Mid-August 2020, and out of nowhere, Deftones dropped some heavy hints on social media of something exciting about to happen. Everyone assumed the teasers were pointing towards a new album, and it didn’t take long for this assumption to be confirmed. I was praying this would be a ray of light in these unsettling and uncertain times, but I suppose now more than ever highlights that we can’t be certain of anything (except death and taxes, of course).
I’ll admit I was a little underwhelmed when I initially heard the first single, ‘Ohms’. Underwhelmed isn’t something you want to associate with Deftones. I was desperately trying to like it, and you’re left wondering what’s wrong with you when you read the majority of fans online are absolutely in awe of it. It felt a bit like that episode in Friends where Rachel can’t see her baby in the ultrasound scan but everyone else can. I really didn’t, and still don’t like, the intro in the song. I hate the guitar at the beginning, which unfortunately rears its head again nearer the end of the song. It sounds pretty amateur. But once I tuned out of that and focused on the rest of the song, it really started to grow on me. The lyrics are supposedly about the environment, and have an air of both hopelessness and hopefulness about them. That’s exactly what Deftones represent for me, the contrast of hard and soft, loud and quiet, pessimistic and optimistic; in both the music and the vocals. Deftones’ bread and butter is the perfect fusing of off kilter atmosphere with impenetrable heaviness.
Ohms is actually the closing song on the album, but what about the opening track? ‘Genesis’ was the second song to be released before the world got to hear the whole album. This instantly felt much more like the hard-hitting, raw Deftones that I know and love. There’s something kind of comical about Chino screaming about how he’s achieved ‘balance’ whilst sounding unhinged, but again, that’s just good old Deftones for you. The lyrics suggest reaching authenticity in some way, perhaps amidst the world’s lies. The bass and guitar sign off in a particularly sinister way as Chino shouts ‘reborn’.
I’ve got a real soft spot for that metal-shoegaze sound and this album delivers on that front. ‘Headless’ and ‘The Spell of Mathematics’ both stand out; the latter featuring a mesmerising backdrop, which goes heavy on the dreamy at times.
‘Error’ is another standout track. It momentarily transports me back to the 90s, with its initial Freak on a Leash vibe. It’s not exactly a lullaby, but it’s got a slightly gentle feel which provides a little respite.
Of course it’s important to look forward in music, and there can be a danger of getting too caught up in nostalgia, but it did feel promising that Ohms was produced by Terry Date, who produced the masterpiece that is White Pony, as well as the band’s first two brilliant albums, Adrenaline and Around the Fur. You can certainly hear the return to that sound coming through in Ohms. I keep listening to the album expecting to come across a song that I don’t like, being a Picky Bastard and all that, but I genuinely can’t. I might not like every note of every song, but each song is its own, and each track has something that pulls me in. Ohms is almost Deftones perfection.
Words by Kim Fernley