Staring over the band photo on the back of Deftones new album, Koi No Yokon, it's nice that they look normal. Nothing to hide. Still, it's hard to believe these guys have been around for almost 25 years when most of their peers have either faded into obscurity or became Dubstep impersonators. What’s remarkable about Deftones is that they fail to unimpress. With each new release the band becomes more aware and refined. Koi No Yokan is their best work since White Pony.
The music created by Deftones seems to live in its own paradox. How can a band achieve a higher level with each new release? Why can’t more artists do the same thing? What’s keeping those from breaking their own boundaries and expressing more than the sum of their parts?
Going back to their 2010 release Diamond Eyes, Deftones charged forward with an album full of reactions and consequences when faced with harsh reality. It was a wake-up call not only for the band, but for the fans as well. It was personal, sometimes dreadful, and yet satisfying all in the same. For what the band went through from around 2003 to 2010, it’s hopefully a humbling experience.
With Koi No Yokan, the amalgamation of Deftones' finest traits is finally met. There’s the hushed vocal mumblings from Adrenaline, the heaviness of Around the Fur, the euphoria of White Pony, the rawness of self-titled, the atmosphere of Saturday Night Wrist and finally, the groove and steadiness of Diamond Eyes.
Opening track “Swerve City” explodes with riff-heavy bombing and mellow vocals from frontman Chino Moreno. He’s on point and it’s never a dull moment when he sings. “Romantic Dreams” comes second and it’s an album highlight. The arrangement of the chorus is effective in a very catchy way with highs and lows accompanied by the nice ebb and flow of the guitars from Stephan Carpenter and Moreno. Lyrically, this is some of the most upbeat and loving of the band. In contrast to some angry parts, the optimism and desire of the words chosen is a nice reflection of Moreno’s life. This segues nicely into the meaning of the album title, which is a Japanese term for the feeling that a relationship will evolve into love after the first meeting.
Another album highlight is the transition from song-to-song. Things fade into the other only to be immediately picked up and let down in a swoop. "Romantic Dreams" leads into the heaviest track on the album, “Leathers,” with desperate back-and-forth vocals giving the song an emotional depth of the Grand Canyon. “Poltergeist” is another heavy fling courtesy of Sergio Vega on bass and Abe Cunningham’s drumming, while “Entombed” has a flair for lo-fi production and Team Sleepiness thanks to Frank Delgado’s minimalist approach.
If the first half of the album was a rolling journey, then the second half is a vacuum in space. Epic tracks such as “Tempest,” with its lyrical awakening (for Chi Cheng perhaps?), and “Rosemary,” in of itself a case of mystic realms; separate the rest of the album with more atmosphere and complex arrangements. It’s a thrilling ride into the stratosphere only to come back down calmly and straightforward with closer, “What Happened to You?”
And there you go. Deftones finish off 2012 with a creation that’s been lurking in the deep. Time doesn’t need to tell us anymore about the band. Everything that’s been said has been said. Right now it’s just nice to know that they are still with us and still thinking, still living, still creating…