Deftones - Ohms

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At the dawn of their fourth decade together as a band, alt-metal stalwarts Deftones crafted one of the best albums in their catalog, Ohms. Reuniting with producer Terry Date, the man behind their first four efforts (five, counting the unreleased Eros), the band attacks with full power, reinvigorated, hungry, and at a creative apex. Their most accessible work since 2000’s White Pony, Ohms offers listeners plenty of substance to grab on to: for the first time in a while, tightly executed songs take precedence over heady ideas, resulting in a deeply effective and satisfying experience that balances their eras. Playing upon the concepts of resistance and polarity implied by the album’s title, Deftones take their signature beauty-meets-brutality assault, searching for balance across a tightly focused ten tracks. As a unit, they haven’t sounded this refreshed in years. Chino Moreno‘s vocals stun, careening from fevered hush to unhinged shriek without notice, while Stephen Carpenter returns to center stage armed with a bounty of riffs and a nine-string guitar. Bassist Sergio Vega and drummer Abe Cunningham bounce and bash, marking a return to groove that is rarely heard in their late-era output. Binding it all together, Frank Delgado weaves sci-fi synths and ominous atmospherics throughout the set, creating a soundtrack to this dark dystopian vision that reaches a peak on “The Spell of Mathematics” and “Pompeji.” This synergy is apparent from the outset on the aptly titled “Genesis,” an epic opener that hits the restart button while Moreno threatens, “Watch how wild it gets.” As the band’s towering wall of sound crashes down in a buzzing cacophony, Ohms blazes forth without looking back. After “Ceremony” twists and turns through haunted vocal harmony and a visceral groove, “Urantia” whips thrash riffs and jackhammer percussion into a frenzy, with the bottom dropping out to reveal a mid-song hip-hop break before the band coalesces in a final explosion that sounds like it could be a Tool song. Striking a balance between that group’s prog-metal artistry and the experimental fearlessness of Radiohead, “Pompeji” veers from a jagged onslaught to a dreamscape that features calming waves, seagull cries, and a futuristic drone that could have been plucked from Jean-Michel Jarre‘s oeuvre. Deftones being the Deftones, this all works to devastating effect, transporting listeners into this suspenseful world that can terrify and soothe in equal measure. While each track is a gem in its own right, immediate standouts include the urgent “Error” — a time machine to the band’s early days that pops and churns like “Headup” and beautifully unfolds like “Minerva” — and the title track, an avalanche of beautiful noise that centers on Carpenter‘s blistering guitar gymnastics. “Ohms” is one of the best songs they’ve ever crafted and, like everything else on Deftones‘ ninth album, a dizzying display of a band at peak performance.