Deftones - Deftones
Maverick Records
Experimental Alt. Metal
11 songs (47:12)
Release year: 2003
Deftones, Maverick Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

The fourth full-length from one of the most unique bands ever to emerge from the Nu-Metal years is a puzzling one. It feels strangely like it should have been released before White Pony, the band's most hailed masterpiece, being similar yet more fragmented and harder to get to grips with - I'm sure I wasn't the only one who repeatedly gave up on it and returned to the brilliance of its predecessor before it clicked. Overall, since getting into underground metal, I've tended to leave Deftones to the cupboard, only rediscovering them when plans for a new album were delayed by the tragic accident that put bassist Chi Cheng into a coma. They're just as astonishing as they always have been, on reassessment, taking the Nu-Metal template of downtuned guitars, hip-hop influenced rhythms and heavy/clean vocals and actually making something musically worthwhile with it. Instrumentally, the band's skills are very underrated, both guitarist Stephen Carpenter and drummer Abe Cunningham rarely taking the straightforward route to a song. It's worth noting, too, that MC Frank Delgado abandoned his turntables for this album in favour of keyboards, making for a smoother atmospheric sound. People tend to refer to Deftones as the Alt. Metal Radiohead, which partially explains their sound, but the band have so many balls in the air that even a comparison to the broad and experimental mainstream act seems restrictive.

Deftones the album is equally hard to pigeonhole. It's never as immediately catchy as White Pony, although the songs here are well written and seem superficially to work together better. Taken as an album it works much better than if you listen song-by-song, although describing it is tricky due to the minor differences between songs adding up to more than the similarities. There aren't that many strong songs, either; no Change (In The House Of Flies) or Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away) for the album to revolve around, although a couple of songs come close. Hexagram, the album opener, is one, grabbing you by the throat with Chino Moreno's desperate vocals and grandiose guitar lines forming a wall-of-noise that almost immediately collapses into rhythmic chugging. It's a frantic, pounding song that's at once more and less complex than anything from White Pony, sliding easily into the similar Needles And Pins before the wonderfully cinematic Minerva appears and erases all memory of them. The easiest way to describe it is something like Cult Of Luna compressed into a melodic four-minute single, replacing rage with melancholy and using the gigantic guitar tone as the waves over which Chino's yearning vocals surf. Passionate and breathtaking, explosive and melodramatic, it remains one of my favourite songs by the band and is a great track to check out if you want a sample of the Deftones sound.

The album see-saws a little from then on. Good Mourning Beautiful is great, catchy rhythmic sections repeating in a circular bit of groove, whilst Deathblow is softer, beginning to rely more on trip-hop instrumentation than the signature booming wall of guitar. When Girls Telephone Boys, meanwhile, is all about the guitar, powerful grinding stomping all over you as Chino howls in mad triumph - but it's easily forgettable next to the measured and pacing melody of Battleaxe, or the outright trip-hop of Lucky You, a foretaste of Chino's Team Sleep side-project. Why the band chose to put the stomping Bloody Cape immediately between that and the gentle Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event is anyone's guess, but it makes for a bumpy listen, and ending the album with that and the lacklustre Moana wasn't a great decision, as you certainly don't leave satisfied. That's ultimately the problem with Deftones, it just doesn't feel like the sum of its parts. It wasn't received as well as White Pony, and many fans were disappointed, despite strident statements from Chino about how the band had moved away from Nu Metal, which is hard to argue with. Sadly, first listens can be anticlimactic, but persevere and the album does reveal itself to be a good one. Whether you'll give it more time than the better albums which surround it is up to you, but it certainly doesn't deserve to be forgotten completely.

Killing Songs :
Hexagram, Minerva, Good Morning Beautiful, Battleaxe
Goat quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Deftones that we have reviewed:
Deftones - Gore reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Deftones - Koi No Yokan reviewed by Khelek and quoted 87 / 100
Deftones - Around the Fur reviewed by Tyler and quoted 80 / 100
Deftones - Diamond Eyes reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Deftones - Saturday Night Wrist reviewed by Al and quoted 89 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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