Deftones: Gore | Virgin Media
Deftones: Gore

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There are those who hold that the very idea of arty heavy metal is a prime oxymoron to rank alongside tall midgets and great German comedians.

Well, bands such as Tool and Queens Of The Stone Age have comprehensively disproved such prejudices, but Deftones have always struggled to equal them. Over their 20-year career, it has been hard to shake off the suspicion that beneath the Californian group’s alt-rock accoutrements lies a mere meat-and-potatoes metal band.

Naturally, that’s not how they see it. Reflecting on this, their eighth studio album, vocalist Chino Moreno says this: “Out of respect for Pac, Big, Stevie, Michael, Hendrix, Gore is ONE of the greatest albums. Not THE greatest; just one of.”

It is possible there may be statements richer in vainglorious self-delusion made this year – but not many. Moreno’s claim is simply impossible to square with Deftones’ eighth studio album, which sounds remarkably like a long-in-the-tooth metal band grinding out bogstandard riffs, chucking in a few reverb pedals and wilfully oblique lyrics and hoping for the best.

Opener Prayers/Triangles strives for import but sounds pretty hollow and bombastic, while Acid Hologram showcases their much-vaunted shoegaze side but still has far more in common with Metallica than it does Slowdive. This is largely down to Moreno, whose concept of conveying sensitivity is to yowl like a man with his balls caught in a mangle.

Deftones: Gore

Their downtuned guitars chug-chug-chug with textbook faux-malign intent but sound like they are playing themselves, on autopilot. Doomed User is apocalyptic hokum that Slipknot would be proud of. Geometic Headdress is a heads-down, hard-riffing sludge-fest every inch as unappealing as its name.

Like so many arrested-development US metallers, Deftones’ default mode is non-specific, indeterminate angst. If the U2 of today were to turn their hands to heavy metal, they would sound like (L)Miri or Phantom Bride: huge, declamatory, scrabbling for the stars, but lacking genuine emotional connection.

Wherever they may be, Pac, Big, Stevie, Michael and Hendrix can rest easy. Gore is the sound of a band out of ideas.

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