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Palms - Palms (Album Review)

Thursday, 20 June 2013 Written by Ben Bland

Ever since it was announced that Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno would collaborate with Jeff Caxide, Bryant Clifford Meyer and Aaron Harris of Isis on a new project, Palms, there has been an almost unfeasibly high level of expectation from metal fans.

This is unsurprising given the discographies of both Deftones and Isis. They will both be remembered decades from now as two of the most important and influential metal bands to have been spawned in the ‘90s, and so they deserve to be. The question then, is whether ‘Palms’ will be remembered as a classic or a curiosity? 

The first thing that’s worth mentioning is that this project doesn’t really sound all that much like Isis. There had been some expectation that Palms would effectively equal “Isis + Chino Moreno”, but this album is nowhere near heavy enough for that.

Those familiar with Red Sparowes, a project that featured both Caxide and Clifford Meyer, will recognise much of Palms’ sonic landscape. Shoegazey post-rock compositions dominate this record, and there’s certainly nothing that approaches the maelstrom effect that Isis achieved so perfectly on ‘Oceanic’ or ‘Panopticon’.

As a result, there’s none of Moreno’s trademark white noise screaming to be found here either. Every Deftones record since ‘White Pony’ has been defined by his supremely melodic, powerful clean singing, and ‘Palms’ is no different. Moreno’s voice is used as a part of Palms’ glistening instrumental palate.

It is as much a part of their glorious crescendo of sound as the delay-inflected guitars or subtle rhythm work provided by the Isis boys. The contrast between Deftones’ sinister, suffocatingly heavy music and Moreno’s voice is one of the things that has kept the band consistently exciting. Moreno’s voice fits Palms like a glove.

Perhaps, for Moreno, Palms does constitute something approaching new territory, but what about the former Isis members? Well, Caxide and Clifford Meyer have arguably done this sort of thing just as well before in the aforementioned Red Sparowes although this record has a glossier, more accessible sheen to it than any album that band has produced.

As a rhythm section, Caxide and Harris both play in a looser manner here, but it’s difficult to hear much difference in style from the more subdued moments of the Isis discography. In essence, knowing the backgrounds of the three players makes the sound of ‘Palms’ relatively unsurprising.

While it would be unfair to accuse Palms of playing things safe here, it should be noted that the band are hardly reinventing the wheel. They are camping on territory that has already been explored by dozens of bands. It’s hard not to think that, without Moreno, this would effectively be just another good post-rock record and, let’s be honest, we’re awash with those every year already. As much as ‘Palms’ is an excellent, and extremely listenable, record, nagging doubts remain. Maybe it’s not quite worthy of all the attention it will no doubt receive.





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