For years the Deftones have utilized a combination of Chino Moreno’s sleepy croon and Stephen Carpenter’s unique guitar voicings to remain one of the few bands that aren’t ashamed to be smart and heavy. All the elements came together for 2000’s White Pony, a true standout in modern metal that built on 1997’s Around the Fur with improved songwriting, a knack for soft/loud dynamics, more attention to production and atmosphere and DJ Frank Delgado, who’s ambient touch sent songs like “Knife Party” and “Teenager” over the top. The result was an erotic thriller, an album equal parts sleazy and beautiful.
2003 sees the release of Deftones, the self-titled fourth album from Chino and co., and at first listen the let down is evident. White Pony now seems as if it was a one-off for the band, that all the potential shown in their first two albums was maxed out for their 2000 release.
Deftones finds the group mostly reverting to their old selves, forgoing the nuances that made Pony so great in favor of pounding the listener over the head until unconcious. After realizing how good of a band the Deftones could be, I find myself disappointed with all of the mindless dissonance and screaming.
With a band as good as the Deftones, however, you couldn’t expect the album to be a total failure. “Good Morning Beautiful” is killer; everything that makes the best of the Deftones is found here (off-kilter rhythms, manic guitar progressions coated with dreamy vocals). “Deathblow” is another victorious anthem, staggering drunk through the verses and exploding into a fit of inebriated rage during the chorus. Unfortunately, these moments are balanced by songs like “Lucky You,” which tries for Nine Inch Nails ala The Fragile and comes off instead as pretentious and forced, or “When Girls Telephone Boys,” which steps on the brain past the point of enjoyment and into the territory of really annoying. Luckily, “Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event” arrives, the counterpart of Pony‘s “Teenager,” where Moreno’s voice is utilized to move (as in emotionally, not the standard physically). The album closes with “Moana,” another solid track that can’t be argued with (except, possibly, it’s placement on the album—”Anniversary” would have served much better as a closer).
Deftones is by no means a bad album, and most Deftones fans will enjoy it—yet I can’t ignore the fact that, poised for a big step, the Deftones took one backwards. Dissapointing.