Photo Credit: Frank Maddocks
Ohms, the Deftones’ latest album in four years (and ninth studio album overall) opens with “Genesis”, a track that immediately alters the listener to what they’re about to embark on. The song starts out with a definite calm-before-the-storm feel, before we get, well, the storm, which in this case appears in the form of the group’s familiar brand of nu metal. Lyrically, the song also sort of lets the listener know what they’re in for: “Climbing out of the ashes // Turning time inside out // We’re miles beyond the sound.” Words that are ambiguous, sure, but also powerful in their own way.
The follow-up cut “Ceremony” takes a fairly similar approach, but also introduces the aspect of the band’s sound that reflects early ‘90s grunge. “Urantia”, by contrast, gets pretty much straight to the point and showcases their more melodic side, offering up some nods to pop-progressive rock as while as ‘80s new wave. “Error” is anything but, not just instantly commanding the attention of the listener with another grunge-like attack but is framed with a simple but captivating hardcover riff throughout the song. The track also successfully illustrates the impressive vocal range of longtime frontman Chino Morino.
Despite this, Morino continues to be satisfied with his vocals being situated fairly low in the mix, a practice established by other progressive hard rock bands in the ‘90s (and arguably popularized by Tool). The rest of the band – guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bassist Sergio Vega, keyboardist Frank Delgado and drummer Abe Cunningham – can do no wrong. “This Link is Dead” helps to keep the listener’s interest in the album alive in the second half with a tight rocker that features the studio “trick” of vocals sounding like they were recorded through a filter (a bit overused, but when it works, it works). Unlike the aforementioned Tool, however, Deftones keep everything to the point, which helps them better get across what they’re trying to convey musically. The longest song on the album, “The Spell of Mathematics” (great title) even manages to create an epic feel without overstaying its welcome, at under six minutes.
On album closer, which also happens to be the title track, the lyrics are nicely simplified, if not exactly optimistic: “We’re surrounded // By debris of the past // And it’s too late // To cause a change in the tides… Yeah, time can’t change this // It’s how it’ll stay.” It could be argued that this is not the message that the world needs in 2020. However, the fact that it’s also the most musically upbeat track on the record could be the Deftones’ way of presenting their own counterpoint. It’s hard to contemplate that the Deftones have now actually been around – just on record – for twenty-five years, with their debut album Adrenaline having first gotten rock fans pumped back in 1995 (this technically makes the Deftones eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Ohms is already a commercial success, having gone top five in both the US and the UK, which suggests that the album and the band’s established sound will help to carry them well into their next quarter century.