Since their inception, Grammy-winning alternative band Deftones have quietly been pursuing two paths, delivering songs defined by churning, double-fisted aggression while also quietly testing the boundaries of music by incorporating elements of psychedelia and shoegaze. Their platinum-certified, Billboard chart-topping 2000 album White Pony earned raves for blending the moodiness of bands like the Cure and Slowdive, but the group has only gotten more experimental since then, evincing a clear restlessness with convention and repetition. Picking up where 2010’s lauded Diamond Eyes left off, the group’s seventh album, Koi No Yokan is their boldest yet. Both ferociously melodic and dizzyingly expansive, the album moves from pensive to pulverizing – often in the space of a single song.
“I think one of the things we were really conscious of was making sure the songs had real dynamics,” says front man Chino Moreno. “I love Stephen [Carpenter]’s aggressive, chunky guitar riffs, but we always wanted there to be that kind of yin and yang in the songs – that push and pull between heaviness and beauty.”
That tension is evident in songs like first single “Tempest,” which opens with a tense, pulsing guitar and hushed vocal from Moreno before it’s swept away beneath great black waves of guitar. Its chorus is ominous and otherworldly, Moreno darkly prophesying about an “ancient arrival” against thunder clapping riffs. “When we started the record, we were all joking a little bit about the Mayan prophecy about the end of the world coming in December of 2012, and I some of that filtered into this song, kind of dealing with those ideas a little bit.” Street track “Leathers” also volleys between two extremes, opening with a storm of falling-anvil guitars before gliding into a gorgeous, high-arcing chorus.
For Koi No Yokan, the group reunited with producer Nick Raskulinecz, who also worked on Diamond Eyes. As they did for that record, the band set a rigorous daily work schedule. “We kind of adopted this new way of doing things, where we’d have a 7 or 8 hour work day instead of just working on things a piece at a time,” drummer Abe Cunningham said, “It enabled us to be a lot more efficient.” Moreno agrees. “In the past, one of us would write something, record it, and then weeks — or even months — later, someone else would come along and add to it. We had totally lost that communal vibe. This time, all of the songs started with just the five of us together in a room, playing.” Those close collaborations led to a more deliberate drive and cohesive final product. “It gave us a real sense of focus,” says Cunningham.
Those moments of give-and-take are audible, and the songs are united by a sense of impassioned optimism. In “Romantic Dreams,” Moreno sings “I’m hypnotized by your name/ I wish this night would never end,” and on the surprisingly tender “Entombed,” he swears “From the day you arrived/ I remain by your side” over Carpenter’s gently spiraling constellations of guitar. “I’m talking about being someone’s prize that they keep next to them,” he says of the lyrics to “Tempest,” “so it’s being alive, but being in kind of a stasis – it’s about being someone’s possession, but loving to be that way.”
Moreno insists the record’s title, a Japanese term for the notion of love at first sight, is not meant to be taken literally. “It’s really just trying to get at those tingling feelings that everybody gets from time to time. I just wanted to give people a descriptive emotion to work off of when approaching the record.”
More than anything else, that’s what comes across in Koi No Yokan — a sense of euphoria. With their forward-thinking, genre-agnostic rock, Deftones ride strange waves of inspiration to always-engrossing, always-surprising ends. The songs are as eerie and ghostly and glimmering as the Northern Lights – both strange and strangely beautiful, and firmly positioned at the intersection of blunt force and haunting elegance. Koi No Yokan is Deftones at their finest.