The First Reaction To Deftones’ New Song, Ohms

After what has felt like an eternity of teasing, Deftones have finally unleashed the first new music from their upcoming ninth full-length Ohms. The track hit streaming services at midnight and is the first fresh music we’ve heard from alt.metal titans since 2016’s Gore LP. But has the four-year wait been worth it, and how does it compare to their stunning back catalogue? K! writer and Deftones superfan George Garner takes a look…

So many of Deftones’ peers would probably kill – or at least perhaps do some pretty unspeakable things – to be in the rarefied position they’re in right now. Think about it: how many bands have people patiently aching to hear their ninth album?

Typically, by this point the creative spark of some acts (even the most exalted and influential ones) has long since started to dim, if not fizzle out. Releases with one or two cool singles and a deluge of filler are par for the course. Nostalgia is often the primary offering.

This is not the case with Deftones, who, over the course of a quarter century now, have carefully shepherded one of the richest and most influential discographies in Kerrang!’s history. And in 2020, we are going to get a brilliant new addition to this legacy.

Enter Ohms, the exhilarating title-track and lead single of their ninth album. It is not just a case of welcome back Deftones, but also, to a certain extent, welcome back Stef Carpenter.

A refresher: in the lead up to their last album, 2016’s Gore, Deftones’ guitarist told “I think my proudest thing about my guitar playing on this record is just playing on the record, because I didn’t want to play on the record to begin with.”

Both at the time – and in K!’s latest Cover Story – the group did much to dispel the controversy that bled out of this. For the record: Stef does like Gore and he was more involved in its creation than many people think. It is, however, true that he wasn’t fully engaged as he had been on other records.

“When the record came out, I think people felt that Stef wasn’t as big a part of it, and that it may have suffered in certain areas because of that,” Chino reflected. “So one of the most important things is that everybody is engaged and everybody is excited.”

Ohms is Stef Carpenter not only engaged, but on fire. The single started out life as a 12-minute onslaught emailed to Chino – boasting an ascending introductory and closing riff so big that the rest of the band struggled to compete with it.

“Stephen’s guitar tone is so damn thick,” Abe recently enthused. “It’s hard to get the drum and everything else sounding huge when the fucking guitar’s eating up all of that prime real estate!”

Abe’s comment rings true. Emerging from a wash of synth, the introductory riff makes an enormous impression. Yes, Ohms captures the band firing on all cylinders, but Stef seemingly has some excess cylinders for good measure. When the track finally cuts loose at 3:20, it’s a different kind of heavy for Deftones: yes it’s loud, but also uplifting and joyous. It suits them.

The track is also a perfect primer for the themes of self-reflection and adjustment at the heart of its parent album. ‘It’s too late to cause a change in the tides,’ sings Chino at one point, while reaffirming his status as one of the world’s most compelling and versatile vocalists. Elsewhere, we hear him observe, ‘Time won’t change this,’ altering the tone. ‘We shall remain.’

There is an enthralling sense of ambiguity unfolding here – it’s hard to tell whether the sands of times past are something we suffocate in or rest gracefully on top of. In an unpublished section of this week’s Kerrang! Cover Story interview, we asked Chino directly if this is a hopeful song or not…

“It’s basically, like, here we are, this is where we are today,” Chino replied, pondering the opening lines about being ‘surrounded by debris of the past’. “We’re surrounded by every decision that we’ve made in the past, but the chorus is very hopeful and optimistic. Lyrically, I didn’t change much. These were the first thoughts that came and I just wrote them down and they worked. Sometimes you get lucky like that.”

Chino Moreno might call it luck. But to everyone else? This is the sound of a band who are still making songs to compete with the best. Nine albums in, luck has very little to do with it.

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Posted on August 21st 2020, 12:15am

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