Album review: Ohms, Deftones
By: James Rivers
Album Name: Ohms
Release Date: September 25, 2020
Genre: Alternative Metal/Dream Pop
Related Artists: Loathe, Faith No More, Hum, Cocteau Twins, Helmet, The Cars, The Dillinger Escape Plan
Deftones established a name for themselves in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since then, the legendary alt-metallers have maintained a surprisingly high level of quality for a band 30 years into their career. The newest release, Ohms, sees the band continuing to deliver what fans would expect from a Deftones album, while managing to stay interesting.
The album opens up with the song, “Genesis.” This song really encompasses a lot of the elements that appear on the album. It chugs along with a heavy verse riff before flipping to a soulful chorus that is distinctly Chino. The track also features really beautiful, dreamy synths that really build the atmosphere and fill in the blanks. The song kicks off the album with a punch and is a solid opener.
What follows is the song, “Ceremony.” This one begins with a muted picking riff that kind of sounds like something from The Cars. On this track, the band maintains a really headbangable groove that dramatically crawls across the track. This song also features the first appearance on the album of the “Om” vocals. On this album, the backing vocals feature a lot of really cool “oohs,” “ohs, and “ohms.” This particular track features some really pretty “oohs” before diving back into the band’s signature heavy groove. This song is a really fun one and for the most part, is one of the lighter tracks on the album.
While Ceremony is a great track, it is succeeded by three back-to-back album highlights. The first of these is “Urantia.” This track opens with a really cool heavy riff and drum fill before sliding into an extremely beautiful synth led groove. The verse quickly becomes even more impressive when the distorted guitars come in with a heavy, chuggy, and chunky riff. It’s downright filthy and is quickly offset by a captivating chorus. The chorus here features Chino Moreno doing some of his signature wail vocals with some gorgeous harmonies and backing vocals. Another really cool part of this song is when there’s a brief, almost trip hop transition from the chorus into the second verse. This song has everything that fans of newer Deftones releases love.
A personal favorite of mine is the song, “Error.” This song starts with some piercing guitar noise/feedback before Chino leads the song into a delicate drum groove. That all changes up when the guitars come in. Holy fuck. The guitars come in full force with a chunky 9 string guitar riff. It almost has an “Immigrant Song” feel to it. These disgustingly heavy riffs are juxtaposed with some of Chino’s most delicate singing. He harmonizes exceptionally well here and really illustrates what the band does so well. They meld the beautiful and the heavy together almost effortlessly. The synths really stand out on this track’s soaring chorus. The song ends with these dramatic cymbal hits that give a very cinematic ending. This song is as heavy as it is pretty. And it’s damn heavy.
The transition into the song “The Spell of Mathematics” is absolutely flawless. The song opens with a really distorted and heavy verse riff. It seems like it’s going to be just a heavy song but then, the pre-chorus comes in. Here is where it becomes clear that Sextones are back and they mean business. This section is really beautiful, and it transitions seamlessly into an absolutely beautiful chorus. This chorus sees Chino going back and forth between gorgeous, harmonized vocals and impassioned wails. The guitars also give this chorus a sort of fuzzy warmth from their crazy distortion. The song dramatically moves into this truly ethereal part with luscious synths supported by a great ghost note beat on the drums. This is all complimented by some well-chosen cleans almost sounding like something from one of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s jazzy sections. This section is absolutely hypnotizing and quite frankly, could go on even longer. This song is definitely one of the best on the album.
One of the most unique tracks on the album is the aggressive, “This Link Is Dead.” This one opens with some dramatic synths led in from the previous track. This sets an eerie atmosphere before some guitar feedback leads into a particularly mean verse. It has a really groovy feel to it and is chock full of attitude. It gives off something of a nu metal vibe, without being a nu metal song. The track has some definite influence from their earlier material such as Around the Fur and White Pony. The guitars on the verse have a spider-like quality and feel unsettling. The chorus is somewhat beautiful, but it is still more heavy than usual for this album. One thing’s for sure, Chino is pissed off on this song and it makes for a memorable track.
Another great song from the album is “Radiant City.” This one kicks off with some heavy and chunky bass playing, which does an effective job of leading into the song. The verse here really chugs along and is contrasted well by soft, crooning vocals. The synths steal the show when the verse moves into the pre-chorus. Here, the synths feel creepy and dramatic while Chino does some of his signature screams. One of the strongest parts of this song is the chorus. It has a really cool breakdown feel to it and feels very anthemic. This is definitely the kind of chorus that would get a lot of people singing along live. Each part of this song really feels well-crafted and there isn’t a single weak moment here.
While this album features a lot of great new Deftones songs, the songs “Pompeji” and “Headless” feel just there. They’re not bad songs per se, but they feel a bit lacking or treading water. My main issue with Pompeji is that the chorus feels a bit underwhelming compared to the rest of the song. It doesn’t feel like a satisfactory climax to the build up from the verses. The song, Headless, does have some cool moments and melodies. But it doesn’t have anything that truly sticks with you. It’s not quite as memorable as other tracks on the album. This track in particular feels like the band is getting too comfortable with their sound.
The final track on the album is the title track, “Ohms.” This song starts out with a really cool riff in the major key. This stands out because a lot of metal riffs tend to be in the minor key. Therefore, the song opens with a sort of optimistic feeling. The verses here are very dramatic and groovy and feel like a fitting book end to the elements of this album. The somber pre-chorus juxtaposed with the melodic chorus does an effective job of emphasizing the hopefulness of the song in the face of adversity. The song ends with a derivative melody from the chorus that flawlessly transitions back into the opening riff. This track seems to be fitting for the times. It looks like the band is ending the album on a positive note to remind people of the potential for a brighter future after this crazy year. This is a great album ending that leaves listeners feeling happy and satisfied.
Overall, this is a solid Deftones release. The band does what they do best here and succeed in many areas. However, there does seem to be a sense familiarity here that doesn’t bode well for future releases. Perhaps the band needs to reinvent and reinvigorate their sound like they did at the start of the decade. But then again, it is hard to continue to put out consistently good albums when you have classics in your discography such as, White Pony and Diamond Eyes. Still, the band does show to be a much more formidable act than many of their contemporaries. Also, the quality of output has not decreased, even if it is at times shaky. Deftones does not disappoint on this album and Ohms is a worthy release to add to their catalogue.