One of my favorite bands, the Sacramento-based Deftones, are preparing the release of their sixth full-length album, Diamond Eyes, on May 4. In light of this, I am going back, re-listening to, and analyzing their previous albums to gain a perspective of the band’s past while waiting in anticipation of the band’s future.
Deftones by Deftones (2003, Maverick)
From the start of Deftones, the band explodes louder and harder than they ever have before. This, however, is deceitful; it’s merely the introductory track to their most atmospheric, post-punk collection to date. While the band had abandoned the hip-hop stance, and Moreno was no longer rapping, the man can still scream, as we hear on the opener “Hexagram.”
The barking doesn’t last long, however; immediately we are led into what will ultimately be determined as the band’s least accessible album, and the most underrated. In all fairness, Deftones should have been named something else; usually a self-titled moniker gives the impression that this disc is a signature album, when, in this case, it is anything but. It’s safe to say that this is Deftones weakest album – one part White Pony leftovers, one part future sounds, and one part slow dirge near the end.
That being said, this album is certainly a great one. The obvious highlight is the single “Minerva,” revealing the band’s strongest stab at the atmospheric, melodic metal they had been working so hard to perfect. They’ve nailed it before, but never as good as this.
The other notables are in the first half of the album, with the band delivering a fairly standard sound, and a familiar one for listeners of early work, particularly White Pony. We can’t blame the band for doing more of the same – their previous album was their most successful ever, and so as the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke….
And it certainly isn’t. There are plenty of well-written rockers (though nothing as loud as “Hexagram”) and “Digital Bath”-esque softies to keep die-hard fans interested throughout. What Deftones lacks, though, is A-game; these tracks feel secondary to that of the standouts on White Pony, and they lack the structure and melodic hook to keep the listener mesmerized and, also, to gain any new fans. Content is given the backseat to form.
Songs like “Battle-Axe” and “Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event” drag the album down a bit with the aforementioned slow dirge, making Deftones feel a bit samey and aimless. The choruses aren’t as memorable, while the riffs and instrumentation feel forced and without direction. This gives the album its inconsistency, a problem the band had never had before. The crooner “Lucky You,” however, is a highlight – Moreno’s voice is soothingly set alongside a Team Sleep-esque electronic beat.
Overall, Deftones isn’t perfect. It certainly is an uneven record, a weak point in the band’s catalog – a small stumbling block in between two amazing collections. While most would agree it’s a minor setback, however, it’s a great, underrated, overlooked piece of work that reveals a group continuing to flourish with talent in the world of metal. With this album, the band keeps pace with their intriguing journey, maturing along the way. The missteps in Deftones would be polished on Saturday Night Wrist, and they were minor missteps to begin with. At the end of the day, it’s just another Deftones album, and there’s never anything wrong with that.