Knocks every pretender to the band’s throne into the middle of next week.
Mike Diver 2010-04-29
If there’s a criticism to be levelled at Deftones, it’s that the Californian quintet’s albums since 2000’s White Pony have largely foregone consistency for exploration that rarely leant itself to a cohesive experience. Though they successfully shook off any nu-metal shackles with said third album – an exercise in immersive, textural metal that blindsided the band’s rap-rock-loving (then) fanbase – their following records neither surpassed White Pony’s creative highs, nor emerged sequenced in such a fashion that the skip button wasn’t at least hovered over. But with Diamond Eyes they’ve cracked that latter conundrum.
These 11 tracks flow fantastically, sounding like products of a focused period of writing and recording, completed over a relatively short space of time – which they were, after what should have been the group’s sixth album, Eros, was indefinitely delayed when bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a car accident in late 2008. He remains in a minimally conscious state, but his bandmates have pressed onwards – not without reluctance, certainly, but ultimately wisely. Diamond Eyes ensures it’s not only livelihoods that are safeguarded for the foreseeable, but that the band’s reputation remains vertiginous.
There is no overflow from Eros here – everything on Diamond Eyes is built upwards from freshly laid foundations, with ex-Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega filling Cheng’s role. The dynamic is not significantly changed: vocalist Chino Moreno still leads from the front with contributions both caustic and celestial, Abe Cunningham mans his kit with the assured expressiveness of a musician whose abilities stretch further than most metal-scene sticksmen, and guitarist Stephen Carpenter grinds out riffs that display strength while never suffocating the mix. Filling the gaps is Frank Delgado, whose layers of samples and keys again lend the overall sound a satisfying richness – though the ambience here is more organic than in the past.
Compositionally, though, this is the group on safe ground – taking cues from their post-White Pony catalogue without adventuring into unknown sonic pastures. But don’t be disheartened, as this relative restraint rewards the listener with a collection that’s better for its conservatism. Rocket Skates and CMND/CTRL represent the record’s heaviest tracks, but neither challenges the likes of Elite or When Girls Telephone Boys, from White Pony and Deftones respectively. Likewise, 976-EVIL and Beauty School, as well as the title-track, feel more like reminders of the mid-pace precision of both 2003’s self-titled album and 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist than attempts at actively expanding their makers’ oeuvre.
But progress isn’t the intention of Diamond Eyes. Eros is reportedly their excursion into weirdness, while this is a statement of consolidation, a neatly segued set that finds Deftones playing to their well-established strengths. It won’t blow experienced minds, yet still knocks every pretender to the band’s throne into the middle of next week.
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