Deftones, 2009, and things aren’t looking too hot. Following a car accident, bass player Chi Cheng is in a coma from which he is yet to fully recover. Mainmen Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter are barely reconciled. Reaction to and sales of fifth album Saturday Night Wrist have left them somewhat off-radar; to top things off, the band have scrapped an entire album’s worth of material (provisionally entitled Eros), and one way or another one of the most vital of bands look lost and irrelevant. So, with their sixth LP finally out, ‘album of the year’ wasn’t an obvious outcome. Most fans would have settled for ‘album of the month’ or ‘best Deftones album this year’ or even ‘sixth best-ever Deftones LP’ but shit this is good and all the more pleasurable given its origins. I remember the band in interviews talking about the sheer sound of their self-titled fourth album, but this sounds properly incredible – super, super heavy, but with all the melody and sonic imagination that made White Pony the mutt’s nuts all those years ago (blocks of 10 years as a measure of time worry me greatly, but it’s been that long since Digital Bath, Change (In the House of Flies), Passenger etc.). These new songs are as good.
The title track takes but 30 seconds to bathe us in a gorgeous chorus (a ghorus?), then finishes with gratuitous riffing of Pantera-esque, slowed-down power. We get even more crushingly wooaaaarrrggh on CMND/CTRL; sparse and atmospheric (Deftones have always done ‘atmos’ so well) on You’ve Seen the Butcher. Conversely, Sextape resists the heavy guitars to stay transparent, dreamy, euphoric.
The lyrical themes and song titles remain comfortably, perpetually adolescent – Beauty School bounces along on a pretty pop riff – ‘I like you when you take off your face…’, Rocket Skates simply flies; Prince echoes White Pony’s RX Queen, all unsettling suspense and an epic chorus.
The bonus edition even includes a Cardigans cover – Do You Believe which just about made me explode, and even drunkenly harass an HMV employee as to why the regular compact disc doesn’t feature that particular masterstroke.
The whole sound (a snare snap like this won’t be heard on a bigger album this year), the style, the playing… everything just sounds like Deftones always have, which is to their eternal credit. Not much in the way of ‘development’, no stylistic swerves, just a steady honing of intent and direction on an album up there with anything you’ve ever loved about this band.
Words: Tom Farncombe
Listen: DEFTONES – Diamond Eyes