Most long running big name bands have some polarizing albums in their discography. While fans can easily divvy up a popular band’s musical catalogue into what they like and dislike, some releases prove more contentious. LPs like Metallica’s untitled record dubbed “The Black Album” and Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill divide listeners into love it or loathe it camps. Opinions of these albums and many others are all over the map, inspiring fierce debate from fans and detractors that can last years, and as a result, it is exceedingly difficult for an outsider to gauge whether the LP is good or bad.
The Deftones’ 8th LP Gore is one of these albums of debatable quality. Released in 2016, Gore was a divisive record that split the opinion of Deftones’ sizable fan base. While the album received positive reviews when released, many longtime fans view Gore as either one of the Deftones’ worst records or among their very best, and there is little in the way of middle ground. Since its release, Deftones fans have struck lines in the sand, willing to argue that Gore is either a genius masterpiece or a major misstep for this legendary band. For those who enjoy Deftones, it’s simply an inescapable conflict.
Gore’s experimental nature is at the root of this (mostly) good natured battle of the fans. Deftones have a sonically diverse discography ranging from melodic to heavy, and with Gore, Deftones combined both of these disparate styles together to create something entirely new both in terms of creativity and the album’s mix.
This, however, leads into a unique problem. On past albums, slow melodic songs like “Digital Bath” or chaotic ragers like “My Own Summer (Shove It)” were more distinct tracks rather than an amalgamation of each other. For some who desire for Deftones to retread the musical ground that made the band a big hit in the metal, rock, and alternative scene, the fusion of these different sounds doesn’t mesh with what they enjoy about the band, especially considering the album’s mix (which is an overwhelming criticism on Reddit). Many listeners enjoy Deftones for different reasons, and when a band with that many dimensions begins to experiment with their sound like on Gore, it’s only natural that some listeners will recoil. Liking or disliking any album all comes down to personal taste, and this is especially true of Gore.
Personally, I love Gore. Even though I’ve enjoyed pretty much every Deftones album on some level, Gore is one of my absolute favorites. From the opening track “Prayers / Triangles” to the finale “Rubicon,” I adore Gore. The LP is a great showcase of the Deftones’ talent; the heavy guitar riffs pack a punch and Chino Moreno’s vocals are seductively catchy. While the loud guitar play and the sensual vocal performance might seem jarring on paper, they work smoothly in cohesion on Gore. Even more importantly, these elements functioning in tandem created Deftones most distinctive sound to date, and I enjoyed every second of it.
Gore is a complete experience. While some folks might criticize the album’s mix as being inconsistent, all the musical elements coalesce into an atmospheric barrage of sounds. On tracks like “Acid Hologram,” “Hearts And Wires,” and “Phantom Bride,” I felt a wave of introspection wash over me while listening to the music. Gore captures my imagination, and when listened to as a whole album, the near-meditative experience is transformative. Unlike other great Deftones LPs like Around The Fur, Diamond Eyes, or even the band’s best album White Pony, Gore is good because it’s a sublime listening experience rather than just an album containing top tier tracks. It’s truly on another level.
The songs themselves are lights out on their own merits. To list: “Prayers / Triangles” establishes Gore’s heavy depressive yet melodic tone; “Acid Hologram” contains some epic guitar riffs; “Doomed User” sucker punches the listener with hard riffs before breaking away into a beautiful chorus; Moreno’s voice is downright alluring on “Geometric Headdress”; “Hearts / Wires” has an epic buildup and payoff and is my favorite song on Gore; “Pittura Infamante”picks up the album’s pace; Moreno’s voice is seductively good on “Xenon”; “L(mirl)” is a melancholic yet soothing listen; the monstrous guitar riffs kick back into overdrive on the title track “Gore”; “Phantom Bride” has the best vocal hook on the album; “Rubicon” closes the album by marrying Moreno’s brutal vocals and the impactful guitar riffs together perfectly. From front to back, Gore is simply a stellar record with minimal faults, and I love it.
With that said, Gore isn’t for everyone. Hell, it isn’t even for every Deftones fan. In fact, some folks will likely balk at my rationale to defend Gore from its harshest critics. Afterall, many a Deftones fan describe Gore’s mix as muddy. Where the sound quality in past Deftones albums had more clarity, Gore is comparatively a rougher experience, and I can’t argue against that.
However, I also believe Gore’s mix was by design. Despite how some of the instruments aren’t in crystal clear audio, Gore is meant to be taken as a whole complete package rather than in parts, and in this regard, Gore is among the Deftones’ best releases. The album is the perfect fusion of heavy and melodic and is a unique release in Deftones’ discography (a band whose music catalogue is already unique). Until the Deftones’ inevitable 9th LP releases and even after the album drops, we will still have Gore whether you love it or you hate it.