It starts simply enough, with a pulsing electric guitar blip and waves of synths. "Brace for the glory, as you stare into the sky," Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno moans through the fuzzy washes of noise. "Beneath, I know you can't be tired," he sings softly, as the twin guitars roar to life, a crunching riff blaring from the speakers.
"Tempest," the second single from the band's new album, Koi No Yokan, offers a solid example of what set Deftones apart from their nu-metal peers in the late '90s and early 2000s. Though they found favor among the modern-rock crowd, there's always been an air of mystery coursing alongside, underneath, or in place of the heavy bits; Deftones have as much Cure melancholy and My Bloody Valentine swirl in their DNA as Faith No More's lithe funk or Sepultura's bludgeoning strength.
"I think that we rebuilt completely when we did [2010's] Diamond Eyes; it felt like we reached the peak of feeling good again," bassist Sergio Vega, who's filled in for injured bassist Chi Cheng since 2009, told Village Voice in October. "When we got off the tour, we didn't want to stop. We took a few months off and went right back into the studio to write new music. We wanted to capture that whirlwind of energy."
Initial rumors suggested that Koi No Yokan would focus on apocalyptic themes, but Moreno quickly dispelled them. Instead, the theme of the record is love, and the title is a Japanese phrase that roughly translates as "a premonition of love."
"When you're trying to pick the name for an album, it's always hard because you have to pick something that somehow blankets the entire project," Moreno told the Voice. "It's about the feeling of love at first sight, or that tingly feeling — whoever's been lucky enough to feel that way knows this feeling. And I think the music has a connection to that. The music's not necessarily built around that idea, but when I look at the album now, I see a lot of warmth in it."
That blurry, New Romantic sensibility has proven a reliable source of inspiration for Moreno. Seventeen years after the release of debut album Adrenaline, the band (Moreno, Vega, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, keyboardist Frank Delgado, and drummer Abe Cunningham) is still playing off the delicate balance between atmospheric texture and rock 'n' roll.
The excitement of a new album should be enough for Deftones fans, but there's even more to look forward to. The band says an unreleased album, Eros, will see the light of day at some point. Recorded between 2003's Saturday Night Wrist and 2010's Diamond Eyes, the record features work recorded by Cheng before the car accident that nearly killed him. Moreno describes the album as "unorthodox, soundscape-y, and aggressive."
In other words, unique and challenging — the kind of albums Deftones always have (and hopefully always will) keep making.