Review Summary: Its okay, I'm alright
Fight or flight?
The loss of a band member, be it from any means, is one of the most trying times for any band. Whether you're still cutting your teeth in the industry or old salts who have been around the block and back again, there's no getting around the undeniable void that appears when an opening slot within the group opens up. How do you cope in the wake of tragedy, when one of your own leaves, or as the case is here, taken from you? Do you put on the brave face and continue on even as the scars are only beginning to heal, or do you leave it all behind, realizing that the man you called brother was too essential to the group for you to be anymore than a hazy shadow of what you once were if you kept the show running in his absence? In the case of the Deftones, they took a route often avoided by their peers who have been befallen by similar circumstances; discard everything that you had conceived up until that point, take a step back, and then start all over again. And even though the Deftones have always played the reinvention card with an almost expectant glee and and an unmeasurable amount of tact, the notion that the band might have just bitten off more than they can chew this time around was always going to be bought into question. Eros
, the as yet unreleased album that was in the works at the time of Chi's tragic accident was pieced together over the course of roughly 3 and a half years; and even though we've come to expect the lengthy periods between releases from the 'tones, that was still a bit of a stretch. And yet after indefinitely postponing the release of Eros
in June of last year until now, the band have resurfaced, slightly shaken yet still as potent as ever, with this, Diamond Eyes
, and after (technically) their shortest song writing period yet, Chino and the gang have managed to pull off what is quite possibly the metal album of the year, and an album that when stacked up along side their previous works is perhaps only overshadowed by that juggernaut of influence, White Pony
What sets Diamond Eyes
apart from their last release, 2006's Saturday Night Wrist
, is the overwhelming feeling of passion you get from the performances, something that seemed to be somewhat lacking from Wrist
.That's not to say that SNW suffered from a lack of focus or direction, or even that it was a lackluster release, but here every sound, every nuance and quite frankly, every note, is filled to the brim with an untold amount of emotion and drive. Now that might seem like a strange concept given the recent events surrounding the band, but what seems to come across the most on this album is their joy to simply be playing music again, at being able to hold all the negativity at bay and just throw everything that they had into this album, all the emotions locked up inside of them finally been given a chance to be let out. And as a result of this new found passion the band have possibly given us their most entrancing and varied singular performances yet.
The songs themselves find the lads moving into a more image heavy soundscape, reminiscent of their ground breaking and genre defying White Pony
LP. Tracks like 'You've Seen The Butcher' and 'Beauty School' weave rich aural tapestries of sonic euphoria, rising and falling, creating crests and peaks that hold up throughout the course of the album. 'Beauty School' in particular is rich in imagery, the music adding to the ideas and feelings that Chino only hints at. Even 'CMND/CTRL', more of a simpler number is given plenty of time to build up its crushing assault, with Chino descending into an Around The Fur
style of delivery, spastic and abrasive, yet haunting and chilling in equal measures. 1st single 'Rocket Skates', weighty and rich in its style sees Chino once again going against the grain, crooning his verses over the destruction of the rhythm section, reserving his trademark inhaled screams for the chorus alone. And while it may not be the standout of the album, the eerie yet memorable chorus of GUNS. RAZORS. KNIVES
hits harder than anything the Deftones have pulled out in a long time.
Every band member is playing up to their usual appealing strengths, yet adding in new twists and turns at every corner, that while remaining nostalgic in parts, also reveals a new and exciting edge to the band's dynamic. 'Royal', while following the group's meticulously detailed blueprint, throws in a few surprise punches, that resonate throughout the course of the track, right up until the knockout that is Chino, in all his schizophrenic and frenzied detachment, descends into a maddening and fury filled outro that goes for broke and just doesn't look back. But perhaps the true gem on offer here is 'Prince', a track steeped in White Pony
mythology. Quietly beginning with underlying bass and subtle yet mysterious imagery, its not until the bridge where the 'tones hit their biggest landmark of the album. Wall of sound guitars pummel and absorb you into the maelstrom as Chino proves once again that he is one of the most versatile singers in the business today. Scrambling for purchase over the manic cacophony he laments over being shut away for so long, but looking outside and returning to the world to not worry any longer, that he is in fact, okay. And its here that the emotion and the intensity hit you like a ton and you realize that Diamond Eyes
is just as much for the fans as it is for the band themselves. Like finding new air even as their sermon was potentially being written, the boys have returned to prove everything and nothing all at once. Like a kind of divine catharsis, Chino tells us in as many words as he wants everything that needs to be said, to spill it out and be done with it.
What Diamond Eyes
reveals to us is the Deftones steadfast refusal to hide behind anything they've ever done before; and in taking a huge risk in exposing a new side to them in the wake of such a tragedy has exposed just how high they really can go. Its obvious that they've taken all the weight off their shoulders and used it to their advantage, and in the process have crafted one of the most starkly honest and forceful albums of their career. And while it might not be the overwhelming achievement that I give it credit for upon the first few listens, every new take reveals another facet of their mindset, another idea buried in the rough waiting to be dug up and examined. And while Diamond Eyes
may exist simply because of the loss of another it holds absolutely nothing back, it gives its all and expects nothing less in return. Or maybe it exists simply because, in the words of Chino himself:
One more time, just because I can