The Deftones have frequently and somewhat unfairly been lumped in with the whole nu-metal scene. They do share a few traits with that movement: they’re American, they play heavy music with a strong focus on technical precision, their lyrics are angsty, emotive and challenging, and the songwriting emphasises the tension of the verses and release of the chorus.
But the Deftones have always offered so much more.
They do foreboding and creepy like no one else, generating the atmosphere with breathy vocals, discordant combinations of sound and jarring timing. From this kind of buildup, the occasional hooky chorus is a welcome relief.
Throughout their career they have assimilated influences from dub and electronica, as well as bringing an ear for a beautiful song, and a touch of the dramatic and theatrical. They’ve always used complex song structures, but have gotten so good at it that you hardly notice it any more.
The band suffered a serious setback before the recording of this album, with bassist Chi Cheng involved in a serious car accident. Sergio Vega joined the band last year and does a good job, and if anything the accident seems to have inspired the other band members to a new level of focus and creative drive.
The Deftones abandoned producer Terry Date (who did Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell all those years ago) after their self titled 2003 release. They use the very busy Nick Raskulinecz here, who you might remember from such albums as Alice in Chains’ Black Gives Way to Blue (reviewed here). His production job is sublime, with some clever synth effects and samples from Frank Delgado adding to the tension generated during the verses. Royal and Risk are two excellent examples.
Listening to the dense riffs is like biting into a rich, chocolatey mud cake. Thick, melodic guitar segments are layered throughout like sugary swirls, perfectly demonstrated in 976-EVIL. The effortless, airy guitar sound of that song is reflected by the whimsical lyrics: “Take a bow and wave, as we carry away. It was great but I’m not leaving.”
At the heart of this album the unfortunately named Sextape – a haunting and beautifully written ballad which marks a new level of maturity for a band no longer afraid to let a beautiful song be.
Many people seem to think that this band peaked with White Pony, but this reviewer thinks otherwise. This band has improved with each release, learning subtleties and perfecting their technique. 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist was brilliant, and Diamond Eyes is as good, if not better.
P.S. Check out this clip of Rocket Skates too – it’ll save you sitting up late hoping to see some Deftones on Rage.
P.P.S. This album was my album of the year for 2010. Check out the top five here.