In their 32 years on the scene, Deftones have traversed a plethora of genres; nu metal, art rock, progressive rock and alternative metal, among many more; often actively intending to subvert a genre classification. Their loyal fanbase have remained by their side across their now nine quite different releases. Their latest release Ohms sees the Sacramento five-piece return to a heavier sound, having worked with legendary producer Terry Date, who produced their seminal 2001 album White Pony, as well as many other metal bands of the modern era.
The group started on Ohms back in 2017, when Chino Moreno said after eight albums he would be taking a step back from writing and giving the reigns to guitarist Stephen Carpenter and drummer Abe Cunningham. Fans and critics alike expressed dismay at this new path they were taking, as much of the group’s success can be attributed to the juxtaposition of Moreno and Cunningham’s vastly different styles of writing. But despite this concern, Carpenter and Cunningham’s writing minds meld to create a phenomenal journey on Ohms.
“Genesis” thrives as the opener to the album, giving listeners a taste of what’s to emanate on the remaining nine tracks. Opening with an unsettling synthesizer, it gradually builds to reveal the rest of the band, who come in strong. It marks the debut of Carpenters’ custom nine-string guitar, which gives this track and the others on Ohms a bigger, stadium feel. We’re then taken back to an earlier Deftones era with “Ceremony”, a stoner-rock anthem that wreaks with angst from Moreno, who is often unforthcoming about lyrical content, but with lines like, “I’m leaving you tonight, it’s not fun here anymore,” it’s clear that there is strong emotion behind the vocals. But the song feels over before it truly gets anywhere – with a simple song structure, it definitely leaves the listener longing for more.
Before moving into a progressive metal sound, “Urantia” begins with a Carpenter-penned guitar riff that is quite reminiscent of groups such as Slayer and Slipknot, who have both worked with Ohms’ producer, Terry Date. “Urantia” deals with Moreno’s struggles, something he’s never shied away from; “I’m losing it… we’re losing it,” he wails.
“Error” comes around next, which opens with nu metal stylings; the contrast of the drums and guitar being quite evocative of groups like Limp Bizkit. It once again gives the listener that sentiment of angst, something that Deftones are able to bring to fruition so well. The concluding minute of “Error” breaks down and each instrument successfully builds back up to construct an epic outro.
“The Spell of Mathematics” succeeds as a midway point for Ohms. The five-piece cohesively work to provide a wall of sound unlike any other track on the album, which could be mostly credited to Carpenter’s nine-string. This Tool-esque track doesn’t let the vocals lead – all instruments have time in the spotlight, furthering this wall of sound. This carries over to “Pompeji” which effectively mixes dream pop with alternative metal. Seagull noises are layered over the slower sequences, calming the listener, which really emphasises the impact of the heavier, darker motifs the song deals with.
This dark, unsettling theme is revisited in “This Link Is Dead”, with an unfamiliar time signature and repetitive riffs, it is definitely the darkest song on Ohms. Once again, this is exemplified through Moreno’s vocals, “I’m filled up with true hatred, and I relate to no one,” he howls. Yet another different sound comes through strong on “Radiant City”, beginning with a post-punk staccato riff, the track develops into a hardcore field complete with Moreno’s signature screamo vocals and deep, drop-tuned guitar, staying true to a heavier, more energetic sound Moreno has sought after this time around.
“Headless” feels like a filler track, it doesn’t really leave a lasting impression; it fails to sit apart from the rest of the album and could have easily functioned as an outro to “Radiant City”. No new lyrical themes appear to be dealt with, and the song hesitates to travel from the musical themes it starts its journey with.
The five-piece redeem themselves on the conclusion to Ohms, which is the title track. Deftones provide the listener with a taste of the nine different lyrical and musical themes they have experienced across the album. Similar to that of a closing musical number, it successfully sums up the journey the audience has been on. With a thrash metal style introduction, it quickly moves to a progressive metal verse, then into a dream pop style chorus, completing with a major key riff that functions as not just a conclusion to “Ohms”, but a satisfying conclusion to the entire album.