Review Summary: A perfect album, recklessly diverse. One of the best of the year, it shows the strengths of the individual members and the band as a whole.
Saturday Night Wrist was a long time coming. During the four years following the release of their self-titled album, Deftones nearly left the music scene for good. The band was divided over the role of veteran producer Bob Ezrin. Singer Chino Moreno was addicted to speed, alcohol, and involved with another band. Stephen Carpenter, one of the top guitarists to emerge from the ‘90’s mainstream-metal scene, was taking time off from writing songs to play golf… on the internet. However, it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the year’s best albums resulted from so much chaos. After all, doesn’t most great art evolve out of periods of discord?
The album presents itself perfectly. The cover image and title are strangely erotic and disturbing, reminiscent of Moreno’s electroshock sex fantasy hit-single “Digital Bath”. Once the music actually, starts, however, it’s clear that the band members have finally stitched their varied musical influences together seamlessly. Opener and first single “Hole in the Earth” is a wise combination of alternative rock and dark metal riffing. The chorus soars in every way imaginable, from Chino’s the-sky-is-the-limit vocal performance to Carpenter’s searing lead to drummer Abe Cunningham’s creatively restrained slamming. From here, the album only gets better.
Carpenter’s love of math-metal is no secret here. “Rats! Rats! Rats!” doesn’t slow down once, despite the sheer beauty found in the chorus of this otherwise brutal cut. The bridge is exceptionally pulse-pounding and stakes new territory in the band’s heavy explorations. “Rapture” is ferociously heavy, changing time signatures often. Chino screams his way through this one until the song’s end, when a bizarre synth line turns the piece into new-wave. Again, the band’s influences combine equally. Carpenter destroys, Cunningham grooves, and DJ Frank Delgado, who plays keyboards instead of turntables on this album, adds complex sonic textures to the mix.
Delgado’s presence is more felt than ever and Saturday Night Wrist easily contains his best, most diverse work. Consider the sweeping keyboards that open “Xerces” or the cricket chirping that adds an ominous feel to the brooding epic “Beware”. He, and the rest of the musicians here, are on top form. Bassist Chi Cheng provides constant support for the group’s musical detours and locks in perfectly with the brilliant Cunningham. Every one of Cunningham’s notes, fills, flourishes, ghost rolls, or pulsating grooves fits the music perfectly. It all culminates with “Kimdracula”, a new Deftones classic, where all the band members play off each other perfectly, never out-doing one another and instead focus on crafting one of their strongest works. Chino’s expressive singing really carries this driving, ceaseless tune to its sudden end.
With all these different gears at work, the album should have been a mess. Instead, it works without a hitch, and never fails to surprise in its sheer beauty (“Cherry Waves”), dramatic sensibility (“Riviere”, a haunting trip down a foggy road), or flat-out vulgarity (the hilarious “Pink Cellphone”, featuring the deceptive Annie Hardy on guest vocals). But what the record is really all about is atmosphere. The atmosphere is flawlessly consistent throughout, even when the band is at their loudest or softest: dark, theatrical, melancholy, and, yes, undeniably sexy for a bunch of fat dudes from Sacramento. This is not to be missed.