an act of sacrilege to award their efforts with anything less than a perfect score, but while Ohms delivers on all expected fronts, it’s in the unexpected where things fall just that little bit short. The unerring familiarity, the lack of surprise, and the near-flawless balance struck between all aspects of the band’s appeal arguably works against it. You’ve seen them pull off all of these tricks before. But oh what tricks.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Glassjaw, Baroness, Tool

Ohms is released on September 25 via Reprise – pre-order/pre-save your copy now.

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