Review Summary: Nu-metal kings solidify their sound but could do more thinking outside the lines.
Deftones have come a long way from their simple nu-metal upbringing. Around The Fur
was a sort of initiation of the band's odd perspective on the genre, White Pony
was the perfection of it, the band's magnum opus, and their self-titled follow-up seemed to ultimately confuse by strengthening dreamier soundscapes left from Pony
while managing even more sheer heaviness than any of the band's previous works, yet creating a decidedly vanilla presence at times. Singer Chino Moreno's softer side project Team Sleep only added to the complexity of the situation; by the end of their last release, it was very questionable the direction the band would be heading in the near future, since everything put out beforehand almost seems bipolar to fans.
Their new record, Saturday Night Wrist
, has its own share of ups, downs, shoo-ins and oddities. The album was recorded at the Morning View Studios where Incubus produced their album of the same name (to me, this is a bad sign), tooled at the band's own studio The Spot, and produced with the help of Bob Ezrin. Moreno reportedly had conflicts with Ezrin over certain issues and was consistently taking time off and working on Team Sleep. All of these factors would seem to indicate that Saturday Night Wrist
could meet with any number of problems, such as being rushed, material not being judged correctly, etc. The big problem to my ears is that Saturday Night Wrist
, much like the band's self-titled fourth release, is not exactly breaking any new ground, and though that's not enough to bring the album down altogether, it makes you long for bigger things.
The first single (and track) "Hole in the Earth" is admittedly great, capitalizing on the mood songs like "Minerva" and "Digital Bath" created while at the same time conjoining that atmosphere with their trademark driving heaviness. This is where the album succeeds admirably, most notably in the first four tracks. "Rapture" is consistently shifting while Moreno sounds like he's clawing to stand his ground the entire time, "Beware" is wonderfully ominous, using cricket chirps, a string of dark, brooding passages and an epic bridge, and "Cherry Waves" is just gorgeous: everything from the vocals to the sampling are just beautiful. To set aside these tracks, "U, U, D, D, L, R, L, R, A, B, Selct, Start" is one of the best pieces here, and I get the feeling it will be dismissed as a "mood track" simply because of the lack of vocals when it is clearly so much more. "Rats! Rats! Rats!" is "Rapture" only it has far more interest in demolishing you sonically. Hearing Chino blare out lines like, "I won't say nothing/ Nothing/ Not a fuck
ing thing" at the top of his lungs while a seven string churns in odd signatures behind him is enough, but the primal screams he unleashes at the halfway point and at the end rival anything similar he's done; this is a brutal track, enough so to surpass "When Girls Telephone Boys" from the previous record.
It's about the midway point that things begin to unravel at the seams just a bit. "Mein" by almost all accounts should be another excellent song. However, Serj Tankian from System of a Down does guest vocals for the last minute and it is very easy for me to say that it brings the song down: his vocals are dull
in comparison to Chino's musings. It seems like this was apparent to the people producing as well, since he is accompanied by backing singers, who only end up making things overdone and accent Tankian's unextraordinary performance. Luckily, that only carries on for a minute; the same can't be said of "Pink Cellphone", an entire track devoted to an annoying female guest vocalist being sampled over a techno beat while she talks of "the one true power" (I'm sure someone somewhere would deem this as clever were it not for the last minute of it degrading into her talking about blowjobs and cursing pointlessly). I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea, but this track is always skipped by me and I see no reason it should merit a place in your playlist.
The album closes just as well, though tracks like "Kimdracula" and "Xerces" feel like, well, more of the same idea. I appreciate that Deftones seem to have found their niche here and have a sound they have confidence in, but this fails to top White Pony
, simply because that album was everywhere at once, and all those different directions work. Here, the album is in one place; it works, but every Deftones fan knows that this band is capable of more simply by listening to tracks like "Cherry Waves" and "Rats!" So why does it feel like on the majority of this album they're going through the motions? Sure, these motions are good enough on their own and definitely more interesting than their nu-metal counterparts', but this band is infinitely better when they step outside their boundaries and push the envelope. If you're not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Saturday Night Wrist
is definitely worth picking up and listening to. If you are, it's still worth a listen, though you will likely be left wondering when the Deftones will retake the eclectic role they were made for.