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Review: Deftones ‘Koi No Yokan’

Deftones return with a nearly flawless set of melodic devastation.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud


Koi No Yokan – the sense a person gets upon meeting someone that the two of them will inevitably fall in love – is as poetically fitting of a title to Deftones' seventh LP as one could dream. The term, unlike love at first sight, suggests the full embrace of love has yet to arrive, but it is all around you – an inescapable magnetic gravity, a reality riptide of the most enchanting variety.

Listen to Koi No Yokan in full

This is the point of arrival in a return to confidence that Diamond Eyes promised two years ago. Koi No Yokan conveys a band outrunning the shadow of their agonies, and – aided by returning producer Nick Raskulinecz – constructing a world of spectacular dynamics through peripheral textures and pendular intensity, in the most evolved musicianship of the Sacramento rockers' careers.

As opener Swerve City makes clear immediately in a galloping burst of power, a sense of committed and confident purpose is a rich flavor weaving through the meat of the album. Where Diamond Eyes delivered a brooding severity built in the tragic wake of bassist Chi Cheng's sudden departure from the ranks, Koi No Yokan delivers a jet-fuel catharsis of reestablishment in an aural kaleidoscope with surging arcs of dramatic intensity and explosive, confidently sprawling dynamics.

The swing-strut urgency of album highlight Romantic Dreams is pure danger from the get-go, frontman Chino Moreno alternately screaming and crooning through blasting bursts of tempo shifts. He melodically wraps the thrashing instrumentation in a roaring vocal embrace, bridging the planets of aggression, spastic intensity and percussive schizophrenia with gorgeous grace. Raskulinecz establishes a further presence with warm depth in a palette of textures and shifts of gravity in the sound, creating an emotionally-connective atmosphere through nuanced soundscape margins in the negative space. He aids invaluably in bringing home the panic-spaz essence of a space-shuttle crash through Leathers, a romantically epic air of finality rushing toward the ground in grinding surges.

A breath and a scream later, Poltergeist brings the fear with handclaps and bassist Sergio Vega's buzz-saw low end opening the cage on a sprinting, snarling beast of a song. It's mean, it's packed with attitude, and Abe Cunningham's relentlessly impressive stomping percussion flurries keep us strapped to the animal, wherever it may roam. Meanwhile, the processed & digitized restraint in the drums during Entombed allow the track enough delicate glide to serve as a sister to Sextape, a beautiful riptide pulling us into Stephen Carpenter's hypnotically circular core riff before a ringing feedback tone brings the flower into a full bursting bloom.

The beautifully reflective, ethereal instrumentation through the seventh minute of slow-grind apocalypse soundtrack Rosemary eases seamlessly into Goon Squad's deceptively tranquil intro, the calm before the hornet storm. It's a final style flex before album closer What Happened to You, which percussively threatens to veer into International Noise Conspiracy range before setting into a decorative, pensive new-wave dream groove. It's a fascinatingly promising send-off, leaving the evolving Deftones formula open-ended through an enigmatically subtle and complex departure.

With Koi No Yokan, Deftones have delivered a calculated and fragile devastation, a feather floating upward in the calming air of the eye of a hurricane. There are no disjointed moments, no breaks in flow; the album is a richly-layered jedi high-wire dance that makes one wonder where the 52 minutes went, a conveyance of truly impressive growth, while flexing the entirety of strengths the band is founded upon.

To hell with the sky – there are no limits anymore.