I'll go out on a limb and say there weren't many who thought the Deftones would still be around in 2016, let alone be relevant. With each release since their 1995 debut, Adrenaline, the Deftones have experimented with their sound. Slowly and subtly getting more melodic and moving away from their roots in "Nu-Metal" where bands like Korn have made their living. In 2000, Deftones released one of the most influential records of the last few decades in White Pony. It was a drastic change in style and paved the way for further experimentation by the band. Six albums later and the band are still expanding upon that foundation, with each subsequent release being more of an experiment than the last.
Gore is one of the best records Deftones have released, but that could be said about every album since White Pony. It's weird to think that a band so entrenched in metal could release a record in the Shoegaze genre, but much of this record has a dreamlike feel to it. It's slow, melodic and ethereal while maintaining the incredibly heavy guitar riffs we've come to love from Stephen Carpenter. Tracks like Xenon are perfect examples of this. The guitar work is relentless but still has the feeling of weightlessness. That's not an easy thing to balance.
Like so many Deftone records, the lyrics here are vague and up for personal interpretation. That's something vocalist and writer, Chino Moreno has always been excellent at. The familiar themes are here; substance abuse and how relationships can so often be painful are mainstays in Deftones records. But Gore, more than any other record they've released, has a feeling of longing. Which plays a perfect contrast to the overall sound of the record, which at times can sound unsettling. The vocal effects utilized on Chino's voice in Acid Hologram take his voice to depths I haven't heard from the band, giving the track a somewhat sinister tone.
Standout tracks Prayers/Triangles and Hearts/Wires show the band at its softest, fully allowing Chino's incredible vocals to carry the tracks while Frank Delgado's synths give the tracks a floating, dreamlike aesthetic. They're beautiful pieces, and are the Deftones at their best. There is very little for Stephen Carpenter to do on this record, which is a bit of a bummer considering he's one of the best guitar players working over the last 20 years. But tracks like Rubicon and Phantom Bride give him free reign. With each record, Carpenter threatens to quit the band because of the direction Chino wants to take them, and with each record they end up hating each other. It's this competitiveness and resentment that brings out the best in the two. Most bands would crumble under this sort of pressure (looking at you Blink 182...) but Deftones thrive here. They use every bit of energy and emotion and funnel it into their songs.
With Gore the Deftones have raised their own bar once again, releasing a record that hits on all the things that made us fall in love with them in the first place, while still showing they have enough left in the tank to redefine what a "rock" record should sound like. Here's to another 20 years of Deftones.