The Deftones – Diamond Eyes

What a large eight ball the vaguely stupid yet fiercely intelligent Deftones put themselves behind right from the onset of their career. They were from Sacramento, toured with Korn, had dreadlocks and occasionally spoke in broken ebonics. Their debut album, Adrenaline, featured quick hitting bursts of rage combined with a whisper quiet menace that while certainly crossing over into heavy handed at times, always seemed to retain it’s integrity. Yes the angst present on most “nu-metal” albums of the time was there, but the angle from which Chino Moreno approached the lyrics was very much its own. These were not songs about being bullied by another high schooler, they were indictments of racism and genuine hatred. The Deftones always did bite off a bit more than their peers.
Somehow, they’ve avoided the dreaded “dated” feel of say a Korn or Slipknot, never becoming a punch line and always sighted as an influence on more respectable acts of the day such as Glassjaw and Between the Buried and Me. It’s a shaky tightrope to walk, aggression that is fueled by experimenting with sound, evened out with a dose of pop sensibility. That’s why every album they release is always an experience for me, same as it was when I was 15, even as I push 26.

That gets us to their new album. Brand new Deftones songs in 2010. Let us get to it. it’s called Diamond Eyes by the way.

Okay, that’s not the real cover. Sorry.

(1) Diamond Eyes – Hey, a Deftones single. Crunchy guitars, vague lyrics that may or may not mean a thing and a soaring chorus that ends up the theme song to my bizarre dreams where I return to high school and dominate at basketball. I have no explanation to this. The songs good and semi-uplifting for whatever reason, but it does remind me a bit too much of say “Minerva” from their self titled album in structure. Still, a very good song and let the masses sip at it’s nectar. I…guess. ****, try and get it out of your head.

(2) Royal – Strikingly like an updated “Around The Fur” track except this is obviously made by a bunch of guys about to hit 40. The band still has fangs, but they’re a bit shaved down, ya know? The ending gives us the first glimpse of Chino’s screeching howl and I am happy to have it back in my life. ***½

(3) Cmnd_Cntrl – Another one that reeks of Around the Fur (I’ll say “Rickets” and it are distant relatives). Plodding ferocity, a nice “White Pony” style interlude and a song that refuses to overstay it’s welcome. Why thank you. *** Nothing great, but focused.

(4) You’ve Seen The Butcher – From here on out, the album really starts to breathe with new ideas and come into it’s own and this song is a perfect introduction into that world. More chugging guitars. Stefen Carpenter does by far his best work on this record, I’d venture to say. He used to be the one that pissed me off, but that vaguely obese, high son of a bitch is just on fire on this record. Great swagger to this song, soaring pre-chorus and Chino pulling off his usual seducing tone for the chorus. Ignore my erection and focus on your loved ones. ****

(5) Beauty School – Once again, Stef bringing it on the opening section. Doesn’t even sound like the Deftones and I mean that in a good way. Just a wonderful verse delivery by Chino, so subtle and it leads into a crashing wave of a chorus. The instrumentation really pulling it all together so far, no forced attempts at anger or melancholy. Let’s call the track “mysterious” and try not to feel like assholes about it. **** So so very good.

(6) Prince – The White Pony throws up all over the beginning of this track. Reminds me of RX Queen in structure and tone. It makes you drift in anxiousness and then after the second passing of a very nice chorus, something awful wakes up and the magic happens. That screaming section goes on Chino’s personal highlight reel for me personally. Then all that quiet comes back in. The Deftones at their best, invoking melancholia, paranoia and unfiltered anger. Forget the shaved down fangs comment earlier, said fangs are ever present, just more of a secret weapon than a featured commodity. My favorite track on the album, I want to hug and murder you. *****

(7) Rocket Skates – Man this falls flat for me. Just never got me moving in anyway. Kind of like trying to get drunk, making it 7 beers in and realizing you just want to go to bed. It almost works, but you end up just pissing a lot. What? **

(8) Sextape – Awwww. There we go. I want to own a puppy and this song reinforces this impulse. Softest guitar and vocal delivery present on the album. What a chorus too. I want to sip fine wine to it and compliment people I know as it plays. The song is just pretty , there isn’t a more fitting term. ****1/2

(9) Risk – Ohhhh this is nice too. It is a bit too much like some earlier tracks on the album though, almost an upgraded version. Also, I stopped paying attention to the track and tried to find a AAA battery for roughly ¾’s of it. I like it in any case. ***½

(10) 976-EVIL – Man, that is an awful fucking movie. I respect them naming a song that refuses to suck after it. Another intro that sounds very little like previous Deftones releases. Who knew minorities had such quiet dignity in them? Excuse me?! Sorry. The song is really good and kind of bums me out in a good way. Chino hits high notes that one would think all of the cigarettes and cocaine use would of made impossible by now. Kudos! ****

(11) This Place is Death – The way albums should end. A nice encompassing song that seems to touch plenty of bases in the past and current Deftones catalogue all while keeping it’s own bizarre mood flowing coherently. Abe is very good in this, my favorite drum track. Remember a few years ago when his old band Phallucy re-recorded a few tracks and all the Deftones fans were excited. Then you heard it and kinda pretended it didn’t happen because you like Abe so much that you didn’t want to insult it? Oh yeah, this song is good. ****

And you cant stop now row by row almost out.
Covered in black and gold no one cares and no one knows.

My gift to the world outside.
It’s ok, I’m all right
now open your empty hands
’cause here comes the fun here comes the end. – Prince

Not totally sure what that means, but god damned did I pump my fist and threaten my children as it was screamed at me! MAN I WISH IT WAS DINNER TIME. But it’s like 2 a.m. Fuck.

Final Thoughts: Is this my favorite Deftones release? God, it might be. White Pony, Saturday Night Wrist and Diamond Eyes are fighting to the death over this dignity and I cannot select a winner at this point. I renounce the Lord.

*****3/4. To Celebrate, here’s a picture of Chino looking fiercely Asian.

 He so solly!