Deftones’ ‘Ohms’ Is the Perfect Marriage Between Sublime Beauty and Aggressiveness

Photo Credit: Tamar Levine

This year has found Deftones between two landmarks; a tenth anniversary of the much-acclaimed Diamond Eyes, and the 20th anniversary of one of their defining albums, White Pony. Change has been a constant force of this band’s career – whether it be the loss of bassist Chi Cheng before the recording of Diamond Eyes or the urge to move past the nu-metal moniker in White Pony. Deftones have always found a way to either push internal strife or tragedy into artistic expression. 2016’s Gore was another album that marked strain within the band, particularly between lead singer/guitarist Chino Moreno and lead guitarist Stephen Carpenter – mainly because the album is on the more experimental side. It’s always been that push and pulls between the two dynamics of heavy and ethereal that have pushed the band’s creativity with every release.

Ohms, Deftones‘ ninth album and first in four years reinvested into their heavier side. However, this is not to the detriment of the moody and expansive sounds that they have incorporated since White Pony. All the linchpins of albums past have a place on this album. This album finds the band fully united and invested as a unit returning to work with producer Terry Date. The sad irony is that the last time they worked together was on the unfinished album, Eros. With the self-titled album, which Date also produced, there was an assertiveness in songs like “When Girls Telephone Boys” and an emotional thickness found in tracks such as “Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event.” These themes make a prominent return.

Ohms enters with ‘Genesis,’ a haymaker of an opener that seeks to establish Carpenter as one of the driving forces of the album right from the start. Within the context of the album, it makes sense that the band released this song and the title track as singles because they show the album’s lifeblood. A ten-track album is almost a far cry to have in release these days – but with Ohms, it provides snapshots of where Deftones have been – now with an older and wiser context. ‘Urantia’ combines the sludgy guitars of Carpenter, the melodic singing of Moreno, and the energetic percussion of Abe Cunningham into a song that develops into a combustive highlight at the end.

Even with all the aggressive elements, there is time to dive into the serene weightlessness with a song like ‘Pompeji.’ One triumph of Ohms is the balance. It’s within “Headless,” that has guitars that stalk the song like a hungry predator and then erupt into a celebratory chorus. ‘The Spell of Mathematics’ takes the listener away to a space of Cunningham’s percussion and claps before it alternates into a collision of instruments. It’s hard to mold metal, elements of shoegaze, new wave, and alternative rock music into something quantifiable. Deftones have been doing these things for so long, Ohms sounds and feels like a re-establishment of confidence.

Keyboardist Frank Delgado’s presence has a permanence throughout the album. He’s the first instrument you hear, has a sizable part in creating the mood on ‘Pompeji’ with synths, and adds depth to songs like ‘Error’ and ‘This Link Is Dead.’ The vocals of Moreno are just as nimble as ever. ‘The Link Is Dead’ hears him scream out “Thanks, you want action?/Yeah, I’m aware which form you think I should try” and at the flip of a switch, fall into his trademark melodic style. He can be the calming influence around the groove-infused maelstrom of “Radiant City,” prefaced with an infectious baseline from Sergio Vega.

32 years is a long time to test the longevity and psyche of a music collective. For everything they’ve been through, the universal odds have been against Deftones. All the splinters, divisions, and bruises may have divided others for good, but they seem to make this band stronger. Ohms is an album that inhibits you to contemplate and headbang, sometimes in the same song. It gives a greater appreciation for everything the band has done at this point and that they continue to deliver on with interest.