The latest in a series of side projects from Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno, ††† (pronounced “crosses”) takes much of its somewhat spooky iconography from the weird world of witch house (ooo look – every ‘T’ is replaced with a †), yet probably has more in common with Nine Inch Nails than any of the here-today-gone-tomorrow genuine witch house groups. Formed in 2011 by Moreno, guitarist Shaun Lopez and Chuck Doom, ††† released their debut self-titled full length album in 2014. Made up of all ten tracks from the group’s first two EPs along with five new tracks (which isn't a good ratio of previously released to new material in my opinion), ††† plays like brooding, electronically-based alternative rock.
Opening track “†his is a †rick” doesn’t waste any time dropping the listener immediately into an immersing wall of dark ambiance bolstered by sludgy guitar tones. Moreno’s frequently haunted but soaring vocals, both on this track and throughout the album, give the music a profundity that it probably doesn’t entirely deserve. Unfortunately though, the vocalist seems to be doing a heck of a lot of work singing lyrics that really don't seem to matter in the context of many of these tracks. Furthermore, even if pieces like “†hhlyghs†” and “Op†ion” manage to avoid sounding like most everything playing on MTV circa the year 2000, a track like “Bi†ches Brew,” with its Korn-y progression and obnoxious, growly-voiced final chorus, confirms why Moreno’s music is frequently lumped in with the nu metal scene in the first place. Old habits do in fact die hard.
Considering that Moreno is all too willing to rely on tried and true songwriting techniques and composition, one of the more surprising thing about ††† then is the fact that the album consistently comes up with some creative songs and isn’t entirely awful. “†rophy,” for example, plays like a shoegaze band making a laid back reggae tune, while first single “†he Epilogue” along with “†elepa†hy” and “Blk S†allion” draw on big-time, uplifting choruses lifted straight out of the 1980s – think Duran Duran gone goth. Cheesy as these tracks potentially could be however, they’re catchy, appealing, and very nearly downright joyous, giving the album some life in between slower and more melancholic tunes.
Undoubtedly, my favorite part of the album is its final trio of tracks, the first of which is simply (and stupidly, I might add) titled “†.” Sounding like Trent Reznor lite, this instrumental has both noisy and more melodic elements, and leads perfectly into “Prurien†,” a quirky sort of arena rock piece that’s possibly the only track here in which I thought Moreno’s powerful vocals were speaking lyrics that actually seemed to hit home. Album finale “Dea†h Bell” has a shadowy, trip hop feel to it underneath all the percussion accents, concluding the album on a fittingly ambiguous note.
When all is said and done, there’s about an equal number of hits and misses on †††, and the album lacks distinguishing features. The best tracks here would likely be seen as worthwhile but unremarkable outtake material on better albums, and despite the fact that I kind of enjoyed the lazy, rainy day vibe of this music, ††† comes across as much ado about nothing. It bears repeating that a full two-thirds of the tracks on this full-length album were previously released, making this disc seem to be of dubious value - especially for fans who would have acquired †††'s previous EP releases. Admittedly, I haven’t paid much attention to Chino Moreno and Deftones in the years since 2000’s (in my opinion, outstanding) White Pony, but if ††† is any indication of where Moreno’s music has headed from there, I haven’t been missing out on much.
6.5 / 10
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