It was the perfect backdrop in which to absorb this 11-song behemoth of a record, which just may happen to be the Deftones’ career best.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. Yes, this is the Deftones – makers of White Pony, Saturday Night Wrist, Diamond Eyes, and so on. This is their 7th studio album, and (to use a trite phrase), the band seems to only get better with age – like wine.
The pulverizing riffery of the album-opening Swerve City kicks things off with authority, Stephen Carpenter’s coarse guitar licks matching up with Chino Moreno’s voice (which provides a stellar vocal hook in the middle).
However, it’s the twisty-turny, prog-rock flourishes of Romantic Dreams that makes it both one of my all-time favorite Deftones songs, but also one of the finest on this album (which is saying a lot). It’s practically bursting with emotive pull, changing tempo many times but somehow managing to stay structurally cohesive – and powerful. The stuff I said earlier about drifting skyward? This song does that, in musical form, the band managing to blend the subdued resonance of their quieter material with some of the chunkier riffs on the album. It’s heavenly.
Poltergeist brings back Moreno’s scream-shouting vocal chops, which does battle with a jarring riff while also morphing into a few different tempos itself. That’s one of Koi No Yokan’s most impressive quality – how the Deftones have crafted a set of songs that each exist in their own universe, tapping into the depths of the band’s pedigree yet charging forward with new touches (as Poltergeist’s vaguely electronic feel does).
The mellower moments on the album are some of the brightest. Entombed sounds like late-era Thrice mixed with Moreno’s side project Crosses, Carpenter’s guitar slowly ticking upward with the song’s subtle electronic accentuations sending the listener into a blissful state.
A percussive flurry and urgent, ominous tones (both in Carpenter’s guitar and Moreno’s voice) power Graphic Nature, while Tempest flows along in the middle of the album, a 6-minute blend of understated aggression that earns top marks.
Among the more chaotic tracks are Gauze and Goon Squad. The former is mosh-pit fodder not unlike some of White Pony’s more slamming numbers, but with Moreno again opting for singing rather than his razor-blade screaming voice. Goon Squad begins like a slow song, but don’t be fooled - this one’s a banger, again re-visiting the White Pony era (or even earlier) with its propulsive lead riff providing the groundwork for Moreno to channel his inner rage. The melody of the chorus plays off the verse much like Back to School (Mini Maggit) did, creating a particularly formidable one-two punch. Good luck staying still during this one.
Sandwiched in between the two aforementioned songs is Rosemary, a 7-minute trip to musical heaven. No, really, it is. Echoing guitars and shimmery production set the stage for the song’s brooding melancholia. Some of Moreno’s best singing comes in slow Deftones songs, and this one is a perfect example – he’s like a tour guide leading you through your dreams. By the time the riffs kick in and the song really gets going, you’ll be completely enveloped. Enjoy it.
By the time the album-closing What Happened To You? ends, you’ll likely find yourself pining to start it all over again. This band has already set the bar impossibly high for themselves, but this one somehow pushes them even higher into the stratosphere of perfection.
As hyperbolic as those last few words were, that’s what you’re left with after listening to Koi No Yokan. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of work, turned out by a band that simply isn’t content to stagnate.
It’s not required to listen to it in the backyard under the stars, but such a setting is highly encouraged.