Deftones were provided the quintessential comeback story in 2010, after rising from the ashes of Chi Cheng’s (eventually) fatal car accident and releasing Diamond Eyes. It put them back on the map both commercially and creatively, and still stands as one of the best albums of their careers. But that meant that there was more pressure on them than ever to follow it up and maintain the momentum they had gained, and in late 2012, we got the answer to that problem in the form of Koi no Yokan.
If Diamond Eyes hit the ‘reset’ button on their musical trajectory, Koi no Yokan is an album about expanding upon that fresh start. The band’s newfound ear for melodic songwriting and slick production (courtesy of Nick Raskulinecz) still lingers here, but this time Deftones chose to spread their wings musically. They sound prettier than they ever have before, with the lush layers of 8-bit inspired synth and the huge chords of Entombed creating an uplifting, yet floaty mood – or the sensual, groovy Tempest with all of its dramatic guitar riffs and sprawling ambient sections. What Happened to You? Is one of the band’s slowest, yet most gorgeous tracks, dreamily closing out the album on a wave of jazzy drum grooves and gentle guitar work. Then there’s Leathers, which is full of quietly burbling electronics for the first 40 seconds, until a wall of guitars and Chino’s trademark howl crash into you all at once. However, Rosemary steals the show, as both the band’s longest track to date and one of their most unique. Creating a roller coaster of a track that switches back and forth between heavy riffs and build ups, cryptic lyrics about time travel, and a moodly electronic outro, Rosemary is both adventurous and creative, showing that Deftones still have plenty of ideas left in the tank.
But a small part of me feels like they could have taken the experimentation a bit further on this album. For all those songs mentioned above, there’s also songs like Romantic Dreams, which sounds like half of a song copy and pasted twice to make a full track, or Gauze, which is a decently heavy track, but doesn’t particularly do anything interesting or unique in the context of their discography. Koi no Yokan is also the first Deftones album to be almost entirely free of full-on screaming. While there’s sections of fairly harsh vocals, Chino almost never achieves a full scream. I’ve never been the type to bash on heavy bands for switching to cleaner vocals, but I do think that Chino’s scream/sing dynamic suits Deftones’ blend of heavy and pretty sounds immensely, and sticking to just one part of that causes it to lose some impact.
But while some of the songs on this album may not be very special, or do much to move the band forward, the majority of it proves why Deftones is the only band still left standing from the nu-metal era. Their relentless desire to experiment and change up their sound is what keeps their music sounding so fresh even 20 years since their debut, creating a dreamy blend of crushing 8 string guitars and pretty synth work that is rarely found elsewhere. Koi no Yokan finds Deftones creating some of their most layered, adventurous work, yet finds balance by including some more straightforward, riff-focused songs as well. Nothing remains the same, and Deftones prove time and again that the path less traveled is the most exciting.
KEY TRACKS: Leathers, Entombed, Tempest, Rosemary