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Deftones - 'Koi No Yokan' Review

Deftones Deliver a Heavy, Dazzling Set

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deftones koi no yokan

Deftones - 'Koi No Yokan'

Photo courtesy Warner Bros.
A bold and explosive collection of songs, Koi No Yokan continues the sonic strategy that Deftones began on 2010’s Diamond Eyes, evolving from a merciless alt-metal band into a more sophisticated, dynamic but by no means less aggressive unit. The propulsive energy remains, but on Koi No Yokan it’s supplemented with an intricate musical palette that produces rich, dizzying layers of sound. Trippy and ferocious in equal measure, Deftones remain one of our most rewarding rock bands.

Carving Out Their Own Sound

Since putting out their debut, Adrenaline, in 1995, Deftones have figured out how to sharpen their approach, learning to balance heavy riffs, frontman Chino Moreno’s anguished vocals, ambitious musical shadings, and lyrical maturity. The alt-metal scene that helped birth Deftones has mostly faded into obscurity, but they’ve proved to be their own entity, confidently following their muse without hesitation. Like with Diamond Eyes, Koi No Yokan works so well not just because of the quality of the songwriting but because of the variety of approaches. At a time when the idea of the album as an art form feels more and more antiquated, Koi No Yokan stands in defiance of the iTunes era, its emotional journey ebbing and flowing over the record’s 11 tracks.

A Cinematic Sweep

To use a baseball analogy, Deftones are like an expert starting pitcher, able to hurl a flame-throwing fastball but then confuse the batter by tossing a well-placed curve or breaking ball. Koi No Yokan works in the same way, changing tones for maximum dramatic effect. The towering beauty of “Leathers,” the intense fury of “Poltergeist,” and the cosmic sweep of “Entombed” are dazzling on their own, but when they segue one into the other, their contradictory approaches create a friction that adds extra drama to each track. Though it would be inaccurate to call Koi No Yokan a concept album, it shares with Pink Floyd gems like Dark Side of the Moon a cinematic grandeur that has all the tension and cliffhangers of a three-act film. As good as any individual moment is on this record, the album has a cumulative power that suggests a band at the height of their powers, easily transitioning from the dreamy hard rock of “Tempest” to the pure thrash of “Gauze.”

Moreno Shines

As a lyricist, Moreno still prefers the oblique line to the concrete expression. But rather than coming off as a pretentious poet or maddeningly vague, he manages to conjure powerfully evocative images. On the planetarium rock of “Rosemary,” he describes what sounds like a metaphysical journey through space, which ends up feeling like a proposition for a romantic getaway writ large. And on “Entombed,” Moreno returns to a favorite theme: describing a love affair with such intense language that it’s impossible to know if it’s bliss or torture. (The shimmering keyboards on the track don’t clear up anything -- they’re both icy and utterly gorgeous.) Moreno can still wail with the best of them, but he’s quite adept at shifting from breathy to feverish in his delivery, perfectly mimicking the music’s nimble hairpin turns. And yet, he never stands about the music: Almost 20 years after their debut, this quintet -- now with Sergio Vega on bass for the ailing Chi Cheng -- remain a cohesive unit drawing strength from one another.

'Koi No Yokan' - Bottom Line

Some might have tired of Deftones’ approach after all this time. (Or, they may grumble that the band members’ assault has slightly softened.) But whether it’s the barnstorming opener, “Swerve City,” or the light funk applied to the album-closing “What Happened to You?” Deftones have lost none of their ambitious, urgent nature. To find an album this heavy and this beautiful at the same time is an exciting, rare thing.

'Koi No Yokan' - Best Tracks:

“Entombed” (Purchase/Download)
“Tempest” (Purchase/Download)
“Swerve City” (Purchase/Download)
“Leathers” (Purchase/Download)
“Rosemary” (Purchase/Download)

Release date – November 13, 2012
Reprise

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