When dipping a toe into a Deftones record, one must remember not to drown – with over 20 years of experience, these guys have mastered the art of thick, endless alt-metal soundscapes, making it near impossible not to sink away into their sonic oblivion. The long-awaited Ohms is no different; weaving shoegaze-y tempos with rough, metal vigour, Ohms is hypnotic in a uniquely Deftones fashion. Deeply immersive from start to finish, this densely layered feat is guaranteed to burrow its way into your mind and stop you in your tracks – whether you want it to or not.
Opening track Genesis immediately sucks you in; a buzzing, darkly atmospheric soundscape welcomes you, before a crash of instruments and Chino Moreno’s iconic vocals hit the scene. The track speaks of Phoenix-like rebirth, to ‘climb out of the ashes’, and the sound truly reflects this, feeling like a maturation of previous album Gore’s sound. Ohms is a definite step up from previous work, while still harnessing Deftones’ signature ‘Yin and Yang’ sound – a gentle pace with a contrastingly fierce instrumental edge.
Deftones’ use of contrasting technique renders each track almost sickeningly emotive – the drowsy pace melts your bones, while the sharp, violent instrumentals put you on edge. Urantia highlights this beautifully, with it’s constant, almost erratically present snare in the background, while calm guitars and echoing, soothing vocals take the foreground. The slow, narrative flow contrasts with the tensely constant snares, almost manifesting in a physically anxious reaction while listening. The Spell of Mathematics also showcases the group’s ability to flawlessly switch between darkness and lightness, presenting the listener with poetic, echoing, layered calls of ‘I believe your love…’ before cutting back to Moreno’s pained screeches.
Moreno’s ability to convey emotion through his vocals is almost harrowing. At times his screeches almost feel like a sensory overload, frazzled calls commanding your gut to twist and churn. Tracks like This Link is Dead are impossibly harsh, with heavy, metal instrumentals, yet Moreno’s raw yelling makes the listening experience almost painful – in a shockingly complex and compelling way. As he calls out things like ‘I FEEL LIKE FIRE, BUT MY HEART IS COLD’ or ‘I’M ALL FILLED UP WITH TRUE HATRED’, you can’t help but wholeheartedly feel the weight behind the words. People often praise bands for making a sad song sound happy, but far less time is spent appreciating a band that can sonically represent sorrow and pain – and Moreno’s vocals truly enable this to be achieved.
The instrumental and vocal complexities of this album also gorgeously complement the themes explored. Religious themes are explored throughout – primarily through a Nihilistic lens. Error takes on a heavier feel, questioning why ‘we follow in your grace…’ with an under-lay of angered serpents ‘writhing beneath’. Pompeji is perhaps the most notable example of Religious Nihilism coming to a head – again, capturing the band’s signature dark/light contrasting. Harsh calls of ‘JESUS CHRIST, YOU WATCH US FAIL…’ create a painful, tormented soundscape, before jumping to calm seagulls and soothing waves. The contrast is jarring to say the least – truly evoking the confusion one might feel in the face of Nihilism, in the face of questioning what your role in life is, and what role a Deity may play in it. The final portion truly allows the instrumentals to speak, morphing from natural, environmental sounds to whirring, eerie synths. The jump from natural to unnatural feels like the Nihilistic leap, as well as harking back to the album’s title – the Buddhist understanding of ‘Om’ suggests perfection and wholeness, while ‘Ohms’ are a unit of electrical resistance. The search for perfection, in this sense, is perhaps halted in the face of contemporary society’s push for advancement – in the search for more, we have, in a way, become less. We can no longer feel whole.
Ohms is an album that is guaranteed to mature with each listen. Every track is layered to perfection, a tiny journey within itself, where each note is designed to make you feel – be it peace, woe or torment, each note is fine-tuned to evoke a response. Deftones have certainly crafted a thing of beauty here – this is an album that was worth the wait.
Ohms is out now. Get it here.