I was 14 when I bought White Pony, the third album from Sacramento metal legends Deftones. Little did I know that this purchase on a June day would eventually change my life. I didn’t realize music could be so intricate, emotional, and devastating all in one swoop. White Pony consumed me and turned my interest in music from casual encounters to a passionate love affair. Honestly, that album is the reason I have this very job.
So why is my story relevant? It’s because I feel the same emotions I did 12 years ago when listening to Koi No Yokan, the seventh full-length from Deftones.
Now I’m not suggesting that Koi No Yokan sounds exactly like White Pony at all – rather it continues the euphoria from Diamond Eyes, the band’s cathartic return to the top in 2010 following bassist Chi Cheng’s horrific accident. No, what I’m suggesting is that Koi No Yokan’s way of blurring the line between delicate and destruction throughout the album’s eleven tracks is very familiar to the structure of White Pony – the band’s prettiest album in its history (until now). What makes the Deftones’ discography so remarkable is that each album is completely unique yet inherently connected to one another – every album has a distinct vibe but the band builds on and expands its sonic reach with each release.
So while Koi No Yokan borrows characteristics from Diamond Eyes and 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist, it is also definitely its own entity in the Deftones canon. Opener “Swerve City” hits you over the head with a heavy, galloping intro before opting into a soaring chorus. Vocalist Chino Moreno is at it again, seamlessly transitioning from banshee-like yelps into soothing falsettos. Moreno doesn’t scream as often as he did on previous albums, but when it does show up it’s nothing short of outstanding. The volcanic first single “Leathers” features a classic Moreno howl, while “Poltergeist” has the front man effortlessly barking over guitarist Stephen Carptenter’s sinister guitar riff.
One of my favorite things about Deftones is how the band always incorporates intriguing melodies into their brand of metal; at times it seems they just pull it out of thin air. The melodic undertones on the attacking “Tempest” and Fugazi-esque “Gauze” are truly fantastic, with Moreno channeling his inner Robert Smith on the latter. “What Happened To You?” is where the band really flexes its muscles on the subject, culminating in a flighty new wave-ish jam, leaving you in a dreampop daze.
As noted earlier, the band is taking the experimental elements of Saturday Night Wrist and evolving it with the sound they created on Diamond Eyes. Unlike its predecessor however, this album has more of bassist Sergio Vega’s handprints over it, as he and drummer Abe Cunningham’s percussion skills give Koi No Yokan its backbone throughout. Carpenter will keep listeners guessing with the twists and tempo changes within his guitar work. The hypnotic “Romantic Dreams” is his canvas and the riffs he plays paint a majestic sound picture, while “Graphic Nature” is a primitive track highlighted by Carpenter’s callous chords. But his best work comes on the ethereal “Rosemary,” where the ominous riffs set the tone on the hauntingly reflective seven-minute epic.
But it all comes together on the majestic “Entombed,” a song that will go down in Deftones’ lore as one of the best songs in the discography. Frank Delgado is always the band’s unsung member, adding subtle electronic flourishes throughout his time as the band’s keyboardist/technician, so it’s a welcome change that he gets to shine here. Moreno’s raw vocals flow smoothly within Carpenter’s luscious circular riff and Cunningham’s burst and bloom percussion. But it’s Delgado’s shimmering keys that take the song to its apex. It’s truly intoxicating and could end up being my favorite Deftones’ song ever.
At the end of the day, I don’t know exactly where I’d rank Koi No Yokan – somewhere in the top three, but really it’s not important. What’s important is that this is a fucking great album. It’s a band that continues to grow – spiritually and aurally; Deftones have found an inner peace. A lot’s been made over the meaning of the album’s title. It’s Japanese interpretation is basically having the premonition that upon meeting someone for the first time you two will inevitably fall in love. There couldn’t be a more fitting explanation for this album than that. Because I know that there is a music fan out there about to have his or her world changed by Koi No Yokan – just like it happened to me all those years ago.