Deftones are the San Antonio Spurs of the music world. Their output is consistent in quality album after album after album. They don’t always win the championship but they are always in the running.
Trying to follow up Koi No Yokan, their defining masterpiece (in my opinion), is essentially a fool’s errand. The only way to break the comparison chain is to change the template, which they did from White Pony to Deftones. Gore, is both a success and a failure in this regard.
Much has been made about the tensions during the recording of this album between bandmates and the direction the music should go and ultimately, it feels like the band made a pragmatic choice and split the difference. Gore opens with a few fairly typical Deftones fare that merely sounds like dusted off Deftones b-sides. By the time the back half of the album kicks into gear, however, the album that Deftones were really wanting to make comes shining through. “Xenon” is one of the finest songs in the Deftones catalogue and not since “Minerva” have they shown such a willingness to let their music drift into the realm of beauty. “Phantom Bride” features a real honest-to-goodness guitar solo that I would’ve swore was coming from David Gilmore if I didn’t already know they had pulled Jerry Cantrell into the mix.
Sometimes, having a fan base that is so fiercely loyal is both a blessing and a curse. A fan base supports a band through the creative lulls but in return they demand consistency and some form of familiarity. Gore, for all of the magnificent work it contains, is a mixed bag because Deftones respected and rewarded their fans loyalty. There is the classic “Deftones” sound on plenty of songs that will keep the fan-base in line but there is also stunning depth on the second half of the album that Deftones made for themselves. If they had made Gore completely unto their own instincts, it could’ve been a record on par with White Pony. They compromised though. They didn’t win the championship this year but they made it deep into the playoffs and everyone who is a fan of theirs is overjoyed to have seen such a great post-season. It isn’t an instant classic but Gore does boast some of the best writing of their career.