Remember when heavy metal bands didn’t rap? When there wasn’t a cheesy guy with sunglasses scratching in the background? It’s as if authentic heavy metal is as endangered as our dear Florida panther. But leave it to the Deftones to right the ship, releasing their self-titled fourth album.
The Sacramento, Calif. band’s first two albums, 1995’s Adrenaline and 1997’s Around the Fur, laid the foundation for what many now term nu-metal, but without all the flash and circumstance of many bands that embrace nu-metal’s current flag. The albums provided a depth of subject matter (stalker-ism, obsessive girlfriends, murder) that is above and beyond the snotty, self-centered tomes of others.
And lead singer Chino Moreno’s adroit interplay between hypnotic wailing and full-on screaming fills both albums with the juxtaposition of soothing and impaling vocals.
While their last album, White Pony, was a bit of a letdown with lighter topics and less focused musicianship (not to mention it was a bit too long), the album went platinum and gave the Deftones more than enough funds to get back into the studio and focus on the newest LP.
The self-title of their fourth album gives fans a clue that the Deftones may be getting back to the heavy metal and heavier themes, a welcome clue that is undoubtedly merited.
“Hexagram” starts the album like a slap in the face, with Moreno screaming the wiring out of his mic. It could do without the vocals during chorus, which alternates the words “worship” and “play,” but there’s plenty of metal thrash to go around. Moreno, somehow screeching the word “indigenous,” is entertaining as well.
Even though “Needle and Pins” serves mainly as a filler song, like filler songs on their other albums, the song is nonetheless substantial. Chino’s voice on this track is as full as ever as he hits the highest of metal highs. Seriously, the reason many metal groups today have front men who either half-sing or rap is that they couldn’t sing if they tried. This is not a problem for Moreno; even though his rapping on earlier albums was quality, he’s grown and left that era behind.
“Minerva” is the kind of ballsy song that showcases Moreno’s talents as a singer and a songwriter. Likely commenting on a cheating girlfriend, Moreno cries “for all the hearts you break every time you moan.”
Always good at fast metal tracks, the Deftones (or Deft Ones, as my friend Don sometimes refers to them) are in good form on “Good Morning Beautiful,” with fast, spirited drum work by Abe Cunningham and a great refrain that you won’t be able to get out of your head.
Bassist Chi Cheng utilizes nice reverb on the ballad “Deathblow,” on which Moreno shifts from groan to wail better than an orgasm.
The album has a dynamic set of songs, such as “When Girls Telephone Boys,” a funny put-down track about girls that don’t stop calling after a bad date, the endlessly creepy “Lucky You” and “Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event,” a surprising piano ballad.
In the film Demolition Man, Sandra Bullock’s character referred to the “fast food wars,” with Taco Bell being the last remaining restaurant. Well, the Deftones are in a similar situation, the last young, relevant metal band standing.
4 out of 5 records
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