Adversity has pretty much been the currency of Deftones’ existence ever since the band catapulted outta Sacramento more than 20 years ago. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that they should name their latest album Koi No Yokan (loosely translated from the Japanese, “love at first sight”). The music here is actually harder, tighter, tougher and more dynamic than 2010′s Diamond Eyes, which, besides bearing the thumbprint of producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush, Alice in Chains et al), also introduced Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega to the fold.
By now, the story of original bassist Chi Cheng is as much a part of the Deftones legacy as his own vital stake in the band’s muscular punk-metal sound. In late 2008, Cheng survived a car wreck that left him in a semi-conscious state; the band shelved the still-unreleased album Eros, citing artistic shortcomings rather than Cheng’s predicament, but it was clear that frontman Chino Moreno and his mates would have to work through their grief before they could move on.
Where Diamond Eyes felt bogged down by a heavy sense of soul-searching, Koi No Yokan is the work of a band that’s stepping into the light again. Raskulinecz’s penchant for sculpting sound is front-and-center, particularly on “Rosemary,” where guitarist Stephen Carpenter cops Floyd-like delays in a tip of the hat to David Gilmour, and in the otherworldly psychscape that opens “Goon Squad.” Meanwhile, “Swerve City” captures the godly, mountain-cleaving exuberance of early Jane’s Addiction, and the single “Leathers” finds Moreno in top, throat-shredding form. Even on a song as quiet and stripped-down as “Entombed,” which has the ring of a dedication to Cheng, Moreno renders the simplest of words with a startling power: “In chains, entombed/ Placed inside, safe and sound/ Shapes and colors are all I see.” If there’s ever a rainbow after the rain, Deftones have found one here.