Deftones

TrackAlbum
Engine No.9Adrenaline
Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)Around The Fur
FeiticeiraWhite Pony
Change (In The House Of Flies)White Pony
HexagramDeftones
Hole In The EarthSaturday Night Wrist
Beauty SchoolDiamond Eyes
Rocket SkatesDiamond Eyes
Swerve CityKoi No Yokan
Hearts/WiresGore

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Deftones photo

Deftones (l to r): Abe Cunningham, Frank Delgado, Chino Moreno, Sergio Vega, Stephen Carpenter

 

Contributor: Owain Wright

A band that was once considered a Nu-Metal juggernaut and have also covered Sade, The Cure and Duran Duran, Deftones have always pummelled expectations and transcended boundaries in their own completely badass style. They are the best metal band I’ve ever heard because of all the things they do that aren’t typically metal. Really, apart from their first two records, their palette of sound has been so vast that ‘metal’ does nowhere near any justice to their brilliance. Lyrically obtuse, esoteric and at times erotic, Deftones are a band to get lost in, to be immersed in, to lose your conscious mind in – I really do love this band.

High School friends From Sacramento, CA, Chino Moreno, vocalist, guitarist and ethereal soundsmith, Stephen Carpenter, guitarist and metalhead colossus, Abe Cunningham, heavy hitting drummer, and the late bassist Chi Cheng formed Deftones in the late 80s. After years of playing local shows they signed with Maverick in 1993 and released their debut album Adrenaline in 1995. It was the sound of metal on metal, screeching guitars and half squealed/half rapped vocals, the band crashed into you and then receded like waves against a cliff face. A fairly straight up early Nu-Metal(ish) record that was raw but with hindsight it hinted at more. I’ll admit, nowhere near as much of what was to come but there was something more than your typical mid-90s metal turd going on, a nod to other influences.

Over the course of the subsequent twenty-two years Deftones have released seven more albums, all of them good, some of them transcendently great. The band have almost constantly been pulling in opposite directions throughout this time, Stef ploughing on wanting to bludgeon you to bits with heavy riffs and Chino wanting to you to experience the depth and scope of his deep musical taste. The ambient end of electronica, trip-hop, post-rock, goth, post-punk all feature. This tension is the essence of the greatness at play here, tectonic plates being ripped apart forcing new mass in their place. Even when the band were phoning it in which they apparently were around the self-titled and Saturday Night Wrist records, everything makes sense somehow looking back with a career spanning view. The narrative I read is a heavy band with brilliant, disparate yet overlapping influences, who could not keep a lid on the expanses of their sound but there has always been a weight not letting them escape where they were shaped. This has, by hook or by crook, made them the best and most important ‘metal’ band of the last twenty years.

Where to begin for new listeners? Genuinely the beginning and work forward; Deftones should be experienced on their own timeline.

It’s worth pausing and highlighting that 2008 saw deep tragedy for the band; bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a car crash and spent the next five years battling injuries until his death in 2013. The band were recording at the time of the accident, the results of which haven’t surfaced, but they quickly drafted in former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega which resulted in 2010’s Diamond Eyes, a complete triumph of an LP. It rebooted the band and has resulted in their current three album roll of brilliance, maybe the best three consecutive record run of their career.

And so to the list. Picking my favourite 10 Deftones songs will not do the band’s evolution or sonic range justice so we’re going on a linear journey from ˈ95 to the present day covering each album and as many of the elements of this great band as possible. These aren’t necessarily the best Deftones tracks or even my favourites, although some do make the list, it just tries to tell the band’s story from beginning to where we sit today as I have experienced them.

An important post-script is that Deftones do the finest range in wearable band merchandise I’ve ever seen, which is cool.

 

Engine No.9 Adrenaline (1995)

The sound of a young band swinging for the fences. This one doesn’t let up for a second. It’s uncomplicated and urgent as hell. Chino youthfully raps cramming an unhealthy number of words into the confines of the song’s four walls, Stef’s riffs are taut and massive and the breakdown towards the end is bloody broken nose waiting to happen. A fine example of ‘straight up’ metal Deftones leaving us in a sweaty heap come track’s end.

 
Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away) Around The Fur (1997)

A song of escape, epic in sound and scale, my favourite Deftones song. From the laconic strums of the intro, through the momentary pause reignited by a tiny cymbal brush to the hourglass sands of the long fade out, Be Quiet And Drive is glorious. One of Chino’s most straightforward songs lyrically “This town don’t feel mine, fast to get away”, “I don’t care where just far”, “it feels good to know you’re mine” but with a hint at something depraved lurking, “I’ve dressed you in her clothes …” which is Chino’s lyrical MO. One of multiple high points on Around The Fur which treads the lines between heavy but accessible, progressive but tight.

 
Feiticeira White Pony (2000)

White Pony is a perfect album, a leap onward and outwards for the band. Traces of the past are to be found but they simmer beneath a dank layer of subtle industrial sounds, glitches and bubbles of electronic haze. Feiticeira is a technical masterclass of ebb and flow in tempo, pace, volume and vocal delivery. Chino’s vocals are whispered and then soar, recede and breakdown, “First untie me …” is breathtaking at its height. The band and Abe Cunningham on drums in particular rise and fall effortlessly making the twists and turns feel totally natural. White Pony is quite rightly considered by many as the band’s magnum opus, the leap forward in ambition and sound is monumental. Chino started adding additional guitar tracks creating an ocean of sound and Frank Delgado joined adding layered keys and subtle samples swelling the tide.

 
Change (In The House Of Flies) White Pony (2000)

One of a silly number of supreme high points from the stupendous White Pony record, ‘Change’ highlights what Frank Delgado brings to the table in terms of tone and atmosphere setting. ‘Change’, like a number of other tracks on the album, is allowed space to breathe, tension is created and released through masterful quiet/loud dynamics. Deep in a couple of the choruses is one mother of a chord progression, good enough for me to punch the air as it hits every single time, no matter where.

 
Hexagram Deftones (2003)

Following up White Pony was always going to be one hell of a challenge, an impossible task. With success came inter-band issues and stratospheric expectations. The self-titled record is good, I liked it at the time and I really like it now; it’s interesting, definitely not a re-hash. It sounds warmer but just as dark, deeper and denser than its predecessor. Hexagram opens the record and is a classic heavy cut. Blood-curdling vocals, tempo shifts and epic melody that sounds like an open road. You don’t immediately notice that gigantic melody but it’s weaved in there and breaks out masterfully from all it’s buried beneath. One of Chino’s very best lyrical/vocal hooks … “Worship, play, worship, play”.

 
Hole In The Earth Saturday Night Wrist (2006)

This is the sound of the band tearing itself apart, the breakneck urgent riff, the dreamy verses that swell into the crescendo of “I hate all of my friends, they all lack taste somehow”, the post-rock sonics that Chino would explore more fully with Palms and then more urgent guitar work that crumbles in on itself under the weight. The band was in strife personally, and definitely artistically, but this track is a beautiful beast. Saturday Night Wrist is a little underloved because it’s a bit uneven but when it hits like it does here it really hits.

 
Beauty School Diamond Eyes (2010)

One of the most perfect sounding songs you will ever hear. Beauty School distils everything great about the band into an impeccably constructed catharsis. If I need an emotional release this is on my playlist; it genuinely slows time and suspends the senses. It’s warm and sexy, like dozing post-sex in dark cotton wool clouds. I read somewhere that this a go-to for sound engineers checking their levels as it has everything, quiet, loud, depth and layers, Abe smashing seven hells out of those drums. This one speaks for itself, I can’t do it justice. My second favourite Deftones song.

 
Rocket Skates Diamond Eyes (2010)

Rocket Skates barrels forward like a medieval weapon of destruction smashing all in its wake. Chino adds another of his brutalist mantras, “GUNS, RAZORS, KNIVES”. The perfect moment here is the “woo”, a beat after the second “guns, razors, knives”, a deep deep cut of joy. Diamond Eyes is the sound of a band reinvigorated after Chi’s accident with a new voice in the fold in Sergio Vega. The record was quick and spontaneously recorded and has great urgency as well as a tenderness and lightness of touch. A warm and gorgeous sounding collection of songs with beautiful contrasts of the harsh and the dreamy shoegazey haze. I didn’t think the band had this in them at the time but it has catapulted them to a higher plain over the last seven years and three releases. My favourite Deftones record (I think).

 
Swerve City Koi No Yokan (2012)

Now here’s how to open an album, full gas, life affirming, boundless energy. It sounds huge and completely effortless, band with a crystal clear command of their precise sound and vision. On and off the gas and back again it drives. “That travel through the air” floats in the atmosphere, another lyrical hook for the ages, like dropping brick from the top of a tower block, feeling the suspense of time and then watching it … smash into pieces. The whole album further hones the quiet/loud contrast and adds new shades and depth to the mix. Frank Delgado sprinkles more subtle ambient noise and Chino’s guitar work encompassed more shoegazey drone.

 
Hearts/Wires Gore (2016)

Dreamy post-rock intro, vast sweeping chorus punctuating meandering verses and a culmination of melodic vocals where Chino sounds cleaner and clearer than ever before. This track and the whole of Gore in fact subtly swells the post-Chi Deftones sound. It’s another triumph of a record for genuinely one of the most interesting and rewarding heavy bands of the last couple of decades.

 

Chi Cheng (1970–2013)

 

Deftones official website

Deftones World (including Lyrics)

Deftones at Discogs

Deftones live Donington Park 2016 + interview (YouTube)

Deftones biography (iTunes)

Owain Wright is from Cardiff, Wales and is trying desperately to recapture the Spirit of Bordeaux. Finding the meaning of life with a young family, obnoxious tasting IPAs and opposing right wing politics. Increasingly sporadic thoughts on music can be found on Tumblr and tweets as @SchoolboyError.

TopperPost #639

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