In some aspects, Ohms finds Deftones going back to their roots. Perhaps not musically – there’s as much of Adrenaline and Around the Fur’s DNA present here as there is anything else, in that the quintet draw upon their vast back catalogue as reference points – but certainly from a creative standpoint, as this is the first time they’ve had Terry Date behind the boards since 2003’s self-titled album. Rekindling that partnership provides an ideal combination on the Sacramento-based band’s new record.
Importantly, the quintet – Chino Moreno, Stephen Carpenter, Frank Delgado, Sergio Vega and Abe Cunningham – are all engaged and raring to go. The metallic attack of ‘Error’ is proof of this, surging forward and pulling the listener along in its wake, with Carpenter’s chugging lead guitar the star of the show. If he felt slightly removed on 2016’s Gore, he wastes little time making his presence felt on its follow-up. The eerie, atmospheric opening of ‘Genesis’ gives way to a punishing riff as he, bassist Vega and drummer Cunningham lurch forward in unison. The band are experienced when it comes to delivering album openers as mission statements, and kick things off with aplomb, the song’s explosive ending crashing into ‘Ceremony’ with not a second to spare.
The one-two punch that gets the album underway showcases a band that are rejuvenated – to quote its opener, they’ve undergone rebirth, in a sense, and approach the record with the sort of youthful enthusiasm that recalls those early days and their original bond with Date. That’s no mean feat for a band in their fourth decade of existence – longtime fans will be glad to hear that their inventive spirit remains. “I have no patience now for expectation” talismanic frontman Moreno roars on the oppressive ‘This Link is Dead’, breath catching in his throat as the song crests to a cathartic crescendo redolent of their self-titled album, guided by Carpenter’s pulse-quickening tremolo and Carpenter’s versatile rhythms. Expectation is something that’s followed the band around since the release of massively influential third album White Pony, but they’ve no issue shrugging it off – these 10 songs are fluid in their exploration of tone and tempo.
‘The Spell of Mathematics’ bursts into life with noisy urgency and a towering wall of sound that ebbs and flows instinctively, there one moment and gone the next, Carpenter and Vega involved in a musical tug-of-war as the emphasis alternates between guitar and bass, the song swept along into a mostly-instrumental coda that’s held together by Cunningham’s expressive drums – its compositional approach indicative of the record’s collaborative nature. Each member gets their moments in the spotlight, whether it’s Delgado bringing home multi-movement highlight ‘Pompeji’ with ghostly keys that are duly obliterated by the scorched-earth intensity of ‘This Link is Dead’, or Vega’s energetic performance on ‘Radiant City’ opening the song up and allowing Moreno’s distinctive vocals to swoop in for its rocket-fuelled chorus.
The album’s structured in such a way that these songs flow into each other, whether through well-executed transitions or through some tracks picking up right where their predecessor left off – room to breathe is offered within these chameleonic songs themselves, rather than elsewhere, making for a seamless 46-minute listening experience. If the scene-setting ‘Genesis’ encourages the listener to take the plunge, the title track is the moment of impact; it’s more straightforward in its execution than much of what’s preceded it, but it finds the band going out on a high, anchored by bright melodies and fitting sense of finality. “Time won’t change this / This promise we made / We shall remain” Moreno declares before the spotlight once again settles on Carpenter, bringing the record to a close with a reprise of its triumphant major-key riff.
With Ohms, Deftones forge a path forward into a new decade with moments of bone-shaking heaviness and celestial beauty, firing on all cylinders and refusing to rest on their laurels, tweaking their signature sound with experimental touches and approaching their latest work as a self-contained piece. The world they create on it is compelling, latching on to unpredictability as they display a willingness to mix things up throughout – they thrive in a state of constant flux, and their ninth album finds them sounding as fired-up as ever.