Review Summary: "The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls" - Picasso.
Some albums become more than simply collections of songs on a piece of plastic. They take up a unique life of their own, and inhabit a very special corner of your
life, gaining more and more relevance and meaning as time goes by. These are albums to be revered, and revisited whenever the chance arises. For most, these albums will be completely different- for we are all completely different.
Myself? I have 'White Pony'.
Some refer to music as a drug, and liken listening to an album to going on a trip. 'White Pony' does that absolutely- for just under 50 minutes the listener is absorbed into a thrilling, nightmarish journey of sound and lyric that feels like a voyage into the subconscious. One does not only listen to this record- they experience this record. 'White Pony' is not an album to be put on as background music to another task, it's to be paid attention to and be mesmerised by.
From the moment the stuttering guitars and unorthodox drums of 'Feiticeira' begin your journey, you are immersed in a dark environment of aural claustrophobia. Vocalist Chino Moreno serves as your guide, taunting you with a refrain of 'soon I'll let you go'- but it will be some time before the album does that. Then just as the song reaches fever pitch it gives way to the expansive, shimmering beauty of 'Digital Bath', an electric love song with a twisted edge. Abe Cunningham's genius drum line carries you away before a soaring chorus lifts you into space. The feeling of elation is soon ripped to shreds by the bloodthirsty assault of 'Elite'- easily the heaviest song here, the serrated riffs and tortured screams pummel the listener into submission. 'RX Queen' is the aftermath- a sparsely arranged, quite simple song with a barbed hook of a chorus and some cool tribal percussion.
The bizarrely titled 'Street Carp' is the weakest song on the album in isolation, but as part of the whole of 'White Pony' it serves masterfully as the end of the first act (so to speak), recalling 'Feiticeira' in its angular rhythms and insistent hooks. 'Teenager' is something of a segue, a minimalist acoustic song with a trip hop backing that sees Chino mourning a lost love. A beautiful song in its own right, it serves as perfect entrance into the album's second half and the majestic 'Knife Party', a dark, dynamic epic with spellbinding vocals, sinister subtext and a bridge that takes to the stars via some haunting female vocal acrobatics. The momentum is maintained with the bruising bounce of 'Korea', the only hint of the band's nu metal past. The album so far has been a murderously exciting experience, but even these thrills are topped by the closing triumvirate of this masterpiece of a record.
Rising from synths swells and backed by another great drumbeat, Stef Carpenter's razor-edged melodic riff signals the arrival of 'Passenger'. A duet between Chino and Maynard Keenan, it's a haunting tale of God-knows-what told through whispered verses and an aching chorus, a minimalist bridge then exploding just at the right moment. A mournful piano motif then gives way to 'Change (In the House of Flies)', a masterpiece of loud/quiet dynamics that takes the album's claustrophobic feel to its absolute pinnacle. Ranging from unsettling ambience to a crescendo of guitars, drums and repetitions of the song's title, 'Change' is nothing short of sublime. It finally ends and you feel as if it's all over, but then an echoing guitar emerges from the silence, and Chino floats in like a ghost to deliver some of the best lyrics of the record. 'Pink Maggit' is a truly fitting way to end the album, building from a few notes of guitar to a rolling cavalcade. Some of the last words spoken on this album are the refrain 'we are the leaders of all'. Damn right they are.
This is an absolute work of art, hidden within a movement that encouraged anything but. This is the very definition of a whole being worth more than its individual pieces. This is a genre-spanning masterpiece that I will never tire of. This is the third album by Deftones.
This is 'White Pony'.