Review Summary: The Deftones third major-label release from Maverick does the inevitable in expanding the group's soundscape successfully to allow for a promising sense of a diverse future.
Turntablist/Samplist/Keyboardist Frank Delgado may have been credited as a guest, featured on several tracks throughout Deftones’ satisfyingly defined second full release from Maverick Records, but his presence is borderline noticeable. In addition to his lack of prevalent airtime, the competence and creativity of that record stemmed from low, raw, and heavy guitar riffs and bass licks, surprisingly fitting mid-tempo drumming from Abe Cunningham, blood curdling screeches on “Rickets,” of Chino Moreno to his warm crooning on single “Be Quiet and Drive.”
Delgado gets his official initiation as a Deftone prior to the writing and recording of the group’s third record with Maverick, “White Pony,” set to release in 2000. With the label pressure doubling on the band from “Around the Fur’s” success, the group decision in the writing process was to incorporate plenty of input from Delgado. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter claimed, “We’re getting told we have to reach out a little more to a bigger crowd, and we think Frank will help us mix things up you know? Mix up what Deftones is.” Delgado’s ideas included a number of things that a number of the band’s members mostly agreed on. Some of these propositions included softening up the band’s tone as a whole; not in any intention to eliminate their spot in the alternative metal scene, but to expand their overall soundscape.
Thankfully Delgado prevails, mostly at least. Exceptions include the 50/50 fan split “Teenager,” a track that some may find droning and irritating while others may view as a nice change of pace. Ultimately however, every other element within the group pales in comparison to its corresponding performance on, “Around The Fur,” (Guitar, Drums, Bass, Lyrics, Vocals, the whole nine yards). This is in no way implying the group’s creativity has dropped in those fields, but to task themselves with incorporating more of Delgado’s contributions means finding a proper backdrop that fits well.
“White Pony’s” creativity most certainly doesn’t go un-noticed, and most of tracks that play cross-over do succeed and keeping Deftones, the Deftones. Opener “Feiteiceira,” runs a very unconventional structure, with no definite verse or chorus present, but stays in a steady time-signature that speeds, slows, and hypnotizes the listener until Moreno chants “Soon, this will be all over, well I hope soon…she said ‘Soon I’ll let you go’.” Cuts like “Rx Queen,” and “Change,” succeed most in the group’s attempt at a wider mainstream cross-over; again retaining plenty of key signature Deftone elements.
The sheer brilliance comes across strictly through, “Passenger,” a touchy but un-skippable track featuring Maynard James Keenan of Tool, and the closer, “Pink Maggit,”; a beautifully dreadful closer that stems just over seven and a half minutes, composed of a slow, intriguing, three minute intro, that transitions to a distorted and chaotic screech and ultimately bursting into a bludgeoning riff that one can only praise the group for how many times they choose to recite it in the final album cut.
All-in-all, White Pony exhibits an array of newfound strong-suits that the Deftones build upon for future releases, as well as a mostly successful cross-over into a more radio-ready territory (all whilst retaining a notable and lovable signature sound).
What’s wrong with “White Pony?” One can’t go after the Deftones for trying new things, especially when they worked out in the majority, but in no way, is this record the record it would have to be, to surpass the artistry and timelessness of its predecessor, “Around the Fur.” This isn’t a stab in the stomach to the record at all, but without much of Delgado’s assistance on the ATF, The Deftones relied solely on countless addictive riffs, un-predictable yet delightfully surprising turns, and a majestic rawness that makes it one of the most re-playable records.
“White Pony,” is great. The Deftones still crush their competition with gifted songwriting. But “White Pony,” isn’t nearly as timeless as its predecessor. On top of that, future Deftones’ releases would prove to make better use of Delgado’s additions, which is proof enough why this record isn’t by any means the group’s best work. But it is the record that opens many doors for the future creative conduits that the Deftones utilize with brilliance. Without this record, there would be a lot missing from what we know and love about this group today.