If I had to sum up the Deftones in only four words I would do it thusly:
Tension. Release. Tension. Release.
You know I love this band. I loved their Album of the Year Diamond Eyes of a couple of years ago (reviewed here), and their outstanding live performances (like this one), and pretty much everything they’ve ever done.
So you won’t be surprised to know that I love this album too.
There are no major surprises here, just more refinement and honing on their well established songwriting and sound. Nick Raskulinecz handles the production again after taking over on Diamond Eyes, and Matt Hyde does the recording and engineering, so you know the sound will be perfect.
I won’t go on about this too much because there’s only so much Deftones raving one blog can handle, but I just want to unpack the tension/release thing a little, give you a couple of sample songs off the album, then wrap it up with the obligatory 9 or 10 out of 10.
The key ways the band generates tension are: non-standard time signatures, jarring or syncopated rhythms, Frank Delgado’s atmospheric synths and samples, and the honest and heartfelt vocals of Chino Moreno.
Here’s an example of the time signature thing from the second track, Romantic Dreams.
Notice in this track the verses are in 3-4 time, before the bridges and choruses break into the standard 4-4. You can check this just by counting out the bars in your head (1,2,3 – 1,2,3 – 1,2,3, etc). Notice the emotions you feel during the 3-4 bars. They’re kind of unsettling and difficult to settle into. This is a metal band and metal bands don’t play in triple metre, dammit!
Then at the 45 second mark you get 10 seconds of 4-4 time, giving you a little taste of the way things should be, and a chance to relieve the tension for a moment, but not for too long as we have another 3-4 verse to get through yet. Then at the 1:15 mark you get the big chorus, back in 4-4 time again. By the time you get there you really need that release, and Chino’s soaring vocal provides that in spades.
Here’s another example, track three, Leathers.
This time we get instant brooding atmosphere from the keyboards, before a jarringly heavy verse and syncopated riff shocks the listener. Once again the release comes in the chorus: ‘Shedding your skin, showing your texture, time to let everything inside show’.
That lyrical theme seems to come up again and again throughout the album – a kind of psychological unpacking where the listener is invited to cast aside their outer shell and explore their innermost essence. It’s such an unexpected and emotionally confronting experience that very few heavy bands can match (maybe Tool?).
Here’s another example of an exploration of that theme, a song called Tempest, with the lyrics front and centre for your consideration:
Look I think I’ll leave it there for now and let you explore the rest of this album on your own.
I love it.