It’s not every day that you get a new band or a new album incarnation from widely popular Deftones front man Chino Moreno, however in this case he appeals our interest to both. His new band which is simply named Crosses (+++), debuts their new self-titled album, and it is something very cool and very strange.
I enter into listening to this album on the precept that I will essentially be getting Deftones refurbished. I mean, let’s face facts, Chino Moreno has an incredibly distinctive voice. If James Earl Jones tried to voice over another Disney character, you would just be hearing Mufasa regardless. Even still, Deftones pt 2 wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Realistically getting anything from Chino and criticizing it would be looking a gift horse in the mouth, so I hit play and wait for the sultry voice to come on and whisk me away with backing guitar riffs that will hit hard throwing some rap rock influence in there with a dash of the somewhat repugnant worded “Nu Metal” flavor to hit hard and not let up then give us random song breaks to switch gears and catch our breath. With songs like “My Own Summer” and “ 7 Words” amongst others, you have to expect Chino to occasionally come at you with his style of rock that often impresses even metal heads.
But that never really happened. What I anticipated to be Deftones the sequel, turned out to be nothing of the sort. I received an electric church worth of sound that made me just want to gleefully stare into the computer and veg out for an hour. Granted, Deftones usually mixes it up between hard hitting aggressive music cast in and out by tracks with alternative radio rock to assault the senses, which live can be difficult to contend with given that aside from knowing the setlist, the crowd shifts its feelings more than a teenager shopping for a prom dress.
But Crosses is an entirely different story. From beginning to end, this band is focusing on an element of smooth transitioning melody. No grating guitar riffing, virtually no screaming, it’s all just dialed way down. The drum tracking phases in and out from actual drums to electric kit, muffled but light background sounds, Chino’s clearly sexual vocal prowess just threading it all seamlessly together with occasional tempo shifts. This is what Gorillas/Linkin Park have been trying to create for the latter part of a decade unsuccessfully, and Crosses has succeeded
Right from square one on “This Is A Trick”, they begin with a fantastic blending between rock and electronica style music, which lately has become more common with Dubstep influences in rock being the kind of late day bandwagon to jump on in some circles. But mostly it hasn’t worked out for the whole of those that try it lately, but Crosses doesn’t shoot for the driving beat to flood over the sound and over complicate the music. Instead, its background that only really shines when the band wants to blend with it the way that Ghost B.C. has taken that old pipe organ sound of “The Doors” and brought it up to date. It’s a fine marriage of the two sounds which, in my opinion really comes out best in “Option” and “Nineteen Eighty Seven”. It’s that kind of music you want to sway to a little bit slowly to yourself. (Though I highlight those, the entirety of the album has that constant quality of a relaxed musical church about lovers, so it’s difficult to be that selective.)
There is certainly a complexity to the sound as to the large number of transitions that take place and how much is going on, but it’s all in the same key, and each sound is just playing long held notes really drawing out the vibrato of what you are hearing. Its meant to generate relaxation via happy simplicity. We drop out a bit of that notorious Chino melancholy for a strangely upbeat tempo in “Black Stallion”. It’s not really aiming to be the loudest, the fastest, or the most aggressive but rather it is trying to pull the audience into a repetitious and infectious groove. It’s only real detriment is that it at times seems like it is a strict piano based work with more electronics making up for it that is done so much that you could have really labeled the whole album one really progressive jam session. It in no way is going to be the kind of album looking to produce individual track songs that will be number one hits, and thank God for that. This is an opus complete, not a handful of minutes worth listening to. This is the kind of album you are listening to when you are looking to wind down and be taken by something elegant and light that isn’t grating. Instead it will slowly and masterfully overwhelm with little sensations at a time. An extremely well made album from start to finish. If you like Chinos lighter work in Deftones, and are looking to calm your nerves; you will absolutely love Crosses.