Deftones, ‘Koi No Yokan’ – Album Review
The guiding principle of Deftones albums is the push and pull between singer Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter. That’s an age-old rock ‘n’ roll construct — the tension between singer and guitar player — and Moreno and Carpenter being at consistent sonic odds is what makes Deftones music so dynamic. They employ this technique on their new album ‘Koi No Yokan.’
It’s recommended that you listen to all Deftones albums, especially this one, in the dark, with the volume turned up, to fully absorb the layers of sound without distraction or interruption. There is so much more going on under the surface of those quiet-loud bursts and the exchange of energy between Moreno’s croon and Carpenter’s heavy artillery demands a deeper listen.
‘Koi No Yokan’ is erected on the aforementioned foundation, with Carpenter pounding out gritty, bottom-heavy, resonant riffery, while Moreno adds a bit of an androgynous touch, thanks to his clean vocals, which have always been indicative of his PJ Harvey worship. Moreno screams like a banshee, at times, but it’s his clean, pretty vocals which are way more interesting to Deftones fans. They are almost like an instrument unto themselves.
‘Koi No Yokan’ is a bloodied record that bares its claws.
‘Swerve City’ opens the disc, and is the get-it-out-of-the-way song in that it makes the point that the Sacramento, Calif., band is here to rock and retain its heaviness.
The lush ‘Romantic Dreams’ has a whimsical bend, with Moreno cooing “I wish this night would never end” over a Meshuggah-influenced gust of Carpenter riffage. That’s the case for much of his techy guitar tone, which anchors the album and makes it feel constructed of iron ore.
The dynamics aren’t just at play because Moreno and Carpenter face off musically. DJ Frank Delgado is also working overtime to spin those extra sonic flourishes into the mix, like the sound bites buried under that gnarly riff in ‘Romantic Dreams.’
‘Leathers’ has a ghostly, cinematic quality to the first few seconds, before it erupts into a torrent of screams and wails.
‘Poltergeist’ kicks off with handclaps and a engine-revving riff that could cause a 50-car pile up.
‘Entombed’ is the prettiest song on the record, with sweeping vocals and a shimmery tone. But that doesn’t mean it’s soft. It’s just swells with beats that sound like a thumping heart and there’s an electrical, Delgado-designed current that buzzes through the fade out.
‘Graphic Nature’ is melancholic, with chunky riffery, while the undulating single ‘Tempest’ has a melody line similar to that of ‘Change (In the House of Flies),’ which is the band’s biggest radio hit. It doesn’t sound like ‘Change,’ but it is from the same melodic family.
‘Gauze’ could cause an involuntary ejection from your seat, since it comes on with a full blast of noise.
‘Rosemary’ is a sweeping exercise in quiet-loud, Deftonesian dynamics and contrasts. It starts the final moments of the album correctly. It sends volts of electrical charges rushing through your veins.
‘Koi No Yokan’ is 11 tracks, so it doesn’t wear out its welcome or leave you wanting more, either. It’s a satisfying length and since the songs have such a thunderous guitar bottom end, it would tire you out if it went on for too long, so the band and producer cut things off at the right time.
Much of the underlying flourish, provided by Delgado, has a film score quality to it and could be cut up, dissected, re-arranged and used in noirish thrillers. No, we don’t mean slasher or horror flicks, either.
While ‘Koi No Yokan’ might not match ‘White Pony,’ which is the transitional and pinnacle album for the band that came out over 12 years ago, it has a similar spirit to that album and the self-titled release that followed it. In fact, if ‘Koi No Yokan’ had come out after 2003’s ‘Deftones,’ it would not interrupt the catalog’s flow.
Overall, if the Smashing Pumpkins were heavier, ballsier and angrier, they’d make albums that sound like this, since Deftones do have an alt-metal vibe. Moreno’s lyrics are often from-the-journal-page and stream of thought, making them entirely open-ended and capable of attracting the disaffected.
The album’s title is a Japanese term for the moment you know you will fall in love with someone, and the disc itself delivers more of what the band’s fans have come to love. Deftones already made that creative left turn a decade ago, and it served them well, so they serve it up again.