The latest LP from Deftones is here. Their string of releases during the 2010s may have been divisive for fans, especially for those who were deeply invested in their older material. But I don’t think the same will be true for Ohms. This 10-track offering is dense and heavy, with not a single dull moment in it. The band keeps it dynamic, full of the grittiness that one can expect from a Deftones record, with the creativity that has made their sound unique.
Chino Moreno’s gentle and dreamy musings expertly weave with guitarist Stephen Carter’s aggressive guitar soundscapes. Fans have always been bent between these two strong creative forces in the band, as they tend to dictate and skew the past releases into polar opposites. This time there is no need to worry. There’s plenty of both for everyone.
The guitar work and soundscapes are the highlights of the album. Synths take up a lot of the atmosphere, with chunky riffs at the bottom end that could pummel through concrete floors. It’s a sound that beckons back to 90’s nu-metal and alt-rock, handled with finesse and mastery like it has finally arrived to its natural conclusion.
“Genesis” opens the LP with a declaration of reinvigoration and rebirth: “I finally achieve / Balance, balance, balance / Approaching a delayed / Rebirth, rebirth, rebirth”. The band’s lyrics tend to be esoteric as always, but the theme of balance permeates through the whole collection. From the blissful strings layered with chaotic guitars in “Urantia”, to moments of love amidst the vitriol of “The Spell of Mathematics”, to the soft singing vocals and heavy growls of “Error”. All of these are carefully curated in equilibrium, making for a deeply engaging listen.
While the first half is full of grittier mosh-pit inducing moments, the second half is rife with hook-filled melodies and Moreno’s melodious performances. “Pompeji” is a masterclass in soft-loud dynamics. A re-imagining of the final moments for the citizens Pompeii, characterized by sections of calm that alternate with sludgy metal riffs. The song ends with sci-fi synth-scapes with sounds of seagulls and ocean waves crashing, suggesting the civilization’s descent into the depths. “The Link is Dead” is full of unnerving drone riffs that slowly choke Moreno’s filtered vocals, but he gives it a good fight. One of the many moments in the record where the singing matches the guitars in the amount of grit and aggression.
The album ends with its eponymous track. The riffs for “Ohms” may be the heaviest guitar sound I’ve ever heard from a new release. It’s both a look at the past and an evaluation for the future. For a group that has been around for as long as Deftones, evolution and reinvention is a constant battle, and I could definitely say that they’ve won this one.