Deftones by Deftones (2003)

These tones are DEF!These tones are DEF!These tones are DEF!These tones are DEF!

An excellent album, worth the wait, and lives up to its name!

J.C. Mašek III... Not just the world's greatest Critic, but also a Deft One!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!
When the band known as Deftones released their first album Adrenaline back in 1995 they were considered to be among the nu-metal disciples of KoRn, which would be fine if they hadn't been around as long as KoRn had to date. Tracks like "Engine Number 9" showed that they were as heavy as anyone out there (anyone at least with an address outside of Sweden), while Chino Moreno's vocal style equally capable with the heavy metal scream and the hip-hop Rap put Deftones' own spin on the genre. 1997's Around the Fur followed a very similar formula and gained them even more fans (as did 1999's Live)! Then Deftones did something completely unexpected... an almost complete musical about-face! 2000's White Pony went to an acoustic softness reaching out beyond their pigeonhole and damning the torpedoes (and critical expectations) to put out a sonically rich and textured piece that was as unexpected as their Depeche Mode cover on For the Masses! Through none of this did they lose their credibility, instead, securing it by not cowing to pressure to release the same studio album a third time! Kudos to them for doing what they wanted to do! Did it work? One listen to "Digital Bath" will answer that in the resoundingly affirmative! So how to follow up such an ambitious release? Do they "return to form" or put out White Pony Volume 2? Neither!

One highly recommended album... and check out this deadly cover!!!
On May 20, 2003 Deftones released their self titled fifth album (counting Live). In general a self titled album either marks a debut, or a new direction for an existing (though usually reinvented) band. In some cases this can be quite successful, though in others (see: Motley Crue, Metallica) it can be a bit of a disaster. Happily Deftones is the success that ever self titled (non-debut) hopes for and deserves!

Deftones is not the "soft in a good way" collection that White Pony is, nor is it a return to the rap-metal of the earliest Deftones work (including their "Wicked" collaboration with KoRn). Instead Chino and the boys have progressed to a combination of the old and the new. They have created a mix of songs that aren't afraid to be soft, yet married to the heavy. In many cases the music is soft and peaceful while Moreno's voice is over-layed in a heavy metal scream. The combination is an almost frightening experiment of Tool in reverse! There is almost no hip-hop influence on the entire disc, and absolutely no rapped verses... however Deftones' experimental nature is still present here, as the music goes from acoustic peace, to distorted metal to percussion-driven grinds reminiscent of Meshuggah (often all within less than fifty seconds).

While all the songs fit well into a cohesive whole it cannot be said that all the songs sound the same. There are some similarities between songs, however, there is no direct replication at all. Deftones have created lyric-driven songs here with variable combinations of form and structure (especially hinging upon the ever changing ranges of Chino Moreno's voice).

The album begins with "Hexagram" an anti-terrorism song with a repetitive to the point of haunting chorus "Worship, Play, Play! Worship, Play, Play!" Chino's tortured screams over (primarily) peaceful rock guitars offers an anachronistic and uncomfortable confusion that fits the subject matter perfectly. Another high point is "Minerva" (which, judging from the notes on the cover, is to be their "new hit single" grrrrrrrrrrr), a strange, positive number that says "God Bless you all!" The sharp-textured "Battle-Axe" shows that Moreno's guitar is not afraid to be heavy even on an experimentally orchestrated release. "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event" is the depressing, yet detached song that each band of this genre is forced to have at least one of. While the pensive introspective songs that permeate modern metal have become ubiquitous of late, this is no simple retread of a Staind song. Moreno's lyrics seem to have no holds barred for the entire album as on this (and several other tracks) the name of God comes up (and not in a disparaging NIN sort of way)! While these are a few of the more memorable songs (after the first six or seven listens) there really are no poor tracks here.

With Moreno handling lead guitar and vocals, Abe Cunningham on skins, and Chi Cheng handling Bass, one wonders if Deftones could survive as a trio along the lines of Nirvana, or Rush. This album, however, shows more than ever the vitality of the contributions of Frank Delgado's keyboards, and Stephen Carpenter's strings. Because of the multi-layered approach Deftones offers a murky, yet deep power that can be alternately both dark and light, both heavy and soft, and always, always deep! Like Untouchables by KoRn, Deftones have an eye to the future... but are much more experimental on their journey there!

If Deftones, or the album Deftones has any flaws it has to do with an almost too concerted effort. With the exception of Chino Moreno's voice, there is very little else that stands out directly. Again, this isn't a problem because the harmonies are beautiful, but this is a symptom of the current crop of rock and roll bands who avoid solos of any kind. Further, toward the middle of the album, some of the tracks tend to blend together, not sounding the same per se, but certainly following some of the same formulas. The fact that these two points are pretty weak tends to show how good this album really is! Deftones is a rich concert of soundscapes and experiments that is well worth repeated listens (trust me... I listened to this at least seven times before I began to type the first letter).

About a decade ago Rick Rubin, the head of Def American records, invited friends, artists, and fans to a funeral for the word "Def" theorizing that because "Def" had made it into some dictionaries the word itself could clearly not be considered def anymore, and hence American Records was born! As "quote whore" as this might sound, the tones here truly are def, and the funeral was certainly premature! Four Stars (out of Five) for Deftones! I'll wait to hear what other reviewers say, but as far as I am concerned this is a worthy album and a good collection to be Self-Titled. Considering the canon of Deftones work to date, this is a good summary of what they have done, can do and will do! It's also much more experimental than other bands of their ilk are willing to be, and because of this, and their proficiency with experiments, Deftones aren't going to get old any time soon!

If you want more DEF reviews, click here!

Deftones by Deftones reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his views and his sprained neck (again)!
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