Ohms By Deftones
*Originally written in September 2020.
If there’s one thing right this clusterfuck of a year we call 2020 did for me, it's that it reinvigorated my love for heavy metal, a genre I’ve been ashamed and judged for liking since my teen years. I got the chance to catch up on a lot of great albums and equally great artists such as Deftones. Matter of fact a few months ago I spent a week listening to them straight and talked about my favorite albums from their discography, which you can read here. Well, here we are now with the band’s ninth studio album Ohms and I can humbly say, never has the group sounded as heavy and as consistent in their three-decade-long career than now. Ohms perfectly balances the melodic and sinister sound that Deftones have been praised for, to create their best album since 2010’s Diamond Eyes. Ohms displays a furious yet ethereal, dystopian universe guided by the divine vocals of Chino Moreno and pummelling instrumentals that result in an incredible addition to the band’s acclaimed discography.
Reuniting with producer Terry Date for the first time in 17 years was a smart choice as Deftones have created their heaviest album for the first time since their self-titled album from 2003. Obscure drum patterns, heavy bass, and eerie synths on top of menacing guitar riffs permeate Ohms. The band has never sounded this vibrant in ever to be quite honest, here Deftones sound like they’ve finally peaked at their highest potential. Now using a 9-string guitar, Stephen Carpenter and bassist Sergio Vega can produce the sludgiest of riffs on tracks such as “Radiant City” and “Urantia”. Drummer Abe Cunningham shines on the last few minutes of “The Spell of Mathematics” while keyboardist Frank Delgado drowns each track with airy sounds and Blade Runner-like synths to create a vibe that is hypnotic and experimental as seen on the seagull sampling outro of “Pompeji”. Let’s not forget Moreno, who becomes the perfect balance of heaven and hell throughout the album. Trading the heavenly chorus of “Error” for rage-fuelled verses on “This Link Is Dead”. The latter of which sees the band in full pocket, creating a ticking time bomb of a track with anxiety-inducing riffs and distorted synths/vocals that’ll please any listener who thought Deftones went soft. I must also mention how consistent each track is with one another, all 10 songs from start to finish flow smoothly. Carrying the same heaviness throughout every song sequences with one another nicely. Starting off heavy then slowly easing its way into more melody-driven songs to close off the album. Hearing the band finally achieving balance is a welcome change after their overproduced and janky sounding last album, 2016’s Gore.
Lyrically, there’s no denying that the current state of our world has had an effect on Chino Moreno. Already known for writing heavily metaphorical and poetic lyrics, Ohms is no exception to the rule. Some might find his lyrics to be more cathartic than before, Moreno contemplates isolation and loneliness on “Pompeji” (“Locked in the core of the tower, I’m patient, in no hurry to leave. Life has been lonely, it might be forever.”). Throughout most of the album, he’s angry, whether he’s upset at the world or at a person is up for debate, but his anger is evident on the explosive opener “Genesis” as he screams (“I’m positive, there’s no sense to what I’m being sold!”). Or on the aforementioned “This Link Is Dead” where his rage gets the best of him (“I have no patience now for expectation, wow. Fuck this shit, leave me alone!”). On “The Spell of Mathematics” he’s enamored by love despite how poisonous his partner treats him. (“The snakes come pouring out of your heart, and you know that I can’t deny them”.) While on “Headless” he calls out those who question or tear down his mental health as he croons: (“We’re entirely insane, they claim. They wanna climb into our brain waves”.). Ohms closes off with the title track, which in my opinion contrasts with the rage he started the album off with. On the riff-laden track, Moreno accepts the world for what it’s become (“We’ve been possessed by these changing times”.) And assures listeners to stay optimistic despite it all on the chorus (“Time won’t change this, this promise we made. And time won’t change this. We shall remain.”).
Overall, Ohms is a heavy listen from start to finish. Never has the band sounded this good in a very long time, thanks to producer Terry Date and the rest of the group all finally being on the same page both sonically and lyrically. The songs are sharp yet soft, brutal yet temperate. A balance that Deftones have been known for but on here it shines to the fullest, with all members of the band reaching their fullest potential. Having listened to the album for the majority of my weekend, I genuinely couldn’t find a whole lot of bad things about it, my only gripe being that I wished the album was longer. Ohms will have fans debating for years where it ranks among classics such as White Pony or Koi No Yokan but one thing is certain, Ohms is evidence that no matter how old the band gets, they still got it.
Essential Tracks: Genesis, Error, The Spell of Mathematics, This Link Is Dead, Radiant City, Headless, Ohms.